Likely presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joined me in my California studio today:
HH: We begin today’s program with Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, possible presdiential candidate. You can follow her on Twitter, @CarlyFiorina. You know, Rand Paul announced for president. You didn’t do anything I missed, did you, Carly?
CF: (laughing) No, I’m just right here with you, Hugh.
HH: Oh, it’s great to have you in studio. You’re in Southern California obviously making a pre-campaign declaration swing. But are you surprised at how much momentum you’ve gathered so quickly?
CF: Well, I don’t know. Are you? I’m very encouraged. Let’s say it that way. I’m very encouraged by the momentum we have.
HH: All right, let’s get right to the key thing of the day. President Obama took on Scott Walker today, who you’ll probably be debating on stage in which I get to ask questions. I want to play Scott Walker on this show last week said he would repudiate the Iran deal on day one. The President gets asked by Steve Inskeep of NPR about Governor Walker’s comment to me, and here’s what the President said.
BO: Keep in mind, Steve, that there is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty ratified by Congress, and by the Senate. In fact, the majority of agreements that we enter into around the world are of that nature, including those in which we make sure that our men and women in uniform when they’re overseas aren’t subject to the criminal jurisdiction of those countries. And I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling to question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries. If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends, and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.
HH: Carly Fiorina, what do you make of that dismissiveness of Governor Walker’s critique of the Iran deal?
CF: Well, you see, this is what President Obama always does. If you disagree with him, you must be either stupid or venal or you have bad motivation, because clearly if you were an intelligent person who is motivated by good character and care for the nation, you would agree with President Obama. He does this all the time. Scott Walker just happened to be in his crosshairs this time. But he dismisses anyone who disagrees with him. That is his tactic.
HH: It is also the tactic of this former Secretary of State, as I’m sure you’re aware. Is Secretary of State Clinton obliged to take a position on this Iran deal if she’s going to be taken seriously?
CF: Well, I would think so. Now you know, the media will probably give her a big pass. Democrats will give her a big pass, because I think in many ways, Democrats are quite uncomfortable with this. And you know, I think there is a real chance that there could be building a bipartisan veto-proof majority in the Senate that says we’re going to have a look at this thing, and we’re going to get engaged in sanctions, and whether or not they should be relieved. And that indicates to me that there are many Democrats who are uncomfortable. She will try, I think, not to take a clear position. But of course it’s a legitimate question to say you’re running for president, what would you have done, especially since she laid the groundwork for these negotiations when she was secretary of State.
HH: You know, I want to come back to the specifics of the Iran deal in a second. But I have behind me, for the benefit of the radio audience who can’t see it, a poster of Hillary, Ready For Hillary. It’s the famous poster. I do it to motivate myself every day, what I’m doing here as I come in and I realize we have to face four more years of Democratic mismanagement if she wins. My question to you is does it advance the cause of women equality, about which the Secretary, former Secretary of State has been so adamant, when the American Manhattan-Beltway media elite treat her like a china doll?
CF: Well, I would say it is true that they are holding her to a similar standard that they have held President Obama to. So in that sense, I think they’ve treated her the same way regardless of her gender as they’ve treated this president, unfortunately.
HH: Which is kid gloves?
CF: Well, which is kid gloves, let’s not ask too tough a set of questions, let’s not probe beyond maybe the second question. I think that’s pretty typical.
HH: Let me give you an example of that. Here’s the President today, again to NPR, talking about details of the Iran deal that haven’t been ironed out, yet, which have to do with the U.N. Charter and Russia. It’s an astonishing statement, actually. It spears to go over the NPR reporter’s head. Cut number two, please.
SI: The nuclear experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency would make this judgment. It would not be the U.N. Security Council have to vote with Russia have a veto?
BO: Well, the, right, we’re not going to make this subject to the typical Security Council where one country can hold out and you can’t get this done. Bu these are details that still have to be worked out, Steve. So I don’t want to give the false impression that we have all this resolved.
HH: He has been giving the false impression they have this all resolved. But Carly Fiorina, whatever he is proposing there, and I don’t want to use a straw man, it sounds like he’s saying that Russia has agreed to forgo their Security Council veto. President Putin has not exactly been following President Obama’s lead in the last three years. Do you put any stock whatsoever in the reliability of this assurance that we’ll work this out?
CF: No, absolutely not. But I also think that President Obama’s perhaps gravest mistake is when he took a victory lap in the Rose Garden around this framework of a deal, because what he has signaled to the Iranians is he must have this deal at all costs. He not only was unwilling to ever walk away from the table, rule number one, if you want a good deal, walk away from the table at least once. Rule number two, never commit yourself publicly until you actually have the deal you want. And President Obama is now committed publicly. So my prediction is that unless Congress intervenes, which I desperately hope they will, what Iran is going to spend the next two months doing is making this deal, which is already very good for them, even better for them, because they now know that President Obama has committed the entire prestige of his office to getting this deal done.
