Could Herman Cain be the Republican nominee for president? The idea sounds preposterous but seems increasingly likely. Cain, who has never held political office, has policy experience limited to serving on the Kansas City Federal Reserve Board and representing the interests of fast food chains as president of the National Restaurant Association. His biggest success is boosting sales of the country’s ninth-largest pizza chain, and his current job is hawking books and giving paid speeches as a motivational speaker. On crucial subjects such as foreign policy, he demonstrates startling ignorance or a simple unwillingness to even take a position. On domestic subjects that don’t require detailed policy knowledge, such as what he thinks of abortion, Cain manages to contradict himself and flip-flop, often within the same interview.
And yet, here he is, tied with or leading Mitt Romney in the national polls, and ahead in Iowa and South Carolina. Statistical analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times, whose predictions on the last election were consistently the most accurate, cautions that while he doesn’t know what Cain’s chances are, “I do know what an analyst should not do: he should not use terms like ‘never’ and ‘no chance’ ” when applied to Mr. Cain’s chances of winning the nomination.” Silver adds: “I think it is quite arrogant to say that the man leading in the polls two months before Iowa has no chance.”
If Cain really could be the Republican nominee, it’s time to interrogate his bizarre and vague platform. Here are some questions reporters with the opportunity should ask him.
§ You are fond of boasting about how you lived the American Dream by rising from a poor family to make a lot of money. You also call for brutally cracking down on illegal immigration from Mexico, most notably by saying that you would put an electrified fence topped with barbed wire on the border and possibly send armed troops to guard it. Why do you think that Mexicans who come here to work low-paying jobs are different than your parents, seeking a better life for themselves and their children?
§ The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says your “9-9-9” tax reform proposal will raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans. It will raise taxes on lower- and middle-income Americans, by taxing sales and eliminating the standard deduction, while cutting taxes on the wealthy by lower income tax rates and eliminating taxes on inheritance and capital gains. The TPC found that your plan would raise taxes on everyone making less than $100,000 and raise taxes by more than 10 percent on everyone making less than $40,000. It would cut taxes on people making more than $100,000 and provide a huge tax cut of over 30 percent to people making more than $1 million per year. Why do you think this is fair? Do you think if your parents had to pay higher taxes it would have aided your social mobility?