Herman Cain, the first Tea Party-backed candidate to take the initial steps toward a 2012 presidential run, is already making waves.

In a Feb. 11 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Cain, an African-American, ruffled feathers with his thoughts on why he disagrees with the direction of America.

“The objective of liberals is to destroy this country,” Cain said in his speech. “The objective of liberals is to make America mediocre like everybody else who aspires to be like America.”

Cain, the former chairman and CEO of Godfather Pizza is an Atlanta-based radio talk show host who formed an exploratory committee last month to weigh a 2012 presidential bid.

An Atlanta native who holds degrees in mathematics from Morehouse College and in computer science from Purdue University, Cain rose through the ranks first with the Coca-Cola Company and later as an executive with Burger King and its parent company Pillsbury in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

According to a company history, Pillsbury appointed Cain as president of Godfather’s Pizza, then a subsidiary of the food conglomerate, in 1986. But two years later, citing weakening profits, Pillsbury encouraged Cain and a group of senior managers to buy out Godfather’s and run it independently.

After turning around that company, he left to become president of the National Restaurant Association in 1994, according to his presidential exploratory committee Web site, during which time he began a political career as a lobbyist and speaker for the food industry.

He challenged then-President Clinton on the president’s health care reform proposal in 1994, and later ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Georgia, finishing second in the Republican primary to the eventual victor of the seat, Johnny Isakson. More recently, he took the national stage last year to defend against claims that the Tea Party movement incorporated racist elements, according to Yahoo! News.

At CPAC, Cain detailed the tactics he believes liberals use to gain a political advantage.

“ only have three tactics: S.I.N.,” Cain said. “They shift the subject, they ignore facts and they name-call.”

His speech immediately drew sharp criticism from AlterNet, a progressive blog. The blog post went past Cain’s politics and, in a commentary by Chauncy DeVega, a Black progressive activist, brought race in to the discussion.

“Instead, Herman Cain’s shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs ‘authentic negritude’ as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies,” the posting said. “Like the fountain at Lourdes, Cain in his designated role as Black Conservative mascot, absolves the White racial reactionaries at CPAC of their sins.”

“This is a refined performance that Black Conservatives have perfected over many decades and centuries of practice,” it continued.

That response garnered national attention for Cain, as many have come to his defense. Journalist and commentator Juan Williams, appearing on Sean Hannity’s self-titled show on Fox News said the comment was “Black-on-Black” crime.

“It is just so insulting,” Williams said. “And the idea that this is Black on Black crime. It’s essentially a Black-on-Black drive-by shooting in my mind. It just blows your mind. It’s the start of the 21st century. He accuses Herman Cain of being a minstrel for giving a speech at CPAC. Now, if nobody spoke who was Black at CPAC, then you’d say, oh CPAC is racist.”

Cain is also a cancer survivor; he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in both his liver and colon in 2006, but underwent surgery and chemotherapy and has said he is now cancer-free.

Cain has temporarily left his radio talk show as he considers a possible presidential campaign, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He plans on making more appearances at Tea Party events.