HH: That’s interesting. You’ve done a few negotiations in your day.
CF: I have done a few negotiations, yes.
HH: And, but the President said to Scott Walker, I’m sure he’d say to Carly Fiorina, you need to bone up on foreign affairs. Are you saying to the President he needs to bone up on negotiations?
CF: This president is hopeless on negotiations from what I’ve observed over the past six years, and I think he really honestly believes that it is the eloquence of his presentation alone that will change minds and move hearts. And of course, he’s up against people who are prepared to take advantage of that sadly, you said it earlier, it’s an egocentric view of the world, and it’s not a realistic view of the world.
HH: Carly Fiorina, in the interview he did with Thomas Friedman on Sunday, the President had this astonishing statement to make, cut number three:
BO: Well, I think that it’s important to recognize that Iran’s a complicated country, just like we’re a complicated country.
HH: So moral equivalence, there you have it. We’re complicated, they’re complicated, we’re all complicated, Carly Fiorina.
CF: Exactly, and this is the, he is always engaging in moral equivalence. He has compared what Hamas does to what the Israeli state is doing to protect its citizens. He engages in this all the time. You and I have had this conversation. On top of everything else, he lacks moral clarity. And for him to equate Iran and the United States in the way that he does in that statement says all we need to know about where his head is in terms of this negotiation.
HH: Now critics of the critics have said, I was reading one by Eric Black today, a fine reporter in Minneapolis, saying what’s the alternative? The alternative is war. I need to follow up with Scott Walker, I need to follow up, I assume, with you. I hate this deal, because it can’t be verified, it cannot, it doesn’t lead to disarmament. It’s a, for all the reasons you hate this deal, there are lots of alternatives, Carly Fiorina, but what do you think they are?
CF: Well, of course there are alternatives, and this is the false choice that President Obama always presents to us. There’s nothing we can do in the Middle East unless we go to war. There’s nothing we can do to push back against Russia unless we go to war. And of course, the one thing we could and should be doing in all of those circumstances is supporting our allies as they have asked us to. So we would support Israel by stopping talking to Iran now. You know, it’s amazing to me, President Obama laid out a very clear set of goals for this deal when this process first started. Not a single one of those goals has been achieved. So not one of their nuclear facilities is being taken apart, including the one buried in the mountain, not one of their 19,000 centrifuges is being dismantled. Yes, supposedly, they’re reducing some of their nuclear material, but now, they’ve decided no, we’re not willing to ship it out to Russia. That was an agreement made years ago they would ship it out to Russia. No, now they’re reneging on this. The truth is this is a terrible deal, and we should immediately impose sanctions, frankly, with or without the international community. You know, it’s interesting, President Obama’s administration announced just in the last, I think, 24, 36 hours that they were going to unilaterally cut off access to the financial system against those nations or individuals that engaged in cyberterrorism or cyberwarfare. There’s a good idea. Why don’t we cut off Iran’s access to the financial system? We have huge influence over the financial system. There are many things that we alone could be doing to signal to Iran we are not going to sign a bad deal. We will only sign a good deal. So we are going to walk away from the table for a while, while you think about it, and let your economy devolve into tatters once again, which is what brought you to the table in the first place.
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HH: No one comes for years, and then all of a sudden, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, they’re all showing up. What a surprise, people start running for president, they want to be on the radio, and I’m so glad you did. Carly, I want to go back to the Iran deal, because this is the number one deal. Would you repudiate it as far as we, it’s not really a deal. It’s a hologram. But if it’s, as far as you understand it, would you repudiate it on day one?
CF: Absolutely, because literally, Iran got everything they wanted, and we got nothing that we wanted, as established by our president when he first set out the goals. So as I just mentioned, none of their nuclear facilities are being dismantled, none of their centrifuges are being taken apart. Oh, they’re promising to reduce some of their nuclear fuel, but of course, they’ve never really agreed to inspections, and suddenly we think they’re going to agree to inspections? This is a regime that has a strategy over many decades to disrupt the entire region, and to gain nuclear weapons. And that’s the strategy they’re on.
HH: The President on Sunday said he was personally troubled by criticisms of him being anti-Israel, and of not caring about the Jewish people. Again, it was a tremendously egocentric comment, not a mature comment, I think, not a comment that presidents make, that you don’t take this stuff personally if you’re president. But what do you think he thinks of Israel, because he’s clearly the least supportive president of Israel that we’ve ever had, and some people objectively believe, not what he says, but what he does to be anti-Israel.
CF: Well, I think there’s no question that the very difficult state that our relationship is in with Israel is in no small measure due to President Obama. It’s a series of things. It’s a series of criticisms of Israel in the middle of negotiations. It’s threatening to go to the U.N. and side with the Palestinians in their quest at the U.N. it’s a refusal to meet with Bibi Netanyahu when he comes to this country. I remember sitting in Bibi Netanyahu’s office five years ago, a private meeting, just myself and my husband, Frank. No press, no elections, and Bibi was talking then about the grave danger that Iran represents. He came here not to poke a stuck in Obama’s eye. He came here because he needed us to hear. And when a president in a fit of pique refuses to meet with a prime minister at a critical moment in both of our nations’ history while this deal making is going on in Geneva, of course, people in Israel take that personally. I would, too.
