Before you announced your campaign, you said that the liberal establishment is scared that “a real black man might run against Barack Obama.” Are you suggesting Obama isn’t really black?
A real black man is not timid about making the right decisions, that’s what I meant. Look, I’m not getting into this whole thing about President Obama. It is documented that his mother was white and his father was from Africa. If he wants to call himself black, fine. If he wants to call himself African-American, fine. I’m not going down this color road.
Carrie Thompson for The New York Times
But you’re saying he’s not really a black man.
Not in terms of a strong black man that I’m identifying with. I identify with a strong black man like Martin Luther King Jr., or my dad, Luther Cain Jr., who didn’t have a lot of formal education, but he had a Ph.D. in common sense.
It has been said that the Tea Party has embraced you partly to provide cover for some racism in its ranks — like, How could racists support a black guy?
There’s no validity to that whatsoever. People who are still making those accusations have no other way to intimidate the growing force of the Tea Party citizens’ movement.
At Tea Party rallies, you see signs referring to Obama as Kenyan. Are those racist?
Not if you’re from Kenya.
But he was born here.
I don’t think calling him a Kenyan is racist. Secondly, I think those kinds of signs have stopped because the leaders of the Tea Party movement have instructed their folks that we don’t need to do that kind of stuff.
Did I read that you once donated money to Bob Kerrey?
I was a resident of Nebraska, and Bob Kerrey wasn’t just the Democratic senator from Nebraska; he was also a restaurateur. Yes, I contributed to his campaign. Republicans who want to crucify me for that can if they want. I have not been a lifelong voting Republican.
Why did you become one, by the way?
When I was an adviser to Jack Kemp in 1996, I was still a registered independent. Jack took me and as many other big black guys as he could to Sylvia’s, in the heart of Harlem. As we were walking into the restaurant, a very large black guy yelled out: “Black Republicans? There’s no such thing.” When I got back to Omaha, I registered as a Republican. It haunted me for three days that someone would dare tell me what party affiliation I should have.
You earned millions running Godfather’s Pizza, but you once said that unlike Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, you were unwilling to spend your fortune financing your campaign.
O.K., don’t use the term “fortune.” I don’t have a fortune. And since I made that statement, I have put some of my money in to prime the pump. What I learned is that a lot of donors were reluctant to contribute because I didn’t have immediate name ID, I didn’t have lots of money of my own and I’ve never held public office. Now things are starting to take off. Guess where it’s coming from? Medium- to small-dollar donors: $25, $50, $100. Why? Because the regular people are getting behind Herman Cain.
Waves of energized small donors? It sounds very Obama ’08.
David Plouffe wrote a book about how he did Obama’s fund-raising strategy. And guess what we did? We read the book. Genius! Let me tell you something about Herman Cain, I don’t have a problem taking a good idea and using it, even if it did come from Obama.
When did you start referring to yourself in the third person?
I’ve always done that.
Since you were a kid? Like, “Herman Cain is going to the grocery store to get Mom some eggs?”
I don’t talk like that when I’m home. I don’t know. I’ve never really been conscious of it.
You said of the Great Wall of China, “I think we could build one” as a solution to our immigration problems. Are you concerned that as many as three million Chinese died building it?
My point was, if they could build that wall centuries ago without bulldozers, we can secure the border today. It could be a combination of walls and high-tech equipment. Now, if accidents happen, that’s one thing. But I think we can improve upon that ratio of three million people dying.