Capping a tour of the African American Museum of Iowa on Tuesday, presidential hopeful Herman Cain stepped behind the podium that President Barack Obama used during his 2007 campaign in Iowa — the podium now used as the final exhibit on a walk-through of Iowa’s black history in the Cedar Rapids museum.
“They’ll have to put mine in here next to his,” Cain told a group of supporters Tuesday before elaborating during a pre-straw poll stump speech at the museum on his plans to be a better president than Obama by addressing government spending, strengthening national security and fixing immigration issues.
Cain, a radio show host from Georgia who once chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, said during the Cedar Rapids campaign stop that a presidential run never entered his mind when Obama was a candidate in 2008. But, Cain said, when Obama started “forcing legislation down Americans’ throats” and exhibiting poor leadership, he decided the country deserved better.
“I know too much about what is wrong,” Cain said, “and I know too much about what needs to change.”
The United States’ credit rating was downgraded last week, according to Cain, because Congress and Obama didn’t do the job they were elected to do. Cain said he would have thought ahead and taken a hard line to avoid the debt ceiling debate that preceded the credit downgrade.
“A leader anticipates problems,” he said. “Instead of leadership out of Washington, we get excuses. They want to play the blame game.”
Cain stressed the “spending problem” at the Capitol and said there absolutely is a way out of the debt hole that doesn’t involved tax hikes.
“To say we need to raise taxes to get out of this mess is the wrong thing to do,” he said. “The American people are not as stupid as they think we are.”
Referencing his success turning around the Godfather’s Pizza and Burger King franchises, Cain laid out his problem-solving approach and proposed it as a guide for his leadership in Washington D.C. First, he said, make sure you’re working on the right problem. Then, he said, surround yourself with the right people.
Next, he said, create contingency plans.
“And then engage the people in the process,” he said. “Go talk to people.”
If elected president, Cain said, he would replace the tax code and restructure Medicare, and he would address immigration by “enforcing the laws that are already on the books.”
“And lets really secure the border,” he said.
Criticizing Obama’s foreign policy, Cain said, he would identify U.S. enemies and stop giving them money.
“We, the American people, are still in charge of this country,” Cain said to healthy applause from the more than 100 people who showed up to hear him speak Tuesday. “A lot of people still don’t believe that we can pull this off.”
“They don’t know,” one man yelled from the audience.
“They’ll learn,” Cain shot back.
Michael Steele, a colonel in the U.S. Army who was a commander in the battalion that inspired the book and movie “Black Hawk Down,” spoke on Cain’s behalf Tuesday about the reasons he wants Cain to be the next U.S. president.
“Just like you, I’ve been looking for a candidate,” Steele said.
Cain is an attractive option because of his ability to turn around companies and because he’s a “common man” with proven leadership qualities.
“But I’m supporting Herman Cain because I trust him,” Steele said. “He’s never been a politician, and that goes a long way with me.”
After the speech, one of Iowa’s newest registered voters, 18-year-old Aaron Hartke, of Marion, said Cain will have his support at the straw poll in Ames on Saturday.
“He has a lot of experience with business,” Hartke said. “And the presidency is basically the management of a large corporation. So I think it would be a good fit.”
– Vanessa Miller, The Gazette