HH: Now I want to turn to Secretary of State Clinton. You are a technology executive, first woman ever to be a Fortune 20 CEO, and it was at Hewlett-Packard, a technology company. The former Secretary of State installed a home brew server. What was your reaction upon learning of that as a technology executive aware of the security challenges of maintaining privacy and security?
CF: Well, I had two reactions. One was that clearly, she had a plan to shield her communications from prying eyes. There’s no other reason that you would put a server in your basement for the kind of classified, sensitive information that she would be sharing and transmitting as secretary of State. My second reaction was that she clearly doesn’t understand technology very well, because when she starts talking about it’s safe, it’s safe, we have two Secret Service agents guarding it, you know, as I think I’ve said to you before, no one’s worried about it getting stolen. They’re worried about it getting hacked. And when we have Sony, J.P. Morgan/Chase, Home Depot, Target, all of these companies being systemically hacked, they certainly can get into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.
HH: You know, Carly Fiorina, I don’t know that you’ve seen the headline, because it happened today. There is a report that the White House was hacked by Russia. If the White House is, if that’s even possible, then we know, because Sidney Blumenthal, who was writing to the former Secretary of State’s emails ended up with Guccifer putting them out, that her emails were compromised. We know, don’t you assume that?
CF: Yes. Yes, and by the way, I chaired the advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency for several years. There is no doubt, there is no doubt that nations like Russia, China, North Korea, have been engaged in a long-standing plan to attack various systems and databases in this country, beginning with, but not ending with, the federal government. There’s no doubt it’s been going on, which is why you see even in this White House, alarm now about cyberwarfare. So of course, her emails were compromised.
HH: And given all that, is it possible in your mind that she not run? I mean, it looks like she’s leased a Brooklyn headquarters. She hasn’t announced, yet, though. At some point, can you just see her saying I’m out of this because of what is, we don’t know?
HH: No? She’s going?
CF: No, she is going to run, because here’s what I believe she thinks, and I think she projected this in her press conference. I think at her core, she does not believe this is a legitimate inquiry. She is troubled that people wouldn’t just trust her, although there’s no reason to trust her, particularly given how she handled Benghazi to the nation. And honestly, I will say unless we have a nominee who is willing to bring this up in a general election over and over and over, the public will forget it, just like we all thought Benghazi was going to be a huge scandal in 2012. It wasn’t, and it wasn’t because we didn’t fight on that ground. We have to fight on this ground, because this, like Benghazi, goes to the very heart of her candor, which is about her trustworthiness, her character, and her capability. And those three things are core to leadership.
HH: Now when you say bring it up again and again and again, how does that play out on a campaign trail, Carly Fiorina?
CF: Well, I think it most especially would play out in a general election. We remember the famous debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama where Benghazi came up, and it wasn’t pursued, and it should have been. So there are many opportunities to take on Hillary Clinton, her accomplishments or lack thereof, her track record or lack thereof, her candor or lack thereof, on the campaign trail, and I intend to do that, because she is the real target here.
HH: I’m trying to be consistent across all the candidates, and I’ve been asking them all about our NATO allies, especially in the Baltics and whether or not we ought to invoke Article 5. What do you think about that?
CF: Well, I think before we, the short answer is yes, but once again, there are things we could do before that. So we ought to be rebuilding the 6th Fleet right now. That would send a message. We ought to be rebuilding our Eastern European defenses, which Obama inexplicably, unilaterally pulled out of Poland. We ought to be conducting pretty aggressive exercises in the Baltic States. All of that would send a very clear message. They are members of NATO, and we will do what is necessary to defend and protect them.
HH: And are you comfortable, Carly Fiorina, that you’ve boned up on foreign policy, because the President is obviously, I find it astonishing given the mess the world is in, given the genocide underway in Syria, given Yemen’s collapse, given everything, the Shiia massacres in Tikrit, that he would say bone up on foreign policy but are you ready for that?
CF: You know, I have been in the world doing business in the world, meeting with world leaders, for 25 years. So there is always more to learn. And I look forward to learning more. On the other hand, what’s going on in the world and the people in the world are not abstractions to me. They’re not people I’ve just read about. In many cases, they’re people I’ve met and sat across the table from, for example, Vladimir Putin, for example, Bibi Netanyahu, for example, the Chinese leadership. And so I do think I being not just academic understanding of it, but experienced understanding of it.
HH: Carly Fiorina, stop by anytime you’re in California. It’s great to see you. Ten seconds, do we have an announcement day, yet?
CF: You’ll be the first to know, Hugh.
HH: I’m sure that’s not true, but good to have you here.
End of interview.