Monday, May 9, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Godfather’s Pizza mogul Herman Cain is a spirited businessman and political activist who has gained popularity with the Tea Party crowd.
He ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia in 2004 and will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president May 21 in his hometown of Atlanta.
Cain visited Las Vegas on Friday to speak with conservatives and promote his campaign. He sat down with the Sun during a roundtable discussion organized by Citizen Outreach, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
There’s a crowded field of Republican contenders. Why are you running for president?
I’m running for president for several reasons. One is my own personal motivation, because I feel an obligation to use my skills, talents, abilities and experiences to try to help this country. I could very easily take the security I have developed over the last 40 years and go into what I call cruise control. But my faith says you’re not supposed to do that. You are supposed to make a difference. I don’t have the prerogative to enjoy life and take the easy route.
The second reason is I am an American, black conservative. I am proud to be running as a Republican for the second time in my life, and I don’t want to give the Republican Party an opportunity to screw this election up. They screwed it up the last time. We had a candidate, John McCain, who could not win. Everybody knew it except the Republican insiders.
You supported Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. Why run against him now?
Yes I did. He was a businessman, and I figured he knew how to create jobs and solve problems. So why aren’t I supporting him again? He didn’t win. Am I supposed to sit back and hope that Mitt can do something this time that he didn’t do last time, or any of the other candidates for that matter? I want to give the voters in the primary another option.
Do you think race will play a role in your candidacy? How much did Barack Obama’s election open the door for other black candidates?
Zero. Color is off the table, whether I run or not. Is there an element in this country that is thinking, ‘We elected this black guy and he was a dud, so do we elect another one?’ I think maybe a thimble-full of people are thinking that way. I think most people are looking at content and character. Did Barack Obama open a door for me because I’m black? No. The door was already open. He just happened to get through it first.
How will you create jobs and improve the economy?
First, lower corporate tax rates from 35 to 25 percent, and also bring individual tax rates to a maximum top rate of 25 percent. Second, take
capital gains tax rates to zero. Third, suspend taxes on repatriated profits. Four, I would propose a real payroll tax holiday. The piddling 2 percent that the Obama administration and Congress passed has not done anything. I’m proposing 6.2 percent for all workers and for employers for a year. Five, make the rates permanent. I would restructure Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Social Security, for example, I would create a personal retirement account option for the younger people who want that option. They would still have to continue to contribute to pay the benefits for those who are too close to 65 or 70. They’d put half of their contribution into a personal, self-directed account that is able to grow with conservative investments. Chile did it 30 years ago; they don’t have a Social Security problem anymore.
What changes will you make to education policy if you are elected?
I believe any education money we can afford to give states should be block granted. Secondly, I want to unbundle the Education Department in Washington, D.C. Cut or end all programs that contain unfunded mandates. No Child Left Behind is one of those programs. We should let the states decide how they want to use dollars. Most states will probably say, ‘We’ll take a haircut on the funds we receive, if we can decide how to use them.’ Washington cannot micromanage anything, which is why programs fail.
What would you have done with Osama bin Laden’s body? Do you think pictures of it should be made public?
I don’t know what the urgency was to dispose of the body so quickly. If I were president, I would have kept that body. Some people said they disposed of it to keep with the traditions of Islam. He killed 3,000 people. Why do we care? Why should we care if we’re going to offend the Muslims because we didn’t dispose of the body the way they wanted it to be disposed of? I don’t think the pictures should be released because they serve no purpose. I am convinced they got Osama bin Laden. I don’t think our intelligence agencies, our military would conspire or collude to promote a lie that we got him if we didn’t.