Wanted: An honest Republican candidate who can beat Obama
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just as Herman Cain was "suspending" his presidential campaign, I realized that I met him years ago, in a still-timely tax debate context.

During an interview on Fox last week, while praising his Republican opponents, Newt Gingrich said that as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives he'd appointed Cain to the 1995 National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform, chaired by former Congressman Jack Kemp.

Revelation! How could I have forgotten the man who broke up the public argument between Kemp and me on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge!

When the Kemp Commission, which held hearings around the country, came to Boston, I testified in favor of tax simplification. I must have mentioned the "no new taxes" pledge, and to my surprise, Kemp launched an attack on it. I, of course, counterattacked.

In the middle of our battle, the commission member I remembered only as black, a pizza company CEO and very nice, stepped in to say he thought we were actually agreeing, but looking at the problem in two different ways.

The chairman, Cain explained to us both, wants to consider replacing some existing taxes with other "new" taxes, and fears that The Pledge wouldn't allow this flexibility, while I was arguing to prevent an increase in the total tax burden. Kemp and I made up, and in the end the commission didn't release much of a plan, so we still don't have tax reform.

This wasn't Cain's fault. He was there not as a politician to enact legislation, but as an entrepreneur wanting to make sure that whatever was done wouldn't hurt small businesses.

This focus was fine in 1995 and explains his being knowledgeable about tax issues, but it's often hard for a businessman to run for office. Mitt Romney is right that it's important for a president to have some experience in the private sector, but it's also important for a presidential candidate to be prepared for the public-sector arena.

So a fond farewell, Herman Cain, and on to the new battle between Mitt and Newt.

Those pundits who deplore a long campaign with many debates and allowing lower-tier candidates to remain in the race seem to have been wrong.

So there's no reason to expect others to "get out of the way" before the New Hampshire primary. In fact, I wish Gary Johnson could take Cain's space onstage.

I haven't missed a debate, including the online-only "faith" forum from Iowa and Mike Huckabee's Fox debate last weekend on the Constitution. I'm also getting to know each candidate during Sean Hannity's hourlong interviews and Parade magazine's cover stories, which include conversations with the spouses.

I watch the talking-head discussions on Sunday morning and collect newspaper clippings about the race. For those readers who have a life, I'd be happy to share my well-informed opinion about who's the best Republican in the field if I had one yet.

Romney has the public- and private-sector experience with economic issues. Gingrich hasn't had much experience in the private sector but, as a historian, has the perspective of understanding what both the private and public sectors have done to history. I'm still watching Jon Huntsman he has more foreign-policy experience, and I agree with him on social issues more than with the other candidates as near as I can tell since two of them keep changing their positions.

Not that I'm blaming them, I've changed my mind on some things over the years, and they have to get through the Republican primary, though fealty to the religious right doesn't seem to be helping Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum much. I'm impressed by Bachmann's knowledge of tax policy and her House voting record on the deficit, but these three are too socially conservative for the general electorate, especially the younger voters we need.

As a libertarian, I love Ron Paul and am grateful for his bringing opposition to Federal Reserve policies and crony capitalism into the presidential debate. But he seems nave on foreign policy. I think I'll wait for his better-spoken son, Rand Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky, to run someday, maybe with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie!

I was supporting Romney until I saw his ad deceptively taking Obama's statement "If we run on the economy, we lose" out of the context of quoting John McCain in '08. I think our former governor is listening to consultants who are paid entirely too much to be cute. Just let Mitt be Mitt, even if he looks "too good to be true," because, from my experience with him, he is kind of old-fashioned good.

I could be excited about Newt if I'd just discovered him. I've followed his career as he reached a position of unexpected leadership in the past and have a feeling he hadn't really expected to get this far this time, either.

He certainly wasn't ready to honestly answer questions about lobbying for Freddie Mac. I wonder if his interest in making big money reflects the influence of his wife, who may be the unfortunate equivalent of Romney's political advisers.

I don't need a perfect candidate. I just want one who always tells the truth; then I need him to beat Obama.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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