Would-be GOP presidential nominee Carly Fiorina joined me to talk about the state of the race as Christmas brings down the curtain on (most) campaigning for two weeks:
HH: Joined now by Carly Fiorina, candidate for the presidency of the United States, www.carlyforamerica.com. When I ran into Carly, though, on Wednesday night after the debate, I think I felt like Caesar did on his way to the Forum. Carly, welcome back, I just saw the special Dana Bash did on Frank Fiorina. That was a wonderful piece. I hope you’ve had a chance to see it.
CF: Well, he’s a wonderful man. I am very lucky to have him. Thank you so much.
HH: It just is. Dana did a fine job. Let’s go to the key thing, which is the campaign, and begin with Hillary. I want to play for you if you’ll have patience a minute and a half that I exchanged with Chris Cuomo this morning about Hillary Clinton’s debate performance on Saturday night. Here’s what Chris Cuomo and I had to say this morning, cut number one:
CC: Two takes are possible on this. One is what David Brock just offered on this show that intel experts have informed the campaign, including Clinton, that they are using what Donald Trump has said and done to recruit online right now. The other one is we can’t find a video, so this is untrue. Your take?
HH: Chris, there’s only one take. Hillary Clinton lied. She lied again. She invented a second video narrative which has nothing to do with the truth. She’s been fact-checked on this claim by the Washington Post and by the New York Times. John Podesta was on Meet the Press yesterday. I was on the set with him. He tried to dance around it. David Brock tried to dance around it. Hillary Clinton compulsively lied in a situation where it was not necessary, and it raises that fundamental question 60% of Americans don’t trust her to begin with. She is the least trusted person in the field. And I remember the late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book, No One Left To Lie To, at which he marveled at the fact that both Hillary and Bill Clinton seemed not to be able to control themselves. This was a completely unforced, unnecessary launch into falsehood. There is no video. No video exists. Donald Trump called this morning, NBC. He called Meet the Press yesterday. He wants an apology, but I think more importantly, voters have to figure out that if Mrs. Clinton becomes President Clinton, they’ll never be able to believe anything she says, because she just makes stuff up like this video, which does not exist.
HH: And Carly Fiorina, just to make sure our audience knows what I’m talking about, play cut number two. This is Mrs. Clinton on Saturday night.
HRC: They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.
HH: Carly Fiorina, your reaction to this?
CF: Well of course, she’s lying. But it is more fundamental than that. She does not understand the nature of this threat. She does not understand that has nothing to do with what we do. It has nothing to do with our behavior. It has nothing to do with Guantanamo Bay. It has nothing to do with our presidential campaign. It has everything to do with them and their ideology and their hatred of America. Or maybe, she was trying to distract everyone from her complete failure as Secretary of State, from the reality that she has gotten every single foreign policy challenge wrong. Maybe she was trying to distract from the reality that when she lied about the terrorist attack in Benghazi on our embassy, that she was basically saying to terrorists open season. We’re not going to do anything when you attack an embassy and murder four Americans. And that’s precisely what this administration has done – basically nothing.
HH: Now Carly Fiorina, does that get through to voters? I couldn’t believe that Mrs. Clinton, now I don’t know, let me begin, did you watch the debate Saturday night?
CF: I did not. I read transcripts of it. I was on an airplane coming back from Iowa very late.
HH: Okay, now I actually had to watch it, professional obligation, because of Meet the Press. It was incredibly dull. But she embraced her Libyan coalition. She embraced, she is proud of her advice and policy that the President adopted on Libya. Are you surprised by that?
CF: Well, I’m not surprised that she would attempt to rewrite history. It is the Clinton way. Say what you have to say to get elected. Lie as long as you can get away with it. It is the Clinton way. And as you know, Hugh, I strongly believe, and voters believe as well, the only way she is going to be held accountable for these lies or her failures is to have the right nominee facing off against her on a general election debate stage. And I am that nominee.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about the debate on Tuesday night. We had a very brief conversation on Friday. You were shorted on time. You had nine minutes, Ted Cruz had 16 minutes. And you let me know about it on Thursday night, even though I’m not the timekeeper. But nevertheless, I do think people, as I’ve talked over the weekend in Washington believe, that this is no longer a three-tier race. It’s a two-tier race, and that you’re in the second tier, but you’re still possible. And I don’t think anybody would have believed that a year ago, Carly Fiorina. What’s your assessment of the dynamic of the race right now?
