Book Review: This Is Herman Cain

The secret of Herman Cain is that he seems -- at least to me -- genuinely to be a mentally healthy human being.

This is no small thing, particularly in the world of politics -- even more so presidential politics, where large dollops of nearly clinical narcissism are necessary to propel the ambition needed to run for this most powerful of offices.

As most of us know by now, Cain leavens his narcissism with generous jolts of humor -- much of it self-deprecating -- that make him, at this moment anyway, the most engaging figure on the political scene.

But beneath the humor is the more serious tale of a self-made man who has pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps -- a “po’” boy (not a poor boy), as he describes himself in his soon-to-be released (Oct. 4) autobiography/campaign manifesto, This Is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House.

Cain also describes himself in the book as a “CEO of Self,” at once making fun of his well-known CEO status with Godfather's Pizza while emphasizing his own determined self-actualization. Cain is a guy who from the beginning of his life aimed to improve himself and succeeded.

A “CEO of Self” is a man who knows what his real goals are and does not let life’s inevitable vicissitudes, large and small, fair and unfair, public and private, racial and otherwise, deter him. He makes that very clear as he explains his way of dealing with discrimination during his youth: “I chose as CEO of Self to remove the barriers rather than to allow the barriers to remove me.”

He just kept on trucking. When unable to get a haircut because the barber would not cut the hair of black people, he bought himself a pair of clippers and cut his own hair. He does so to this day. (Take that, John Edwards!)

This is the same man who put himself through Morehouse College majoring in math, got a masters in computer science from Purdue (while improving academically), plotted rocket guidance for the Navy, started in business at Coca-Cola, then went on to turn around the fortunes of Philadelphia’s Burger King franchise, take over the aforementioned Godfather's Pizza chain, become the head of the National Restaurant Association, be appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and host a radio show into the bargain. And, of course, he defeated the Big C.