Today I attended a sold-out, National Press Club luncheon where Herman Cain was the featured speaker. When I signed up for the luncheon 4 weeks ago I had no idea that rumors of a sexual harassment “scandal” would suck the air out of the packed ballroom. While Cain convincingly diffused the scandal, I was there primarily to hear what he had to say about healthcare. In fact, I had submitted a question for his consideration a month in advance.
Interestingly, Mr. Cain stated that he decided to run for office the day that President Obama signed Obamacare into law. He said that he was so disappointed in Obama’s leadership on this policy in particular, that he was moved to step up to get America back on the right track. Cain argued that the American people didn’t want Obamacare, and the way that the president forced it upon them against their will was emblematic of his poor leadership skills. He went on to say that America’s healthcare system is the best in the world, and that he wouldn’t have beaten colon cancer without the great care he received. “We don’t have a healthcare quality problem, we have a healthcare cost problem” he quipped. He then suggested that the free market, state-level restructuring of Medicare, and less government intervention would be the best path forward.
That’s about all Mr. Cain had to say about healthcare during this luncheon. He may well have some thoughtful and nuanced views on the subject, but alas – they were not aired today. And it did strike me as odd that since it was Obamacare that purportedly got him into politics in the first place, he had no “9.9.9.” or better yet “9.1.1.” plan for healthcare. I got the sense that since he himself had a great experience with the system he wasn’t deeply in touch with the plight of others less fortunate than himself on that front.
Nonetheless, I found Mr. Cain to be charming, straight forward, and an entertaining speaker. He was especially amusing when he spoke about taxes, bringing down the house with this statement:
“If ten percent is enough for God, then nine percent should be enough for the federal government.”
Perhaps the most controversial topic of the luncheon was Mr. Cain’s stance on abortion. He argued that he is and always has been “pro-life from conception” and that as president he would back any legislation that outlawed abortion at the federal level. He interprets the Declaration of Independence’s statement: “… men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” to mean that it’s the government’s role to protect the “right” to life of the unborn.
At the end of the luncheon I realized that the cupcakes (see photo of my table’s center-piece delicacies above) were a good metaphor for Herman Cain’s performance – sweet, clever, but lacking in substance. I like cupcakes, and I like Herman Cain, but I have my doubts about their long term value for my health and the healthcare system at large.
P.S. The Washington Post offers a clip of Cain singing at the end of his NPC luncheon presentation.