Herman Cain interview: Full transcript

Full Transcript: Interview with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Hi, this is Brian Montopoli, with CBS News, and I am here with GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain. Thank you for being with us, sir.

HERMAN CAIN: Brian, my pleasure. Thanks.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: All right. So let's just jump right into it. In your recent campaign video, you're shown with your arms around a number of white supporters. And you say--


BRIAN MONTOPOLI: --to anyone who says the Tea Party is racist, eat your words. Why did you include that?

HERMAN CAIN: Because the Tea Party movement, citizens movement, has been getting a bad rap about being a racist organization. And I wanted to dispel that. But if you not only look at the people who show up at some of these rallies, they are all colors. Obviously, you're gonna have a larger number of white attendees, because the black population only makes up about 12 percent of the general population.

So if you have one in ten, that's-- that's proportional to the black population. But the other thing that makes that whole racist accusation ridiculous, is the fact that I have been speaking to Tea Parties, Americans for Prosperity, since 2009, before it was cool.

And I have won nearly a dozen straw polls. I happen to be, you know, very active out there, and this sort of thing. So I just find it a ridiculous accusation. And it was a way to send another message. Because if the Tea Party organization was racist, why does the black guy keep winning all these straw polls? (LAUGHTER)

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Let me ask, do you think that there is-- part of your appeal to folks in the Tea Party movement is that you're carrying a conservative message, and are in an African American candidate? You know, they may have felt stung by-- by the fact that President Obama's a Democrat, by accusations of-- of Tea Party racism. I mean, are they happy to see a black candidate carrying this conservative message?

HERMAN CAIN: They are responding to my message. They really wouldn't care if I was green, red, blue or yellow. Seriously. That's not the reason why. There is no remorse about, okay, we voted for President Obama, we're trying to send a message that the Re-- Conservatives are not racist. No, I don't believe that's it at all.

My commonsense solutions message is what's resonating with people. The fact that I happen to be an American, black, Conservative, is just coincidental in this whole discussion.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: One more question about race, and then we will move on. President Obama, I'm curious about your feelings about his-- relationship with race. Do you feel that-- that he used race for personal gain? Do you feel that he used it-- to help get elected?

HERMAN CAIN: I don't think he used it to help get elected. But I believe that a lot of his supporters use race selectively, to try to cover up some of his failures. To try to cover up some of his failed policies. He may not do it directly. But whenever President Obama is criticized because something didn't work, or because of bad-- bad policy, or something of this nature, his surrogates, and other members of cont-- of-- of other members of Congress, would then try to play the race card because it's (PHONE) supposed to be something wrong with criticizing him. We have a right to criticize any elected official, constructively.

When I was doing a radio show in Atlanta, I used to get callers who would call in, disgusted that I would dare criticize the President, because he was black. And so what I'm saying is some people have selectively used it to try to give the President a pass on failed policies, bad decisions, and the fact that this economy's not doing what it was supposed to do.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: There are skeptics in the GOP establishment, and in the media establishment, who have been fairly dismissive of your candidacy. I'm wondering what your message is to them.

HERMAN CAIN: My message is stay tuned. Because all you have to do is look at, number one, the reaction that I'm getting from the groups that I'm talking to all over the country. I've been to Iowa 19 times, I've been to New Hampshire 13 times. South Carolina, Florida, half a dozen times each, speaking in Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana-- all over the-- a lot of the early primary states.

And this was part of our strategy. Our strategy was a ground game. Build a ground game first. This is why I have spent more time being in different parts of the country, and being in the early primary states. Getting to know people. But more importantly, introducing them to my message.

And it's sticking. And so what's happening is when the pollsters (PHONE) started including me in the polls, all of a sudden Herman Cain just burst right into the middle of the pack, and I'm starting to move up. Why? Because people are seeing me as a commonsense candidate. The commonsense solutions candidate. That's what's resonating with people.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Do you-- you grew up poor. And you've talked about that. You've-- you had a long business career. You worked your way up. Does that give you something-- does that allow you to bring something to the table that someone like Mitt Romney, who grew up wealthy, doesn't bring to the table?

HERMAN CAIN: Absolutely. Only one correction, before I-- before we were poor, we were po'. See, po' is one level below poor. We had to work up to poor. Yes. My father left the farm at the age of 13-- 18. Just the clothes on his back. We didn't have a lot of material things. But we had or faith in God, our belief in this country, and the belief in what you could do for yourself. That was the le-- those were the lessons that my dad taught me.

I do have an advantage. Because I can relate to people who are still trying to climb the economic ladder. I also have an advantage in that the type of businesses that I ran in my career were small businesses. Godfather's pizza was a collection of restaurants that we owned, in addition to franchisees. They would own three, four, five bu-- five restaurants.

Burger King. When I ran the Burger King corporation. A collection of small businesses. So I have, I believe, a better pulse of what's-- what the needs are of the small business community-- struggling businesses. Businesses that are trying to get started, because that's the environment where I had my 40-year career in business.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: I need to ask you about something you said recently, which was that you would not want to sign a bill that was longer than three pages.


BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Now, I looked at some bills. First of all, the fair tax, which you back, is 131 pages. The Patriot Act, Civil Rights Act, Bush Tax Cuts, all longer than 30 pages. Defense appropriations bills are always longer than-- than three pages. How-- how can you keep that promise?

HERMAN CAIN: Brian, that was an exaggeration.


HERMAN CAIN: It was an exaggeration to drive home a point. I want short bills. So it was an exaggeration. I want short bills. I want clean bills. In other words, when they write a bill, I want it to address the particular topic that it is supposed to address. Because, as you know, they have this habit in Washington D.C. of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, in there, in order to try to get it passed along with something that the other side might want.

I'm gonna have some direction. Number one, no ear marks. I can keep that promise. It's called the veto pen. Number two, clean bills. Yes, they're gonna be longer than three pages. But they are not gonna be 2,700 pages that nobody read.

And I also am going to insist that for every bill that is being considered on a particular subject, that's-- that someone write an executive summary for the public to read, so they will know what's in it. That's that business skills thing that I would bring to the White House. It's-- there is way to summarize it, so the public will know what's in it, rather than being nontransparent.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Let's talk about entitlement programs. I know you back The Ryan Plan-- on Medicare and Medicaid. What about Social Security. What happens-- what has to happen there?

HERMAN CAIN: I believe that we've got to restructure Social Security along the lines of the Chilean model. Which is a personal retirement account option. I didn't say privatize, for those that want to demagogue the idea. I said personalization. That means like they did in Chile. You give workers the option. Option, to be able to put a portion of your Social-- your FICA tax into a personal account with your name on it, that's your money, not the government's.

And you still have to help fund those that are already on Social Security, until it phases itself out. So a personalization, personal retirement account option. Now, when they did this in Chile, nearly 30 years ago, and they gave people the option, in three years 90 percent of the workers opted to the new plan, even though they had to help phase out the old plan.

Why? They were gonna end up with more retirement dollars by having their own money in a self-directed account. This isn't open it up, where everybody can go and play Wall Street. No. You have certain controls there, to make sure people don't waste it, or abuse it.

So a personal retirement account option. If we do that, when we do that, we will be able to become solvent, and eventually phase out the current Social Sec-- Security system we have. Because we cannot sustain it long-term. That's part of what I talk about when I say we've got to go from an entitlement society, to an empowerment society.

When you allow people to have a personal retirement account, you empower them. When you force them to stay on Social Security, and we don't fix the problem, it forces people to stay hooked on that entitlement program.

BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Defense spending.


BRIAN MONTOPOLI: Would you cut Defense spending? And where would you cut?