If the Republican Party candidacy were to be decided on personal charm and charisma alone, Herman Cain would coast to victory. The 65-year-old African-American candidate – an ultraconservative who has never before been elected to public office – is the son of a chauffeur to a former Coca-Cola company executive. In 2004, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, coming in second. His straight-talking style has led him down some blind alleys, such as saying, perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, that the border fence with Mexico should be an electric fence – a comment that could cost him dearly among the important Hispanic electorate. Cain was the subject of a Newsweek cover story in October, as well as a story in Time and other publications. "The Pizza Man," known as such because he was the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, has become one of the more popular GOP candidates. Despite having only a reported $1 million in his bank account for his campaign, he came to the debate in Vegas full of smug optimism. Cain is one of the most conservative candidates the Republicans have to offer. "I believe that about a third of African-Americans will vote for me, not because I'm black, but because of my ideas," he says.
Israel Hayom: You seem to be one of the only ones last night who really had fun at the debate.
Cain: I did have fun. And I had fun at all levels because I go out there with an attitude of being myself. Secondly, if I’m asked a question my intent is to answer honestly about how I feel and not give a programmed response. If I screw up, I screw up. But if I answer honestly I’m relaxed and I can have fun. Now the other thing that added to the fun last night was that all the other six were attacking me. That was a good thing.
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How would you explain your success in the polls, especially since you've never held public office and you're known as "The Pizza Man"?
The conventional political campaign model that they don’t get, and this was accentuated in the Florida Straw Poll, where I won big. It wasn’t expected. I beat Romney and Perry. The media were trying to make this a two-person race for the nominations -- Romney and Perry, Romney and Perry -- that’s all you saw. But they forgot about one thing: The voice of the people is more powerful than the voice of the media. The people have a different idea and we didn’t just see it in Florida for the first time, we’ve seen it all over this country. So, as my national name recognition has increased, and the polls are conducted nationally, I move up. The second reason that I believe that I’ve moved up in the polls so much is that message is more powerful than money. I think I’m number five or six in terms of raising money. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but Perry had $15 million and Romney had $14 or $13 million. They had double digit millions. You come on down the line and Michelle Bachmann had about $4.5 million. Our quarterly receipts were $2.8 million. But that just shows that my message is getting across. Now, as a result of that, our volunteers have gone up and the fund-raising has picked up. It’s not to say that we don’t have to have money in order to stay competitive – we do – and we’re planning to do that and you know, this is why we’re reaching out to people to get some additional support. But we don’t have a plan to raise the most amount of money. We don’t believe that we need to.
Who would you feel most comfortable going with to the White House as your number two?
Newt Gingrich. Despite some of the baggage that he has, he's the most knowledgable, the sharpest, and respected by all. But unfortunately you have some of the social conservatives out there who still want to go back to some of the disagreements that they had with him early on in his career. But in terms of someone who brings the greatest mind, of intellectual capital, history, knowledge and experience ... Now, electability is a different consideration.
What is your position on the Obama administration's Middle East policy?
I believe that his lack of a firm stand regarding Israel has emboldened Israel’s enemies, and America's enemies. When I was in Israel in August, I met with the deputy prime minister and he said that this was one of the biggest concerns that they had. Because he threw Israel under the bus with the statement about the 1967 borders. He just threw them under the bus. He threw Prime Minister Netanyahu under the bus prior to his visit to America. In a Cain administration there would be no question in the minds of the world and the American people that we would stand with Israel. No question. It wasn’t the president's right to suggest that they change those borders and I didn’t agree with that. For example, I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president as weak. I haven’t seen all the facts but I think this whole assassination attempt [alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington] was another example of seeing this president as weak, in that regard. So, weakness invites attack and I think that he has projected a sense of weakness.
Would you transfer your embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
What do you think of the Obama administration's handling of Iran and what would you do differently, if anything?
I don’t know if this is going to translate well in your language: Choke. Choke them economically. Here’s what I mean by that and I know that that’s not politically correct to say but here’s the idea: It costs them $70 a barrel to break even on their oil. It costs Saudi Arabia $30. We’re going to develop an energy-independent strategy. We will move toward energy independence in the Cain administration. We’ve got the resources to do it, we need the will, the leadership and we get some of these unnecessary regulations out of the way. We will impact the world price of oil. We get the price of oil down to $70 or below, and the Iranians won’t have enough money to build a nuclear program. They’re going to have to worry about feeding their people instead.
Second thing that we would do is that I would invest in our fleet of aegis-ballistic missile defense systems. We have the biggest fleet with that capability in the world. We need to upgrade it such that the ballistic-missile defense systems' sea base would have the ability to detect threats for a longer period of time; strategically place some of those ships in that part of the world then let the Iranians know that we have that capability stationed there and let them know that if they wanted to attack our friends, attack Israel or the United States, that we won’t hesitate to retaliate.
Do you think this president represents American values?
I do not believe he represents American values. One of our American values is: America is an exceptional country. He appears to want to try and apologize for that. Americans hate that. They hate that. It’s not that Americans feel arrogant but the opportunities that people have in this country, the standard of living that people have in this country, is exceptional. Our military capability, it’s exceptional. It’s weaker now, but it’s exceptional. That’s a huge American value. That same attitude is what started this country. And it appears as if he is trying to diminish and mitigate that. So from that standpoint he doesn’t represent American values. There’s another American value he doesn't represent. He’s a distributionist. Most of the people in this country believe in the free market system. If you’re able to take an idea or a business and build it and you’re rewarded for it, then God bless you, that’s good for you, that’s the way America is supposed to work. Do we show compassion to give people a helping hand? Yes! In various ways, but I believe more in what I call an empowerment rather than an entitlement. In other words, give people an opportunity to help themselves.
And that’s why he is going to be a one-term president?
That’s why he’s going to be a one-term president.
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