Can Herman Cain deliver?

Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, while controversial, has a possible chance of winning the Republican nomination.

Recent polls show Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain tied for the lead with Mitt Romney [GALLO/GETTY]

“Many of the Muslims, they are not totally dedicated to this country,” GOP campaigner Herman Cain said in March. “They are not dedicated to our Constitution. Many of them are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country.”

Prior to this defence, a reporter had asked Cain if he would appoint a Muslim to his administration if he were elected president of the US, to which Cain replied unequivocally, “No”.

While he later apologised to Muslims in the US for his inflammatory comments, this was not the only time Cain has made controversial statements.

While addressing a Tea Party crowd in Tennessee, Cain had this to say about his idea of building a fence along the US border with Mexico: “When I’m in charge… we [are] going to have a fence. It’s going to be 20 feet high [six metres]. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side that says it will kill you.”

When questioned about these comments the following day, Cain claimed he was just joking.

Cain has also said that he might use US military troops “with real guns and real bullets” to stop intruders from entering the country, and his response to those who might consider his remarks insensitive, Cain blamed some of the immigrants.

“It’s insensitive for them to be killing our citizens, killing our border agents,” he said. “That’s what’s insensitive. And that mess has to stop.”

Nevertheless, a recent poll says Cain has taken the lead over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Making dough

The 65-year-old Cain, well known for being the former chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has capitalised on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent missteps that have caused him to fall in recent polls, despite the fact that Cain has never been elected to office. 

In 2005, Cain began working for Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers, whose missions include: “Cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens by fighting proposed tax increases and pointing out evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse,” and, “Removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship and opportunity by sparking citizen involvement in the regulatory process early on in order to reduce red tape”.

Cain also served in several positions, including as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

It is no surprise that Cain has long-since been motivated to make money, and lots of it. In 1991, he sang a version of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, called “Imagine there’s no pizza”:

Imagine eating pizza, each and every day
You may say that it is junk food
but to me it’s old fashioned chow
It gives my life its meaning
and it makes a lot of dough

Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan for the country, the centrepiece of his campaign, has two primary phases. They are summed up by John Cassidy of the New Yorker as follows:

“Phase 1: “9-9-9” Abolish the payroll tax, which pays for Social Security and Medicare, the capital-gains tax, inheritance taxes and taxes on dividends. Abolish the graduated income tax and replace it with a flat tax of nine per cent. Abolish the graduated corporate income tax and replace it with a flat tax of nine per cent. Introduce a new nine-per-cent national sales tax.

Herman Cain’s economic plan for the country has been critisised as being a perpetuation of the current policy, which assists the wealthy while raising taxes on the poor [GALLO/GETTY]

“Phase 2: “The Fair Tax.” What is this? It isn’t defined, but it appears to involve making the Phase 1 changes permanent. Cain simply says, “Amidst a backdrop of the economic boom created by the Phase 1 Enhanced Plan, I will begin the process of educating the American people on the benefits of continuing the next step to the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax would ultimately replace individual and corporate income taxes. It would make it possible to end the IRS as we know it.”

Cassidy argues that Cain’s plan does not raise enough revenue, will cause the budget deficit to skyrocket, would cause poor and middle-income people to pay higher taxes while the rich would pay far less, and its impact on growth is “debatable”.

But others argue that Cain’s tax plan is based on sound economic principles.  

“Broaden the tax base, drop the tax rates, simplify the tax code and collect the same amount of revenues,” argues Forbes contributor Charles Kadlec. “Get rid of today’s complex and corrupt personal income and corporate income tax codes. Eliminate federal payroll taxes, the capital gains tax and the death tax. Generate the same amount of revenue with a flat personal income tax of 9 per cent, a corporate flat tax of 9 per cent and a consumption tax of 9 per cent.”

Nefarious friends and foreign policy

Possibly another campaign mistake of Cain’s has been to highlight his connection with Arizona’s Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio, a man the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued for racial profiling, among many other concerns.

