Starting in 2005, Herman Cain has penned a weekly syndicated column. Week after week, he shares his opinions on the political issues and policies driving the news. The portrait that emerges from reading them over the years is consistent with the charismatic figure who has captured the momentum in the GOP presidential race. With the column’s common-sense attitude, blunt phrases, and occasional jokes, you can practically hear Cain saying the words.
Sometimes he has said the words: “sneak-a-taxes” and the Chilean model both have column cameos. And while Cain doesn’t shy from hammering away at politicians he dislikes and policies he opposes, he also notes that “hope and optimism, not fear, motivate and inspire voters” — a statement sure to ring true to anyone following his candidacy. His goofiness is present in some columns: “Fighting liberalism while playing by their rules is like challenging Superman to a bullet-deflecting contest and the winner gets a date with Lois Lane. You will lose, and Superman gets the girl.” Before he became the pizza candidate (“DEEP DISH!”), Cain embraced his reputation, writing, “I will bet anyone a pepperoni pizza on that prediction.”
Lacking political experience, Cain doesn’t have a record for voters to paw through. But in these columns, he took positions time after time on issues ranging from health care to entitlement reform to TARP. There may not quite be 999 positions worth noting, but here are twelve key components of Cain’s political and policy outlook:
Social Security. During the debates, Cain has touted the “Chilean model” when speaking about how to reform Social Security. Turns out that he’s been fascinated by Chile’s system for a while: “Personal account plans have worked in . . . the country of Chile for well over 20 years, and have provided their beneficiaries rates of return hundreds of times higher than Social Security over the same period,” Cain wrote in 2005. It was just one of many columns he would write arguing for Pres. George W. Bush’s proposal to introduce personal Social Security accounts.
His first mention of Barack Obama also came in reference to Bush’s Social Security reform. One of Bush’s arguments for his reform was that the lower African-American life-expectancy rate meant that under the current system, African-Americans received less from the program than others did. Cain quoted then-Senator Obama saying, “The notion that we would cynically use those disparities as a rationale for dismantling Social Security as opposed to talking about how are we going to close the health disparities gap that exists, and make sure that African-American life expectancy is as long as the rest of this nation . . . is stunning to me.” Cain wasn’t persuaded, writing in response that “Black Democrats apparently believe that enacting a new government program will allow African-Americans to live longer. Now that’s stunning to me.”
Criticizing Republicans. Cain may have been a big fan of Bush’s Social Security reform plans, but he was not keen on Bush’s spending. “When we elected a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress, we thought the runaway spending spree of our money would stop. The excess spending did not stop,” Cain drily noted. In 2006, he lambasted Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” blaming it for leading to No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, and saying the philosophy had “completely betrayed conservative voters and their decades of grassroots activism.” In the column, written days after the GOP had lost the House, Cain spared no words: “Compassionate conservatism failed America and cost Republicans control.” In a shot at Karl Rove and then–RNC chair Ken Mehlman, Cain wrote two months prior to the election, “What Rove and Mehlman fail to realize, and have failed to realize this entire year, is that conservatives are upset with House and Senate leadership because they have squandered their majority status and failed to enact substantive policy solutions on the domestic issues.”