If you’re looking for Herman Cain’s new campaign autobiography, head for a book store in some Democratic enclave.
I bought what may have been the last $21 copy of “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House” (Threshold Editions) in Cobb County, after a three-hour search.
Even in metro Atlanta, the place where Cain hangs his black cowboy hat, Republicans are in a mad dash to figure out who this fellow is.
The surging GOP presidential candidate, of course, was raised in Atlanta. Yet Cain left soon after graduating from Morehouse College in 1967, and didn’t re-establish himself in the metro area until 2000, after a far-flung business career.
Despite a 2004 run for U.S. Senate, a brief career as a radio talk show host and innumerable tea party appearances, Cain’s private life hasn’t been an open book — until now.
As literature, campaign autobiographies usually fall short, and Cain’s is no exception. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza is a leader, not a reader, he tells audiences. And non-readers rarely make great writers.
But as a political document, Cain’s book tells us many things, large and small, simply because it was churned out by the candidate himself. No ghostwriter was involved:
– Throughout his book, Cain defines himself as an intuitive “risk-taker.” Consider the chutzpah required of a 36-year-old African American to dump a vice-presidential slot at Pillsbury and start over at Burger King, flipping meat on a hot grill.
A willingness to gamble lies at the heart of Cain’s appeal to GOP voters. Never mind his “999” plan that advocates, among other offsets, a 9 percent national sales tax. The last president with no previous political experience was Dwight Eisenhower — and one could argue that organizing the D-Day invasion of Europe was a superior vetting experience.
— For a man born at the leading edge of the baby boomer era, the most notable word missing from Cain’s 222-page life story is “Vietnam.”
Immediately after graduating from college, Cain took a job as a civilian mathematician for the U.S. Navy in Dahlgren, Va. A spokesman confirmed that the job exempted Cain from the military draft of that era “for a while” — but that his lottery number was never called.
– His mother Lenora was a maid. His father Luther was the private chauffeur to Coca-Cola CEO Robert Woodruff, without a doubt the most powerful man in Atlanta and beyond. Adhering to his father’s directive to “stay out of trouble,” Herman Cain took no part in the civil rights protests roiling the city and the South.
In interviews this week, the presidential candidate said he was too young to partake. But one suspects a concern over family finances. Luther Cain had fought his way into one of the most prestigious jobs an unschooled black man could hope for in that era. A rabble-rousing son would not have pleased the elder Cain’s boss.
– Yet Herman Cain describes his father as anything but a pantywaist. For those familiar with Atlanta history, the most fascinating anecdote in the book deals with Woodruff’s gifts to the Luther Cain family. Cash at first, then Coke stock.
As the younger Cain tells it, Joe Jones, the fellow who served as Woodruff’s valet and the holder of his checkbook, objected to the Coke executive’s largesse to the Cains. Luther Cain invited Jones outside and showed him the pistol he carried as Woodruff’s chauffeur.
“If you ever tell Mr. Woodruff not to do something for me again, you’re going to find out how good I am with this gun,” Herman Cain quoted his father as saying. Historians and old Coke hands contacted Friday had never heard of the incident.
– After his job with the U.S. Navy and earning a master’s degree from Purdue University, Cain returned to work for Coke. But he didn’t stay long, realizing that he would always be the chauffeur’s son.
– During the citizen band radio craze of the 1970s, Cain’s chosen handle was “Cornbread.” He concedes that it could surface again as a Secret Service code name – should he get to the White House.
– Cain believes in both numbers and God. He devotes a chapter of his book to his favorite number: 45, the year of his birth. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Cain took the “J” that the surgeon drew with his scalpel — to remove a third of his colon and most of his liver — as a sign that Jesus was watching over him.
“When you are in the ‘Word,’ you can listen and hear when God is speaking to you,” Cain writes.
– His younger brother, Thurman Cain, died too soon as a result of alcohol and drug abuse.
– Herman Cain can’t break 80 on the golf course. (Absent from the book is his 2006 recommendation — tongue in cheek, hopefully — that the GOP groom Tiger Woods for the 2016 presidential campaign.)
– To test a good pizza operation, order the “all-meat” pizza. A salty taste means cheap ingredients. “That’s one of the little keys to understanding ‘Pizzaology,’” Cain writes. This, naturally, does not apply to anchovies.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider