Interview with Presidential Candidate Herman Cain

Interview with Presidential Candidate Herman Cain

By The Situation Room - June 7, 2011

BLITZER: He certainly lived the American dream -- growing up poor, rising to become a corporate executive -- but he's never actually won an election. So can he somehow go from rags to riches to the presidency? Let's discuss with Republican candidate Herman Cain.

Mr. Cain, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: You've never been elected to any office, so what qualifies you to become president of the United States?

CAIN: Business skills. I happen to believe that the business skills that I have developed and been successful in business over 40 years need to go to the White House and to Washington, D.C.

And it starts, Wolf, with making sure you are working on the right problem, set the right priorities, surround yourself with good people, great people, and make sure you put together the right plans.

And then this is the most important part. Engage the American public in the -- in the solutions that you are trying to get passed. If we do that, I believe that we can address many of the crises that I think this country is facing.

BLITZER: What qualifies you to be president of the United States more than, shall we say, Sarah Palin, who spent two years as governor of Alaska?

CAIN: I have spent more time running businesses, fixing stuff, turning around businesses, saving a business from bankruptcy, and I ran the second largest employer in the country. It's called the National Restaurant Association, with a very diverse constituency of members.

So it's my problem-solving skills and my leadership skills that have been apparent throughout my career, and I've had a lot more experience than a lot of the other candidates.

BLITZER: Well, we met the other day on the Delta shuttle between Washington and New York.

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: You gave me your common sense solutions, "The People's Platform." Your little brochure outlining in specific detail a lot of what you want to do to help this economy, to help the country. I read it all. I didn't see any really strong positions either way on some of the social issues like abortion rights for women.

CAIN: Right.

BLITZER: Is that deliberate? Or was that just an omission?

CAIN: It was an omission. It wasn't -- it wasn't deliberate. I am pro-life from conception. I believe in traditional marriage. And those things I can cover very quickly. It wasn't intended to be an entire agenda of all of my beliefs. I wanted to primarily identify what I consider to be the top critical issues that we face.

This economy is still stagnant. I have a two-phase plan that I have in the booklet. That and using a lot of common sense approaches. We have three cold critical top issues right after national security. One being boosting this economy. This is -- economy is not turned around.

We have also got to do something about restructuring entitlement programs. We can't just keep shuffling it around or trimming around the edges.

And then third cold critical is energy. We are in an energy crisis, Wolf. Because it's not only an economic issue. It's also a national security issue.

BLITZER: So let me just be precise. When it comes to abortion you oppose abortion rights for women? Is that correct?

CAIN: I am pro-life from conception.

BLITZER: All right. What about gay marriage. Should Americans who are gay be allowed to get married?

CAIN: I believe that that is -- that is a decision that should be made by individual states. I support traditional marriage.

BLITZER: Do you support civil unions for gays?

CAIN: I support traditional marriage.

BLITZER: So you oppose the civil unions?

CAIN: I support traditional marriage. Let's move on, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about gun control. Do you support any gun control?

CAIN: I support the Second Amendment. BLITZER: So you don't -- so what's the answer on gun control?

CAIN: The answer on gun control is I support strong -- strongly support the Second Amendment. I don't support, you know, onerous legislation that's going to restrict people's rights in order to be able to protect themselves as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

BLITZER: Should states or local governments be allowed to control the gun situation? Or should...

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: The answer is yes?

CAIN: The answer is yes. That should be a state's decision.

BLITZER: What's your No. 1 problem with President Obama right now?

CAIN: Lack of leadership. He has not surrounded himself with the right people. And as a result, we have seen failed economic policies because if the -- the fact that these policies failed and now four of his top five economic advisers, and most recently Austan Goolsbee has also resigned. He likes surrounding himself with the right [SIC] people and as a result has had some plans that did not work.

He has spent, along with the Congress nearly a trillion dollars, and this economy still has an anemic growth rate of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Unemployment is still high. And we are not going to be able to just sit back and hope that it changes over the next two years unless he does something like lower taxes and remove regulations.

Lack of leadership on those critical issues, particularly the economy, is my No. 1 problem with what the president is doing.

BLITZER: Has the president done anything right since taking office?

CAIN: Wolf, relative to the critical issues that this country faces, I would have to honestly say no. On some little things, he probably has done some things right. But this is not what the American people are looking for.

He did do the right thing in giving the decision on bin Laden. That was the correct decision, in my opinion, but that whole plan started back during the Bush administration. So I commend him for making that decision.

BLITZER: Is it time for the president to ask Bashar al-Assad to step down?

CAIN: Yes, it is. But I don't think it's going to do any good. Because I believe that he has made up his mind that he is going to fight his own people until the bitter end. So I don't think that the president -- or President Obama asking him to do that was going to do any good at all.

BLITZER: If you were president of the United States right now, what would you do about the slaughter that's going on in Syria?

CAIN: Unfortunately, Wolf, we cannot appoint ourselves policemen for the world, No. 1.

And No. 2, I don't know what type of dialogue went on between the rebels in Syria and the United States intelligence sources. So the fact that it is unfortunate and it is inhumane, I don't have enough intelligence information to say exactly what I could do, because I haven't been given that information. It's unfortunate, but we cannot be the policemen for the world.

BLITZER: I remember an exchange you had when I was CNN's White House correspondent back in 1994. We've got the clip.

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: The president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and a younger Herman Cain talking about health-care reform which was priority -- a major priority for President Clinton. I'm going to play the clip right now, Mr. Cain.



CAIN: We can't afford it. My bottom line net profit for the last two years was less than 1.5 percent of my top line sales. When we calculate the cost just for my company, under your plan, it equates to three times what my bottom line profitability is.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why wouldn't you all be able to raise the price of pizza 2 percent? I'm a satisfied customer. I'd keep buying from you.


BLITZER: This is when you were CEO of a major pizza company...

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... Godfather's out there. You remember that incident?

CAIN: I remember that incident. It was when he was trying to pass -- they called it Hillary care. And just like Obama care, the numbers simply do not work. And I basically called the president out on that.

I acted as the catalyst for people to start reading fine print in order to see how bad that was. And you heard the president say, "What, just raise the price of your pizza." It doesn't work that way in business. The consumer decides how much you can charge for your product. And the president or anybody else, they cannot dictate raising your prices just to cover a new bureaucratic program that he's interested in placing on the American people.

The same with Obama care. Except Obama care is worse. It not only is something that American businesses cannot afford to do the way that they are asking us to do it; it builds a huge new big bureaucracy that takes over 1/6 of our economy. And the American people, Wolf, they simply don't think that that is the right solution. There are better solutions out there. Patient-centered and market-driven ideas are being overlooked. And it was all overlooked with Obama care.

BLITZER: We're going to continue our conversation. We're looking forward to seeing you at our CNN debate in New Hampshire next Monday night. Herman Cain, thanks very much for coming in.

CAIN: I'll be there. Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. Herman Cain wants to be president of the United States.


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