CF: Well, I think that’s true, that it’s rapidly becoming a two-tier race. As I have said to you on the show before, Hugh, this is going to be a process of elimination before it’s a process of selection. And the process of elimination has begun. I’m here in South Carolina today where Lindsey Graham, as you know, announced he was ending his presidential campaign. He’s a great American, a great patriot. But the process of elimination is now underway. I would also say this, however. If you look at the top tier candidates, people who have been in the top tier at this stage in a presidential race previous years have not gone on to win. Otherwise, we would have had a President Howard Dean, and a President Rudy Giuliani, and Heaven forbid, we already would have had a President Hillary Clinton. I’ve come a lot further than people imagined I could come. And when the process of elimination is over, and the process of selection begins, I will be standing there.
HH: You know, I wish people could see from our encounter on Wednesday night is when you grasped my shoulders and you looked me in the eye and you said Hugh, you still don’t get it. You think I’m running for vice president or the cabinet. I’m not. I’m going to be the nominee. How many times do you have to tell people that?
CF: Well, I don’t know. But I don’t know, but I think that more and more people are, look, first, let me back up. Nobody knew who I was. I mean, you did. But most people didn’t know who I was.
HH: Outside of California where you, yeah.
CF: The Senate. Well, you know, that’s why I was 17 out of 16, and the pollsters didn’t even bother to ask my name. They didn’t poll for me for the first couple of months. So people are getting to know me. And I think as people get to know me, they learn that I am a tested leader. And I think as people are watching what’s happening in this country, as people are watching, for example, the Omnibus spending bill sail through, I think people are saying, and beginning to agree with me, that we need a different kind of leadership now, that it’s time we take our country back. And that means that being a politician isn’t necessarily what’s the most qualifying to win this job or to do this job.
HH: Now in the Omnibus, there were some provisions which I have not yet had an ability to study. They may in fact be classified, because I can’t find them anywhere, on cyber cooperation, instructing the private sector to deal with the government on cyber cooperation, long overdue. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to get briefed on these, either, Carly Fiorina. They may not be accessible to us.
CF: Well, they are long overdue. They are necessary. But they are not sufficient. They are not sufficient. We have not done what is sufficient to protect ourselves. We are losing the war in cyberspace. There is no reason for us to be losing other than politics as usual and government ineptitude. But we are losing. And today, by the way, we find out that the Iranians hacked into a dam site. They did it several years. We’re only now finding out about it.
CF: Our enemies are hacking into our most sensitive databases and systems. It’s why we need a president who understands technology.
HH: It’s a dam site in the United States, by the way, America. I’ll fill you in on that when I come back with Carly Fiorina.
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HH: Carly, you’ve got nothing to do with USC, do you? I don’t hold that against you, right?
CF: (laughing) USC is a great school.
HH: I know, but they’re not degree-granting, yet. So we don’t put them in that category. Carly, just during the break, the Clinton campaign said that it is ridiculous for Donald Trump to demand an apology for her lie, and that there is no, hell no, they won’t be giving an apology. That’s who you’ll be up against. They will never give a quarter, they will never admit anything that they have done is a disaster, even the reset button.
CF: That’s right. That’s exactly right, which is why we’d better have the right nominee facing off against her. Look, Hillary Clinton wants to talk about anything but the red reset button, anything but the terrorist attack in Benghazi, anything about everything she got wrong on Libya. She wants to talk about the historic nature of her candidacy. And while you and I know she is a very flawed candidate, we should also be realistic. She will have more money than anyone, and she will have a great ground game, thanks to Barack Obama. So we must have a nominee who can stand toe to toe with her, and not permit her to talk about the historic nature of her candidacy, but instead will force her to talk about every single one of those lies, and every single one of those mistakes.
HH: Now obviously, Donald Trump has between 35 and 40% of the Republican electorate nationally saying that he is their candidate. And I’ll talk with Donald on Wednesday, I believe, and everyone is welcome here. You need to detach some of those voters and get them to vote for Carly. So what’s your appeal to the Trump voter right now that they should be a Fiorina voter instead come February?
CF: You know, I am running because I think we have to take our country back. As citizens, we have to take our country back. The political class no longer serves us. It serves itself. The government no longer serves the people who pay for it. It serves itself. We are not leading in the world. To fix all of those things requires a lot more than tough talk. To fix those things requires somebody who understands how the economy actually works, who understands foreign policy, world leaders, our military and our intelligence capabilities. It requires somebody who understands bureaucracies, because that’s what our government has become, and what it takes to cut them down to size and hold them accountable. We need a commander-in-chief who understands technology – how to use it and how it’s being used against us. And mostly, we need somebody who understands leadership. Leadership is about solving festering problems. Leadership is about challenging the status quo. I will bring conservative policies to the White House to take our government back. And I am a tested leader. That is why I’m asking for people’s vote and support. And oh, by the way, to take our country back, we need to start by beating Hillary Clinton.
