How Herman Cain is a creature of talk radio

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There’s no debating that Herman Cain is riding a wave. But his soaring popularity is quite curious. Last week alone, he appeared on both The View and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and put his foot in his mouth with both the gay community and the black community.

On The View, Cain insisted to Joy Behar that being gay was a choice and with O’Donnell, the Morehouse alum grew agitated when questioned about his lack of involvement during the Civil Rights Movement that surrounded him. Other candidates would have been crushed by such blunders. Not Cain. Instead, he’s soaring.

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In the Atlanta area, Barnes & Noble is sold out of his book. Recently released results for a Virginia poll conducted October 5 to October 9 show Cain tied with Mitt Romney among Republican voters.

We know the spiel about Cain being from a poor family where his father worked three jobs and his mom was the help but yet their hard work alone allowed Cain to attend and graduate from Morehouse. Interestingly, according to several reports, Cain’s education was supported by Coca-Cola stock his dad received from legendary Coca-Cola president and well-known philanthropist Robert Woodruff whom he chauffeured.

From there, Cain made his mark in the Navy before going on to work for Coke and later saving Godfather’s Pizza from bankruptcy. By some accounts, his foray into politics began accidentally in a 1994 town hall meeting with then President Bill Clinton who was trying to sell an early federal health care proposal.

Cain stumped the president with his observation “For many, many businesses like mine, the cost of your plan is simply a cost that will cause us to eliminate jobs.” He hit a jugular with “If I’m forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I will have to eliminate?”

Just like that, a GOP star was born and soon Cain was being called upon by heavyweights Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp. According to his bio for the Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans in June, Cain served as a senior advisor to the 1996 Dole/Kemp presidential campaign. He also tried a short-lived presidential run in 2000 and then went the distance in a 2004 U.S. Senate race in Georgia for the GOP win but came in second.

Cain, who began focusing on his speaking career with the creation of his leadership consulting firm The New Voice, Inc. in the late 1990s, wrote a handful of books, including Speak as a Leader (1999) and CEO of Self: You Are in Charge (2001) before landing on conservative talk radio in Atlanta three years ago with his own The Herman Cain Show.
Through his radio show, Cain began spouting the conservative views for which he is now known. Statements like “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” which Cain shared recently with CNN, were common.

In fact, he began his Obama bashing early as well as used his voice to support the Tea Party.

Among Cain’s many conservative friends, Neal Boortz, host of The Neal Boortz Show, one of the nation’s most listened to conservative talk shows, might be among the most influential. Cain’s much-touted 999 Plan is not as brutal as Boortz’s and another Cain friend former Georgia Congressman John Linder’s FairTax, explained in both The FairTaxBook and FairTax, The Truth, which eliminates “income taxes to payroll taxes to death taxes,” replacing them with retail taxes only, but it is highly influenced by them.

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A recent article in the International Business Times about Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan, posted on, noted that after a 9 percent flat tax was applied to business, individual taxes and a national sales tax was proposed, to paraphrase, it “would pave the way to eventually transition entirely to the “fair tax,” or a tax on spending rather than income,” which is of course what Boortz and Linder favor.

The problem with each of these plans, as many have pointed out, lies in generating revenue. There is not enough evidence that they will raise enough cash. In addition, it’s not a proven fact that such measures will jumpstart the economy to spark much-needed economic growth.

For Cain, his radio show served as the litmus test for the Republicans as well as the Tea Party faithfuls he has openly courted. An article published earlier this year on by C. Edmund Wright perhaps revealed the secret behind the curious support Cain is receiving from these unlikely sources.

In his “Top Ten Reasons to Support Herman Cain for President,” Wright crassly lists The Race Card as number ten.

“A Cain candidacy not only takes the race card off the table — it might in fact put it in the Republicans’ camp. Frankly, Cain is ‘blacker’ than Obama in every way imaginable. He does not have a white parent. He has a slight black dialect and does not “turn it off” to impress Harry Reid or Joe Biden, nor does he “amp it up” to impress Jeremiah Wright,” he wrote.

“As Obama’s presidency has shown, America did not need a black president. What America needs is to just get over the race thing, period. Cain is over it, and I bet he would flat-out tell Obama to get over it, too.”

The article was read by Boortz to his listeners and no doubt repeated by other conservative talk show pundits. Most curious is not the agenda itself but Cain’s complicity in all of this. Judging by such blatant talk as this, backed up by his friend Boortz sharing it with his substantial audience, it’s hard to view Cain as anything other than a pawn.

A Creative Loafing article on Cain this past summer observed Cain during a meeting at a hotel just outside of Atlanta with nearly 100 supporters and he started singing. “On my journey now,” he crooned. “On my journey now. Well, I wouldn’t take nothing…for my journey now.”

When he finished the song to “ear-splitting applause,” bowing, a woman rushed to the stage to put a dollar at his feet while a young boy left coins. Instead of being appalled, Cain said, ‘Do you think I’m going to give you this dollar back’ with a laugh and then said, ‘I’m sorry, this isn’t very presidential is it?’

Not only is it not presidential, Mr. Cain, it’s not dignified.