Politics & Policy

This Is Candidate Cain

Ten things I learned from his new book, This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House.

First things first: There is no 9-9-9 plan in This Is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House.

But other than that notable omission, which is due to the fact that the book was written before the campaign developed the 9-9-9 tax-reform plan, the book reads exactly like the optimistic, sunny speech that brought down the house at Florida’s Presidency 5 straw poll.

Sprinkled throughout the 167 pages of This Is Herman Cain! are numerous interesting tidbits for those fascinated by the pizza mogul–turned–presidential candidate: He wears gold ties because “gold is my power color,” he can see his Secret Service codename being “Cornbread” (one of his favorite foods), and he generally gets standing ovations — except for the one time he spoke before accountants, who are “trained to be unemotional” and reserved their enthusiasm for the written feedback forms.

There’s plenty more throughout the book. Here, in no particular order, are the top ten factoids in This Is Herman Cain!

Cain’s Relationship with Teleprompters: On page 2, Cain makes it clear he places no faith in teleprompters, saying he doesn’t “do teleprompters” because he is “a leader, not a reader.” But on page 166, Cain concedes that if he becomes president, he will “use a teleprompter, but only to make sure I get the names right.” That’s because “reading it word for word . . . would distract from interjecting some emotion.” Flip-flop? Or simply an evolution in his thoughts about teleprompters over the course of 164 pages? That’s for you to decide.

Cain’s Early Leadership Qualities: When he was just eight years old, Cain gave his first speech at his church. He first ran for office in seventh grade, vying to be class president. He lost, but ran again when he was a high-school senior, “having been urged to do so by some of my classmates who recognized leadership qualities in me before I did.” He doesn’t say whether that recognition became widespread among his classmates: There is no mention of whether Cain won that election.

The Hillarycare Speech: Cain had a distinguished career by 1994, but it was his speech to President Clinton detailing how the Clintons’ health-care program would derail the economy that first catapulted the businessman to political fame. Because of his respect for the presidential office, Cain says he was “nervous” before speaking — an unusual sentiment for him. Cain told Clinton that the cost of his proposed health-care program “is simply a cost that will cause us to eliminate jobs.” His four-minute speech to Clinton elicited a response: In the months following the speech, “hundreds of people let me know — either in person or by letter — that my town hall meeting ‘chat’ with President Clinton had inspired them to telephone their congressperson and to believe that . . . something could be done to stop” Hillarycare.

Cain Loves the Number 45: Cain was born in 1945, and he sees the number 45 as significant in his life. In a chapter entitled “‘Forty-five’ — A Special Number,” Cain details some of the ways 45 has popped up in his life: A vital flight was numbered 1045, an important speech he gave in Tennessee was interrupted by applause 45 times, and a weekly column in June, “Watch and Hope Won’t Work,” reached exactly 645 words. His first exposure to The Road to Serfdom was when someone sent him the 1945 Reader’s Digest article that condensed Hayek’s famous work. Of course, there’s one more reason 45 is so special to Cain: The next president will be number 45. And as Cain notes, “In 2013, my first year in the White House, Gloria and I will be celebrating our forty-fifth wedding anniversary.”

Cain’s Literary Background: This Is Herman Cain! is not Cain’s first book. He’s written four other books: Leadership Is Common Sense (1997), Speak as a Leader (1999), CEO of SELF: You’re in Charge (2001), They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It (2005). (Considering the Democratic sweep in 2006, Cain may have not published that last tome at the most auspicious time.) He is also a poet under the name “The Hermanator.” When his first grandchild, Celena, was born in 1999, he was moved to write a four-stanza tribute entitled “Little Faces.” Sample stanza: “For a moment, I didn’t know who I was or where / I could only think of her and so happy to be there / Born into the world with all the other little faces / What will we do, to make it a better place?”

Jabs at Opponents: With the exception of Ron Paul, Cain says virtually nothing about his GOP rivals. He takes one crack at Mitt Romney, in the section on Hillarycare, writing, “Bill Clinton’s — and Hillary’s — health-care plan failed, only to be revived in somewhat different form in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney and in the White House by Barack Obama.” Cain, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says he is open to auditing the Fed, but does not consider it a top issue. He complains about “Ron Paul, whose campaign sends one of its ‘Paulites’ everywhere I show up,” and asserts that the Paulites’ intent is “to agitate, not to educate.” Cain says he knows it’s a “deliberate strategy” because “how can a person randomly show up at a hundred events and ask the same stupid question to try to nail me on the Federal Reserve?”

Cain Believes in Happy Employees: Tired of surly DMV employees? Ready to lose it if one more postal worker glares at you? Well, get ready to pull the lever for President Cain. When managing a Burger King restaurant, Cain became frustrated when he wasn’t allowed to make any significant changes, including changing prices or increasing the amount spent on marketing. As he tried to figure out how he could increase profits, he noticed his Burger King cashiers were failing to radiate good cheer as they rang up customers. So he “established the BEAMER program, which taught our employees, mostly teenagers, how to make our patrons smile” by smiling themselves. It was a success: “Within three months of the program’s initiation, the sales trend was moving steadily higher.”

Faith Sustained Him Through Cancer Treatment: In 2006, Cain was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer — and given a 30 percent chance of survival. During that difficult time, he and his wife, Gloria, took consolation in their faith, relying on a couple of fortuitous signs, such as a medical staffer being named “Grace” and the fact that the incision into him during his operation to remove the cancer was made in the shape of a “J” — for “Jesus.” Speculating about why he was blessed with a full recovery, Cain wonders, “Did it have something to do with the Lord wanting me to survive so that I might help set this great nation of ours on its own path of recovery?”

CEO of Self: As a high-school student, Cain began to consider how he was responsible for his future success or failure, and the importance of making (and reaching) goals. Ultimately, he decided there were three steps necessary to become a “CEO of Self” that he calls “ROI.” The three steps are: “R: Remove barriers that prevent self-motivation to achieve goals; O: Obtain the right results by working on the right problems; I: Inspiration. Learn to inspire yourself.”

Why Cain Can Win in 2012: Cain is optimistic about his chances of winning the Republican primary and then the general election. (The last chapter of the book is him imagining what it will be like to be president.) He knows that not everyone agrees: National Review’s own Jonah Goldberg is singled out as an example of “media negativity” for saying in December that it was “hard to imagine” Cain being “more than an exciting also-ran.” And Cain acknowledges he has three weaknesses that could hinder his candidacy: that he doesn’t “claim to know everything,” he doesn’t “pander to groups,” and he is “terrible at political correctness.” But he thinks his strengths — his talent for speeches, his ability to come up with solutions, and his talent for hiring the right people — will prevail. Another advantage, to him, is that he likes “to smile, laugh, and have fun with people,” traits that he thinks “people can handle  . . . in a presidential candidate.”

Ultimately, Cain views himself as “Barack Obama’s worst nightmare!” He muses that perhaps his parents should have made his middle name David because that Biblical figure “defeated a giant against the odds.” For Cain, that’s the goal in 2012.

— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...


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