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Herman Cain steps up attacks on Occupy Wall Street protests

October 09, 2011|By James Oliphant | Washington Bureau
(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty…)

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain amplified his criticism Sunday of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, calling the protesters “jealous’ Americans who "play the victim card” and want to “take somebody else’s” Cadillac.

Cain’s remarks, on CBS’ "Face the Nation," came amidst an escalating war of words between Republicans and Democrats over the merits of the movement, which has spread from New York to other cities across the nation, including Washington and Los Angeles.

GOP politicians in recent days have stepped up their criticism of the protesters, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) calling them "mobs" who have pitted “Americans against Americans.”

But Cain, surging in popularity among many conservatives, seems to have had among the most virulent responses to the protests.

On CBS, Cain suggested that the rallies had been organized by labor unions to serve as a “distraction so that many people won’t focus on the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

The banking and financial services industries aren’t responsible for those policies, Cain said. “To protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying you’re anti-capitalism,” he said.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who appeared on the program with Cain, offered a more measured response, but blamed the White House for the discord.

“There a lot of people in America who are angry,” Gingrich said. “This is the natural product of President Obama’s class warfare.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, also pointed a finger at the president, whom he accused of fear-mongering.

"He's preying on the emotions of fear, envy and anger. And that is not constructive to unifying America," Ryan said. "I think he's broken his promise as a uniter, and now he's dividing people. And to me, that's very unproductive."

Ryan cited protests in his home state of Wisconsin this year over collective bargaining legisation when asked about the Wall Street movement. “I don’t disparage anyone who protests their government in favor of better government, no matter what perspective they come from,” he said.

Asked whether Cain’s criticism was representative of the party, Ryan said, “I think Herman’s speaking for himself.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco on ABC’s “This Week,” essentially called Cantor a hypocrite for criticizing the Wall Street protesters while embracing the “tea party” movement.

“I didn’t hear him say anything when the tea party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol, and he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them,’ Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she supported the movement’s “message.”

“I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen,” she said “We cannot continue in a way that does not — that is not relevant to their lives. People are angry.”

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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