HH: But specifically, the Donald Trump voter is a very unusual voter profile. I’m not buying this uneducated. I think they are hyper-educated, and they’re hyper-aware, and high information voters. How do you get them to detach from him and say okay, Carly is a better choice given their issue sets?
CF: Well, I think Donald Trump has not honestly proposed a single solution. He hasn’t proposed a single solution. And the things that he has talked about in many cases, I profoundly disagree with. I don’t think eminent domain is a great deal. I think it’s a good deal for crony capitalists and a bad deal for regular Americans. I don’t think his romance with Vladimir Putin is helpful to this nation. I think it’s harmful to this nation. Maybe Vladimir Putin is the guy who told him how to shut off the internet. But we cannot outsource leadership in the Middle East to Vladimir Putin. And I think it takes somebody with experience to understand that. I don’t think, very honestly, that Donald Trump has proposed a set of solutions that will work for this nation. Look, I’m going to talk to the American people not about Donald Trump. I’m going to talk to the American people about what’s going on in this country, and why Carly Fiorina is the tested leader who can best solve our problems and help take our country back and lead again in the world.
HH: When we come back from break, though, I’m going to have to talk to you about the Rubio-Cruz battle as well, because this is now becoming, as I said, I think it’s really a seven person race – Donald Trump, the Cruz-Rubio debate, Christie, Jeb, Kasich, Carly Fiorina. Those are the real seven. John Kasich might climb back into the ring in New Hampshire, I’m not sure, but it is narrowing. And as it narrows, it intensifies.
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HH: Carly, one of the questions that was on my possible question set for you, and then people in the room debated whether it would be fair to ask you this, but I think it is, and so I’ll pose it this way. You know the pain of losing a child to substance abuse. Thousands of Americans lose their children to handgun violence. Do you understand their perspective that the Congress is not responsive to their concerns? Now the people in the room objected that that was an emotional unfair hit on you. And I thought you know, Carly’s actually pretty doggone tough. She can handle anything. But what about those thousands of people who have lost children, like you have? And is the government responsive to their worry?
CF: Well, actually no, they’re not, because the government has lists, long lists of criminals who shouldn’t own guns of any kind, but who do. And the government fails to prosecute them. The government prosecutes less than 1% of the criminals who own guns who should not own guns. And so I have great sympathy for, for example, parents in Chicago, one of the toughest gun control cities in the nation, where gun violence is out of control. And it’s because criminals are roaming the streets with guns, and they shouldn’t have them. And we’re not prosecuting them. So what we need to do is start by enforcing the laws we have, and we are not. But let me just say, Hugh, it is delusional and dangerous for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to immediately begin talking about gun control and climate change following San Bernardino and Paris. It is delusional, and it is dangerous.
HH: Would it have been an unfair question for me to raise it the way that I had proposed raising it?
CF: I don’t know how you had proposed raising it, but…
HH: By coupling it with the fact…
CF: As Winston Churchill used to say, there is no such thing as the indiscreet question, only an indiscreet answer.
HH: (laughing) Okay, let me go to a place where maybe I can get an indiscreet answer out of you. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are like the old Looney Tunes cartoon with the Tasmanian Devil rolled through and took everything with him into that giant cloud of chaos. I don’t know who’s winning or losing. What do you make of that discussion? And what do they, what is the difference between them?
CF: Well, they are two first-term Senators who are arguing over their votes. A tough vote isn’t a tough call. They haven’t made executive decisions. And I don’t think the Oval Office is a place for on the job training on how to make a tough call that you’re going to be held accountable for. I very much hope that your listeners, and we were talking about solutions last section. I’ve laid out a set of solutions. It’s called my blueprint to take our country back. It’s six things that we must do that we can do, that are all doable, six things that have to be done early on in a first term. I want the American people to help me get them done, but I want the American people to hold me accountable for getting them done. They’re not the only things we have to do, but they’re the things we have to start with to take our country back, because where we are now as a nation is unacceptable. And we have settled for it for way too long. We are crushing possibilities for too many Americans, our government is completely out of control and unresponsive, and the political class is as well. And we are not leading in the world, so the world is a very dangerous and tragic place. And unfortunately, that danger is coming home.
HH: All right, now I saw the race, and I still see the race as four kind of categories. There’s the planet Trump, which exists in its own orbit, there’s the Cruz-Rubio knockdown, there’s the governors’ lane with Christie, Jeb and Kasich, and then there’s the starship Carly. How does this shake out in February? What’s your path?
