Herman Cain has an impressive record in the business world. He was a successful vice president at Pillsbury and Burger King, then he turned around the failing Godfather's Pizza.
Is that the kind of person the country needs as president? Cain thinks so.
I spoke with Cain last week.
As a businessman, Cain saw firsthand the harm that government interventions like the minimum-wage inflict. People lose their jobs without even realizing why.
"If the government were to mandate an increase in minimum wage today ... it would simply drive the unemployment rate even higher."
How would he deal with the debt problem?
"We will not default ... . (P)ay the military people and their military families, make sure we pay the interest on debt, pay Medicare bills, and then make sure we pay the Medicaid bills. (E)verything else should be on the table."
Cain says government is not only too big -- it's too complex. To change that, he said congressional bills should be no more than three pages. He's taken a ribbing on that from Jon Stewart
"(T)hree pages was a number to exaggerate a point. Make sure bills are short enough and understandable enough for the American people to understand."
On other matters, Cain can be ambiguous -- special tax treatment for corn-based ethanol, for example.
"(M)ake sure the farmers who are dependent upon ethanol subsidies have the proper alternative distribution for the product."
How can a defender of free markets say that?
"Once you help the farmers get their products to market all over the world, they won't need those subsidies and the free market principles will perform much better because then we should allow ethanol, methanol and all sources to compete in the marketplace."
He also supported TARP bank bailout.
"I looked at the financial meltdown. That was one of the worst situations that I have ever seen, and we need(ed) to do something drastic. But when the administration started to pick winners and losers, I did not agree with the implementation."
He opposed the bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors.
While Cain says he wants less government, he also supports bans on abortion and gay marriage, and the war on drugs. The failure of the war on drugs is obvious to me. I wondered why he didn't see it.
"First, get serious about restricting the amount of illegal drugs coming into this country. ... I refuse to accept defeat by simply legalizing it."
To me, that wouldn't be accepting defeat. That would be proclaiming individual liberty.
On war and peace, Cain has sounded evasive. When asked about Afghanistan during the first presidential debate, he said: "The experts and their advice and their input would be the basis for me making that decision. I am not privy to a lot of confidential information." On my show, he said, "(S)ince that debate, I have begun to develop some perspective on those issues."
So should we get out or stay?
"(T)he surge was working, but this president decided to start drawing troops home. ... (T)he two worst things that we can do is leave too soon if we can win, if we define winning."
Can we define winning?
"That is why I have to talk to the experts because the United States interest is not clear. ... (U)ntil I have a clear definition of what winning means for the United States of America, I will not shoot from the lip."
The political class mocks Cain for seeking the presidency -- despite never having held public office. I say: What's so great about political experience? All that means is that you are skilled at sucking up to people, smiling when you don't mean it and promising everything to everyone.
I would rather have a businessman as president than a career politician, although government must never be compared to a business, because unlike a company, government gets its revenue by force. Let's also remember the real problem is that government intrudes in matters outside its proper sphere. Not even a great businessman could make that work.