Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says President Obama "was raised in Kenya" and that's why "he's out of the mainstream," in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg View. (Obama was not raised in Kenya, but did live in Indonesia from ages 6 to 10 before returning to Hawaii.) Cain, who has never held elected office but has surged in the polls following his appearance in the first Republican debate, said the difference between his heritage and Obama's helped explain the difference in their politics.
Cain explained that his family had been in America since the slavery era and implied that Obama's Kenyan father had influenced his outlook, as had his academic career.
"Most of the ancestors that I can trace were born here in the United States of America," [Cain] said, hitting those last four words with a hammer. "And then it goes back to slavery. And I'm sure my ancestors go all the way back to Africa, but I feel more of an affinity for America than I do for Africa. I'm a black man in America." ...
"Barack Obama is more of an international," Cain said. "I think he's out of the mainstream and always has been. Look, he was raised in Kenya, his mother was white from Kansas and her family had an influence on him, it's true, but his dad was Kenyan, and when he was going to school he got a lot of fellowships, scholarships, he stayed in the academic environment for a long time. He spent most of his career as an intellectual."
When Goldberg told Cain that Obama hadn't grown up in Kenya, but Indonesia, Cain responded, "Yeah, Indonesia." Cain, a Tea Party favorite who has said his popularity proves the group isn't racist, argued that his candidacy would eliminate race as an issue in the 2012 campaign.
"This isn’t why I’m running, but my candidacy would take race off the table. Right now, every time someone criticizes Barack Obama, they try to play the race card, the White House, all his supporters, they try to play the race card."
Update: But Cain says his race is not at all central to his candidacy in this video highlighted by Slate's Dave Weigel. When asked by a reporter about the importance of having a black candidate among the Republican 2012 lineup, Cain responded jokingly, "Am I black?" Cain said that having grown up "before, during, and after" the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta, he knows racism when he sees it. "I believe that most people have gotten past color, especially the Republican Party," Cain explains, and says his patriotic and conservative credentials are what matters most.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.