US District Court Judge Neil Wake ruled in 2008, then again in 2010, that Maricopa County jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates in medical and other care related issues. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which alleged that “Arpaio routinely abused pre-trial detainees at Maricopa County Jail by feeding them moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food, housing them in cells so hot as to endanger their health, denying them care for serious medical and mental health needs and keeping them packed as tightly as sardines in holding cells for days at a time during intake”.

The ACLU has accused Arpaio’s office of racial profiling in several lawsuits. In one, the ACLU alleges that his deputies arrested and detained a US citizen and a legal resident without justification, stopping them as they were driving down a public roadway, and transporting them to the site of an immigration raid.

On October 18, Cain tweeted “It was great meeting with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona today!”

Cain has also been criticised for lacking foreign policy experience.

In an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, when asked by the host if he was ready for tough questions, such as naming the president of Uzbekistan, Cain replied, “I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know? And then I’m going to say how’s that going to create one job?”

In a recent appearance on “Meet the Press” on NBC News, anchor David Gregory appeared astonished when Cain responded in perplexed manner to questions addressing whether he has a neoconservative stance regarding foreign policy, before going on to say that he was “not familiar with the neoconservative movement”.

Cain has also said he subscribes to the foreign policy views of Henry Kissinger and John Bolton, two men whose world views could not be more opposite one another, as the former is the quintessential realist, while the other is a hardline neoconservative. 

In another misstep, this time in May, Cain appeared confused when a Fox News anchor asked him what his position was on the right of return, before going on to offer a position that directly contradicted that of the Israeli political leadership.

When asked if he thought Palestinian refugees should be able to have the any right of return, Cain said, “Yes. But under … but not under Palestinian conditions. Yes. They should have a right to come back if that is a decision that Israel wants to make.”

This mistake followed Cain previously stating that US President Barack Obama “threw Israel under the bus” and restated his “Cain Doctrine” that states, “You mess with Israel, you are messing with the US” and saying that if he were president, he would offer the Palestinians “nothing” in the peace process negotiations because “I’m not convinced that the Palestinians are really interested in peace”.

After the interview, Cain admitted that he didn’t know what the right of return was, but then said, “Now, here’s the thing about that right of return that I have learned since Sunday. It wasn’t that they were kicked out of Israel by the Jews. No. Their Arab leaders asked him [sic] to leave, because they thought they were gonna annihilate what was left, and then they could go back. So yes, I still stick by my answer, it is the responsibility and the decision to be made by Israel.”

Worthy of respect

Cain backs a US constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe vs Wade, a 1973 US Supreme Court decision that gave abortion rights constitutional protection.

Despite this controversial statement, he continues to enjoy strong support in national polls, and polls in Iowa, the first state that will hold a caucus or primary during election season.

GOP contender and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain is seen by many as having a commanding presence while debating other Republican hopefuls [GALLO/GETTY]

A recent University of Iowa poll of likely caucus-goers shows Cain is the choice of 37 per cent of respondents. Mitt Romney is a distant second with 27 per cent.

Cain has developed a large public persona, and continues to have a commanding presence when debating the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

He is an associate minister at the Antioch Baptist Church North, a mega-church, in Atlanta, Georgia, which has been a centre of liberal activism. Yet while the church’s senior pastor Reverend CM Alexander does not share Cain’s political views, the two remain very close.

Cain’s recent surge to the front of the Republican field running for president shows that he has become a candidate that is being taken seriously.

“Mr Cain has discussed reforming Social Security to move from an ‘entitlement system to an empowerment system’, as well as the need for immigration reform that secures our borders, enforces current laws, promotes the path to citizenship and empowers the states,” Mark Block, the Chief of Staff for the Friends of Herman Cain group that is assisting Cain’s campaign, said. “We need someone like Herman Cain. A leader who’s balanced budgets, created jobs for 40 years and who understands the greatness of America.”

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

Source : Al Jazeera

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