- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2015

NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

Carly Fiorina, who rose to power in corporate America to become Hewlett-Packard’s first female chairman and CEO, is aiming to smash two more glass ceilings, but this time in politics.

One is the 159-year history of total male dominance of Republican presidential nominations. The other is the 225-year period when a “For Men Only” sign has hung over the door to the Oval Office.

Mrs. Fiorina has no problem breaking glass to do it, candidly discussing what she sees as the foreign policy failures of George W. Bush, her opposition to amnesty and her disdain for crony capitalism that marries government interests to Wall Street.

She also doesn’t mince words when it comes to problems she sees with big-government liberals. She cited the example of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, who was captured on video boasting that Americans were too stupid to understand the law.

“I don’t doubt that they care about helping people, but I also don’t doubt that in their heart of hearts a lot of them think they are smarter than you are, better than you are, and that’s why they’re going to decide for you,” Mrs. Fiorina said in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Times.


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In that respect, she said, they are a lot like some CEOs who decide for other people rather than listen to their customers.

“I don’t think President Obama spends an awful lot of time consulting with other people,” she said. “He’s pretty sure he’s smarter than everyone else. He’s pretty much said so.”

At age 60, Mrs. Fiorina doesn’t need another career. She is a comfortable millionaire who proved she could run a tech giant effectively in a once male-dominated Silicon Valley. She has tested politics by running in 2010 for the Senate against Barbara Boxer in California and losing by 10 points. She is chairwoman of the influential American Conservative Union Foundation, a perch that lends her plenty of opportunity to shape policy and rub elbows in Washington.

But she aspires to do more to countervail the liberal forces of the Warrens, Obamas, Clintons and Grubers of the world. So she is boning up on policy and preparing for a possible run for president against a slate of all-male Republican rivals. If she dives into the race, she plans to stand out against the rest of the field.

Since the days of Ronald Reagan, Republican presidential aspirants have claimed fealty to conservatism’s holy trinity of free markets, traditional values and a strong military.

Mrs. Fiorina agrees with those principles but adds one of her own.

“The philosophy of conservatism is that no one of us is any better than any other one of us,” she said. “Everyone has gifts, everyone wants to live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning, and everyone can do that.

“Liberals don’t believe that, and that is the core difference between liberals and conservatives, because liberals think some are smarter than others,” she said.

She doesn’t shrink from answering the question of why a technology executive who ran a company of 180,000 workers with little political experience thinks she is qualified to run a nation of more than 300 million.

“A large part of our problem is that we have so many people in elective office, including the president, who have done nothing but government and politics all their lives,” she said. “So maybe they know government, but so far government isn’t working real well.”

Mrs. Fiorina said the next president needs to have “real experience in making tough decisions in tough circumstances and will need to know how bureaucracies work and know technology.”

Why technology?

“Because it is a transformative tool that is never used to its full extent here in Washington,” she said.

Besides, she asks, “when did we come up with this idea that only a professional politician could run for office? It’s a modern and not particularly good invention. And it’s not the way our republic ran for 150-plus years.”

‘Warren is right’

After every question, she pauses for a second or two before responding with a cascade of complete, clear, grammatically correct sentences, not interrupted by even a single thought-collecting “um” or “ah” or “you know.”

At first, Mrs. Fiorina sounds almost like a comrade-in-arms with the more liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, noting that both women want to find ways to end what they regard as an unholy alliance between Wall Street and its cronies in the executive branch of the federal government.

It’s been going on under Republican and Democratic presidents, she said.

“Elizabeth Warren is right. We have crony capitalism in this country,” Mrs. Fiorina said of the woman who was a Harvard law professor and is the No. 1 liberal heartthrob in the Senate.

Many liberals say they would give their eye teeth to see Mrs. Warren contest former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Some on the left see Mrs. Clinton as having no degrees of separation from the economic ravagers of Wall Street.

“We don’t have a free market in this country today. We have crony capitalism, which is why small businesses are folding up and going away,” Mrs. Fiorina said. “It’s why more of them are being destroyed than being created.”

Mrs. Fiorina’s apparent consonance with Mrs. Warren vanishes quickly.

“Warren’s wrong about the answer to crony capitalism. It’s not more big government, which only creates more crony capitalism,” she said. “The answer is less government, radical simplification, real government reform — not just enough to lower tax rates. You have to simplify the tax codes.”

Mrs. Fiorina’s worldview was shaped by her winding journey from receptionist with a Stanford University degree in medieval history and philosophy and law school dropout to division chairman of Lucent Technologies, and then head of everything at Hewlett-Packard.

“I was raised conservative, but I wasn’t politically active for a very long time,” she said. “So while I grew up listening to my father rail against the evening news and The New York Times, I would say, ‘Daddy, why do you read it? It makes you so upset.’ But he liked a good fight, right? But I wasn’t active — didn’t think about how to apply those principles particularly.

“The way I became a conservative was actually through business,” she said. “I figured out that when I had a tough problem, the person in my organization I least expected turned out to be the person who could help me solve it. In other words, I figured out that everyone around me has potential. Everyone has gifts.”

Despite her five-star work resume, she said skill and experience in managing a large bureaucracy takes second place to qualifications for president.

“If I could only pick one, I would say a coherent worldview” because it takes that to understand why and how “government now has to be fundamentally reformed, not tinkered with,” she said.

“An understanding of how bureaucracies work and how they can be changed is also very important,” she said. “It wasn’t important 100 years ago, but it is now.”

Though Mrs. Fiorina hasn’t formally announced her candidacy, she is formulating policy positions.

She said she won’t even consider giving the millions of people who entered the United States illegally an opportunity to gain citizenship status. Once the U.S. border is fully secured, she said, only then would she consider granting legal work status.

That raises the related question of why she thinks the federal government can afford to spend billions more dollars attempting to create an impermeable border wall when it is already spending hundreds of billions of dollars fighting wars abroad.

“You should ask President Obama,” she retorted.

But the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were begun by President George W. Bush and not by Mr. Obama.

“That’s right,” she said. “We mismanaged going into Iraq and getting out.

“It was totally realistic for us to go into Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a safe haven,” she said. “What was foolish was to say we’re going to build a central government where none has existed for 2,000 years. That’s called nation-building. That doesn’t work.”

But don’t mistake Mrs. Fiorina as a pacifist, even if she finds fault in both of the past presidents’ approaches to fighting terrorism.

“There are times when we must protect our interests and those of our allies,” she said. “So it’s unrealistic to say we’re never going to get into wars.”

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