On a day when many people in his shoes might prefer to stay at home, Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain showed that he is as willing to confront controversy as he is willing to stir it. In the first few moments of remarks delivered at the National Press Club Oct. 31, the former restaurant executive said that in the past few weeks he has learned what it’s like to be near the top of the Republican field and humorously added that “as a result of today’s big news story, I really know what it feels like to be number one.”
The theme of his speech was the renewal of America, which he said has become a nation of crises in several areas, including domestic and foreign policy, energy and morality, which he says is due to a “severe deficiency of leadership in the White House.” Cain, as he has in the past, touted his 9-9-9 tax plan and his business experience as the solutions for “fixing the stuff that is broken,” from unemployment to the foreclosure crisis, and to contrast himself with both President Obama and his Republican rivals.
“Politicians are interested in proposing things that they believe can pass,” Cain said. “Businessmen propose things that fix the problem. And that’s what I do and what I’ve done for the past 40 years.”
Cain also addressed criticisms that he lacks any foreign policy knowledge or experience, and said that when he joined the then-failing Godfather’s Pizza in 1986, he had never made a pizza, but he learned how to by going to the sources close to the problem and asking the right questions.
“I don’t believe that you need to have extensive foreign policy experience if you know how to make sure that you’re working on the right problems, establishing the right priorities, surrounding yourself with good people, which would allow you to put together the plans necessary to solve the problem,” he said, which is how he “renewed” the pizza company.
Cain, in the question-and-answer period, rejected what he described as “totally false” claims of sexual harassment and said that he was unaware of any settlements reached with the women alleged to have brought those claims.
The presidential hopeful pushed back against the perception in some corners that the Tea Party is racist and that many of the criticisms from the movement and other conservatives against Obama are largely based on their ability to accept a Black man in the White House.
“I don’t think that people being uncomfortable with the president has anything whatsoever to do with his race. It’s bad policy,” Cain said, adding that Obama makes matters worse using class warfare and economic inequity to turn people against each other and the result has been more racial tension.
He also decried assertions that his surge to the head of the Republican field has anything do with the Tea Party’s desire to prove it’s not racist.
“This many white people can’t pretend that they like me,” he said to applause.
But Cain’s biggest ovation came when he delighted the crowd of journalists and supporters with a few verses of the gospel hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)