Herman Cain on the Hill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 2 2011 1:47 PM

Herman Cain on the Hill

131174889
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain (2nd L) is pursued down a flight of stairs by journalists after participating in a discussion with members of the Congressional Health Care Caucus in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. Part of the 'Thought Leaders Series,' Cain and members of the caucus discussed the current health care system and health care initiatives for the future. Cain has been making headlines for the past two days after POLITICO.com reported Sunday that the National Restaurant Association paid settlements to two female employees who accused Cain of harassment when he was president of the association in the 1990s. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The (still!) frontrunner for the  Republican presidential nomination had scheduled packed day of D.C.-area events. Eight o'clock in McLean, in the tony suburbs. Two and a half hours later in Alexandria. Then, back into the city to talk to the Republican-dominated Health Care Caucus before meeting with more Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club, their traditional nearby hangout.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

I caught up with Cain at the caucus meeting. Inside was caucus founder Rep. Michael Burgess, a medical doctor from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, holding court with a dozen reporters. He was sympathetic to Cain, somewhat welcoming of the surge of reporters. I asked Burgess if he'd been paying attention to Cain's answers about the harassment story. He had a sarcastic barb ready.

Advertisement

"The man's not accustomed to dealing with the press like I am!" he said. "You guys are going to vet this, and I have every belief you're going to look into this as carefully as you looked into President Obama's college grades."

Cain arrived late, slowed down by reporters. "You have no one to blame but yourself," joked Burgess. Cain entered the room to shouts and camera clicks -- I heard NBC's Luke Russert ask Cain if he'd "paid a woman $35,000" in the settlement, as the New York Times reported last night. Cain brushed right by, smiling, to start a 10 minute speech about his personal struggle with cancer and the need to repeal "ObamaCare."

"My chances of survival when I went through cancer treatment was 30 percent," he said. "Three, zero! Thirty percent! If a bureaucrat had to make a decision on the likelihood of that would work, what do you think the bureaucrat would have said? Don't waste the money!"

When the Q&A began, the media outnumbered the members by a ratio of around six to one. The questions -- from the members, only -- were friendly. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., asked Cain how he'd win the argument that Medicare needed to be reformed. He'd convince the country that Medicare was unsustainable and that Medicare should be turned into block grants, so states could experiment with care.

"Maybe five of them won't get it right," he said, "but the other 45 will get it right. The voice of the people will decide this campaign."

The next question was partly about messaging, too. Cain had a larger point about that.

"That's why I'm performing as well as I am in the polls," he said. "The voice of the people in this upcoming election isgoing to be more powerful than the voice of the media. They're not going to be influenced by what the media perceives as THE candidates."

Cain left after 20 minutes, ignoring some shouted questions from the press -- "Will you release the women from the confidentiality clause?" -- shaking hands, and going to the next appointment. The members who'd heard him said he'd said all the right things; and anyway, the story would burn out eventually.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.

History

America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
History
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Education
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?