CF: Well Hugh, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. And I’m out here campaigning day after day after day. And I’ll tell you the truth. Voters never ask me about Trump or Cruz or Rubio. They don’t ask me what’s my path. They ask me what I’m going to do. They ask me about the things that matter to them. They’re concerned. They are frustrated. They’re fearful in many cases. And so they ask me how we’re going to create more jobs, and I tell them the way we’re going to create more jobs is to remember who the job creators are. And the job creators are the small, the family-owned, the community-based businesses, the new businesses, which is why we finally have to get that 73,000 page tax code, something we’ve been talking about for 30 years, down to size, about three pages. And everyone in politics tells me it can’t be done. Actually, there’s been a plan for a three page tax code lying around for 20 years. Just like we have to change how the government spends our money, and have the government actually have to justify every dollar. And if every dollar can’t be justified, it gets cut, or it gets moved so that we can both spend less overall, and spend on what needs to be spent on. All of these problems can be solved, but not unless we have a leader in the Oval Office who has the courage to challenge the status quo, and the experience to put forward things that will actually work. So I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and nobody expected I’d be here at this point, either.
HH: Carly, the, and I say Carly shorthand. I’m not being disrespectful.
CF: I know you’re not.
HH: The status quo is also never to name a cabinet beforehand, and it drives me crazy, because our bench is so much deeper. We have so much more talent. They’re down to Ben Rhodes, and it scares the hell out of me that Ben Rhodes has anything to do with national security policy. The Homeland Security Department, the Ted Koppel book reveals, it is run by clueless people who do not deserve to be running our nation’s security. Will you name a cabinet? I mean, it’s not a long ball if you just walk out and say, yeah, I mean, HP wasn’t run by yourself. Nothing is run by one person. Can we count on you to break that mold and say here are people I will ask to join me in my government?
CF: Well, here’s the kind of people I’m going to ask. And the short answer to your question is not necessarily, Hugh, because I like to watch people over time and under pressure, because people are revealed over time and under pressure. What I have said many times already now is I will bring back the warrior class. I will bring back our seasoned warriors, the greatest warriors of our generation, to help us fight and win. And I have also said the kinds of people I will surround myself with are leaders. That means they are unafraid to challenge the status quo. They are people who will tell me what I need to know, not tell me what I want to hear. And finally, there are people who will bring different skills and experiences and talents to the table than I do, because the best teams are teams that challenge each other, not teams that just settle in and get along and all agree with each other in the first three minutes. That’s the kind of team President Obama surrounds himself with. It’s the kind of team an insecure narcissistic person surrounds themselves with.
HH: Carly Fiorina, can I keep you for three more minutes? I have one more question I want to ask you.
CF: Yes, sir.
HH: Thank you very much. I will be right back.
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HH: Carly, during the break, Chad Andrews tweeted out Hugh Hewitt, officially, I am supporting Rubio, but it’s soft support. The more I hear Carly Fiorina, the more I could change my support. And I replied I see that a lot. I saw it in Iowa two years ago when I did an event with you. I saw it at the Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Christian University. Is that what keeps you going?
CF: Yes, because look, people don’t, people are getting to know me. You know, people have known some of these other folks who are running for a long time. And for many people, they’ve just started to get to know me over the last six months. But the more people know me, and the more people hear me, the more support I build. And so I hope very much that I can earn that gentleman’s support. I feel very good about where we are in the campaign. I am troubled, deeply troubled by where we are as a nation. And that is why I offer my leadership humbly, because I think it is time, it is truly time that we take our country back. I know what that takes. I know that we can solve our problems and heal our wounds. We can keep this nation safe. We can take our country back. But we have to begin by beating Hillary Clinton, and then we must have a president, a commander-in-chief in the Oval Office, who has the leadership and the experience to do what must be done.
HH: Now Carly Fiorina, the last question, the one I wanted to ask you, a very serious, I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and I’ve done more than 20,000 interviews with individuals, not callers. And perhaps the most impressive person who’s ever been in my studio, and a lot of impressive people have been here, from the Vice President to the Justice Breyer to a whole bunch of people, is General Stanley McChrystal. Would you consider General McChrystal on your ticket?
CF: Well, look, I have already said about Stanley McChrystal that I will bring him back. It was, President Obama should not have accepted his resignation. He is a great warrior. He is a great leader. And I will want him by my side perhaps in a different role. I certainly wouldn’t rule out what you’re suggesting, but he is a warrior. And we need our great warriors – McChrystal, Petraeus, Keane, Mattis, Flynn, we need these great warriors to come back and help us fight this fight and win it.
HH: On that note, Carly Fiorina, thank you for spending a lot of time with me. Merry Christmas to you and Frank. They’re showing the Frank special again as we speak on CNN with Dana. I think Frank’s a new superstar, so hat’s off to him as well. Merry Christmas to your family.
CF: Merry Christmas to you and yours, Hugh, and I love my husband dearly. He is the greatest blessing in my life.
HH: And so all we should be able to say. Certainly the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt is of mine. Thank you, Carly Fiorina.
End of interview.