Besides being the only minority in the GOP presidential field, Herman Cain also stands out from his competitors in another way: his lack of political experience, which Cain cites as an advantage. In fact, although he is relatively new to the public, he has been involved in national politics since at least 1996.
Cain's background seems to be consistent with the "American Dream." The son of a maid and a chauffeur, he graduated from Purdue with a Master's in Computer Science and worked for the Navy before moving on to Coca-Cola as a business analyst. After working as an executive for Burger King, he was appointed president of Godfather's Pizza, a Pillsbury subsidiary. Under Cain, Godfather's Pizza was so profitable that he was able to buy it from Pillsbury.
In 1996 he became CEO of the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group. That same year, he served as senior economic advisor to Bob Dole's presidential campaign. Cain also briefly ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, and in 2004, for a Senate seat in Georgia. During this time he also served as a commentator for Fox Business and hosted his own radio show in Atlanta.
However, it is his current presidential attempt that is the most newsworthy. In December 2010, he was the surprise winner of a poll on the conservative website redstate.com. He was also declared the winner of the Fox News GOP primary debate in New Hampshire by a poll of a sample of the audience.
Perhaps in an effort to show off his conservative potential, Cain has made a string of controversial comments.
Among the most controversial are his statements about Muslims. He has voiced concerns about "creeping" sharia law, and has said he would not be comfortable appointing Muslims to his administration. When pressed at the New Hampshire debate, he conceded that he might appoint a Muslim, but he or she would be held to higher loyalty standards than other appointees. He claimed this is not "bigoted, it is called being careful and cautious" to keep "jihadists" out of the government.
Cain even got involved in the recent Murfreesboro, Tenn., anti-Mosque hysteria. He proclaimed that communities "have a right" to ban mosques, adding that such a ban doesn't violate the separation of church and state because "Islam combines church and state."
Cain says he wouldn't have a problem appointing an openly gay person, because they wouldn't try to "impose sharia law." However, as he has previously described being gay as "sinful" and a "choice," the openness seems more theoretical than actual - especially in light of rumors that his campaign has been purging gay staffers.
Cain has applied a similar mix of confusion and ignorance to his foreign policy as well. He has said he doesn't know enough about Afghanistan to voice an opinion, but he certainly has plenty to say on Israel. His "Cain Doctrine" is "You mess with Israel; you are messing with the United States." During a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, Cain was asked whether he supported the right of displaced Palestinians to return to Israel. Appearing to have no idea what Wallace was talking about, he responded that he supported it because he felt Israel would have no problem with it - showing profound ignorance of Israel's long-standing hostility to the "right of return."
And how would Cain solve the problem of illegal immigration? He wants to emulate the Great Wall of China on our southern border. Cain's wall would be a "20-foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top" with a "moat" on the other side. And yes, Cain would "put those alligators in that moat!"
Cain would put oil and coal companies in charge of EPA regulations. He says he would create a special "regulatory reduction commission" to cut down environmental regulations, and would appoint industry insiders, including the CEO of Shell because Shell has been "abused" by the EPA.
Back when Donald Trump was promoting "birtherism," Cain was on board with that. During a March interview with a Florida conservative group, the Shark Tank, Cain said Trump's birth certificate allegations against President Obama weren't "off base" and that he hadn't studied the issue enough to have an opinion, but that Obama should "prove he was born in the United States of America."
In fact Cain believes that Obama was "raised in Kenya." Perhaps he has been misled by his fellow Fox employee, Mike Huckabee, who claimed that Obama witnessed the Kenyan Mau Mau revolution.
So what's next for this CEO-turned-lobbyist-turned-alligator-in-moat-enthusiast? Probably not the White House.
Photo: Gage Skidmore // CC 2.0