After just six weeks, ever-fickle Republican presidential primary voters are cooling to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), setting their sights instead on a Tea Party favorite: former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain (R).
Though Cain has been running since January, his recent debate performances and straw poll victories have created a boomlet for the former pizza executive. Now, Cain is leading state polls from North Carolina to West Virginia to Nebraska and surging nationally as well. Taking up the mantle once occupied by the likes of Donald Trump and Rick Perry, pollster Tom Jensen declared yesterday that “Herman Cain is the new GOP frontrunner.”
Now, as Cain enters the Republican top tier, it’s worth taking a look back at the former CEO’s policy positions. During his nine months on the campaign trail, Cain has repeatedly shown a lack of understanding on foreign policy matters, a lack of empathy for immigrants and poorer Americans, and a lack of respect for religious liberty.
ThinkProgress has put together the top 10 hits from Cain’s presidential bid:
(1) PLEDGED THAT HE “WILL NOT” APPOINT MUSLIMS IN HIS ADMINISTRATION: In an interview with ThinkProgress earlier this year, Herman Cain declared that he “will not” appoint a Muslim in his administration if he were elected president. In the months that followed, Cain qualified his position a number of times — at one point even telling Glenn Beck that he would appoint Muslims but only on the condition that they take a special loyalty oath — before finally recanting this unconstitutional stance and issuing an apology to Muslim-Americans. Unfortunately, since that time Cain has continued to peddle the ridiculous notion that Sharia law is a threat to the American legal system.
(2) TOLD THINKPROGRESS, “I DON’T THINK THE CURRENT MINIMUM WAGE IS NECESSARY”: During his time as the top lobbyist for the restaurant and fast food industry, Cain fought against an increase in the minimum wage. During a recent ThinkProgress interview, Cain went further, saying “I don’t think the current minimum wage is necessary.” As Greg Sargent noted, not even conservative icon Barry Goldwater supported eliminating the minimum wage.
(3) CONFUSED BY BASIC CONCEPT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS: In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Cain was asked his opinion on the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Cain was clearly confused by the question, responding, “The right of return? [pause] The right of return?” When host Chris Wallace explained the issue to him, Cain suggested that Israel wouldn’t have a problem “with people returning,” a prospect Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu fiercely opposes. The incident was not the first time Cain displayed lack of familiarity with international affairs. Previously, Cain said he doesn’t know enough to say what he thinks about the war in Afghanistan.
(4) IMMIGRATION PLAN INVOLVES A “GREAT WALL OF CHINA” AND A “MOAT [WITH] ALLIGATORS”: In a speech to Iowa Republicans, Cain called for building a fence along the entire U.S.–Mexico border, comparing the effort to the Great Wall of China. Building a fence along the nearly 2,000-mile border not only wouldn’t work, it would cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars in the process. Cain also suggested building a moat next to the fence and filling it with alligators.
(5) BELIEVES “WE ALREADY RECOGNIZE” THE GOVERNMENT OF TAIWAN: Discussing U.S.-Chinese relations with ThinkProgress, Cain confirmed fears that he lacked a firm grasp on foreign policy matters when he declared that “we already recognize” the government of Taiwan. In fact, the United States stopped recognizing Taiwan in 1979. Cain, visibly confused about relations between the U.S, China, and Taiwan, refused to say whether this belief meant he planned to send an ambassador to Taiwan, saying instead, “President Cain will get back to you!” Lest the matter seem trivial, Chinese-Taiwanese relations are extraordinarily tense and the matter of diplomatic relations with the United States carries enormous implications for the billions of people living in southeast Asia.(6) WANTS TO PUT DIRTY ENERGY CEOS IN CHARGE OF EPA REGULATIONS: After an Iowa voter asked about increasing domestic oil production, Cain proposed creating a commission consisting of businessmen from the coal, oil, shale oil, and natural gas industries to gut environmental protections. Cain even said he would appoint the CEO of Shell, claiming the company had been “abused” by the EPA. Cain has close ties to several top oil executives.
(7) BELIEVES IRAQ SHOULD PAY U.S. BACK FOR INVADING THEIR COUNTRY: Cain suggested in a 2008 interview that Iraq should pay the United States back for invading and occupying their country. Even Rick Santorum, who nobody would confuse as a moderate, strongly disagreed with this idea, saying, “I think that would send every possible wrong signal.” Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died and millions have been displaced.
(8) TRIED TO HIDE HIS GAY TREASURER: A former staffer to Cain, Kevin Hall, testified in court that Cain attempted to cover up the involvement of his openly gay PAC treasurer Scott Toomey. According to Hall, the campaign was trying to cover up Toomey’s involvement due to his sexuality. Cain’s lawyers declined to dispute the allegations.
(9) SAYS HE WOULD SUPPORT A NATIONAL PHOTO ID LAW: With an increasing number of conservative governors implement new requirements for voters to present photo identification at the polls, Cain told ThinkProgress he’d support such a bill on a federal level. “If you need a picture to get on an airplane, why shouldn’t you need one in order to be able to vote?” Cain asked. To be clear, voting is not like getting on an airplane — only one is the basis of our very democracy — and requirements that citizens present photo IDs instead of other forms of identification has the potential to disenfranchise millions of voters, especially minorities and poorer individuals.
(10) BELIEVES THAT AMERICANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BAN MOSQUES: During a Fox News Sunday interview, Cain professed his belief that if a community wants to ban a mosque, “they have a right to do that.” Rather than idle banter, Cain’s comments came fresh off his speech blasting the proposed expansion of an existing Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee because it was, in the former pizza executive’s estimation, “not an innocent mosque.” Cain’s view is squarely at odds with not only the Constitution, but basic precepts of tolerance and diversity as well.
ThinkProgress intern Karl Singer contributed to this report.