Former HP CEO and California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina joined me in studio today to discuss the attacks in Paris, the decision by Barbara Boxer –Fiorina’s opponent in 2010– not to seek re-election in ’16, and her plans to seek the GOP presidential nomination.
HH: I am joined by Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, former candidate for Senate in California, and possibly a 2016 presidential candidate, www.carlyfiorina.com. Welcome back, Carly, it’s good to talk to you again.
CF: Well, it’s great to be with you, Hugh, although what a terrible rundown of the news you just gave everyone. But it’s wonderful to be with you today.
HH: In fact, I’ll lead with that. On a day like today, does it make you rethink even thinking about running for president, given the complexity, the burden, the sorrow that goes with that office?
CF: No, in fact, just the opposite, because I think we have to have leaders with the moral clarity and courage to call evil by its name. And I do not think we have enough of that leadership. We certainly don’t have it in the White House today, and we don’t have it with our former secretary of State. And the longer we resist calling evil by its name, and doing what is necessary to combat it, the worse this will get.
HH: Now what is your timetable, by the way, Carly Fiorina, for deciding whether or not to formally join the race for president?
CF: Well, probably I will make a final decision in the March-April timeframe. I mean, something could change, but that’s currently what I’m thinking about.
HH: And you’re staffing up and all that. What about your Senate campaign debt from 2010?
CF: Well, that campaign debt has been paid off. So…
CF: That, yeah, it’s all been paid off, and you know, campaign debt is nothing particularly new. Hillary Clinton had $25 million dollars’ worth of it when she finished her last presidential run, and I don’t know, took four years or something to pay it off. But we have no debt.
HH: All right, now given that you had that debt and you paid it off, and you accumulated it running a great campaign against Barbara Boxer, who just yesterday, it got lost in the terrible news out of Paris, announced she wasn’t seeking reelection. Did the thought cross your mind that well, I’m not going to run for president, I’ll come back to California and run against whoever the Democrats put up, whether it’s their crazy attorney general, or their crazy lieutenant governor, or their crazy this or that?
CF: No, it really didn’t, because my husband and I moved back home to Virginia. I mean, I love California. I lived there for a decade. But you may remember, Hugh, that we lost our younger daughter at around the time of the Senate campaign, and our surviving daughter and our two granddaughters are in Virginia where my husband and I met and married. And it’s important to us to be close to them.
HH: All right, now I last saw you in Louisville when you were campaigning with Bobby Jindal on behalf of Mitch McConnell, and he won that race going away, and we talked before that event about the fact that it was becoming a security election. Ebola was scaring people, the ISIL had broken out, and ISIS had beheaded people. And I think that’s happening again, Carly Fiorina. Do you agree with that?
CF: Well, certainly. I mean, it’s hard to escape the headlines. The headlines are horrific. The situation is getting worse, not better. Terrorism is not in retreat as our President keeps trying to tell us. Actually, it is on the rise. And it’s on the rise because the world lacks American leadership, because the world lacks American clarity, moral clarity and courage. And so I think unfortunately, what we’re seeing now is predictable, but we must combat it.
HH: When this debate opens up, if you actually enter the fray, what’s the centerpiece of the Fiorina campaign? Is it going to be foreign affairs? Is it going to be economic growth? What is it?
CF: The centerpiece of my campaign, if I do this, will be leadership – leadership for our nation, which means having a robust enough economy where every American regardless of their circumstances has the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning, American leadership in the world, because without our leadership in the world, this is a more dangerous and a more tragic world, as we are seeing every day, and finally, personal leadership. You know, leadership is about unlocking potential in others. I bring a different experience set to the table, a different perspective to the table, a different voice to the table. And you know, Hugh, as you and I talked about in my Senate campaign, I really do believe ours was intended to be a citizen government. I think we need more citizens willing to run for public office. And while certainly relevant and requisite experience is required to consider running for the presidency of the United States, there’s nothing that says only politicians can do that.
HH: I’m talking with Carly Fiorina. Her website is www.carlyfiorina.com. And you can follow her on Twitter, @CarlyFiorina. Now Carly, Scott Walker, Governor Walker was my guest on Monday, and I asked him the question that people always want to ask but they’re embarrassed to ask him about not having a college degree, and he knocked it out of the park. So I always ask the toughest question. To you, it’s going to be look, you haven’t won an election. You lost the Senate race. How can you run for president when you haven’t won an election before?
CF: Well, a lot of people win after they’ve lost. But secondly, remember how large a state California is. The truth is although I lost that election, there is no question I also won many more votes than a lot of Republicans who won that cycle. In fact, I won more votes in the state of California than many Senators who ran and won in other states. So interestingly, the only Republican in that entire cycle who got more votes than I did was our former candidate for attorney general in L.A., Steve Cooley. So votes are about support, and I gained a great deal of support from many, many millions of voters in California. I gained a great deal of support from the generosity of donors all across the nation. And I gained support from independents and some Democrats as well.
HH: Now it was reported by the Wall Street Journal this afternoon that at a meeting in mid-town, or Lower Manhattan earlier today, Mitt Romney told old donors that he was thinking about running again. Will that, if he does run again, will that impact? You were his finance chairman. I mean, you were big in the Romney campaign. If former Governor Romney returns to the lists, will you exit from the field?
CF: No, I will not, because again, this isn’t about tearing down other candidates. I won’t do that. This is about me bringing a different perspective, a different voice, a different set of experiences to the table. So I’ll run my own race, and others will choose to do what they want to do.
HH: Former Governor Bush has said he’s going to raise $100 million. That’s the target that his team is putting out there. Do you have to come close to that, Carly Fiorina? You raised a lot of money, and now you’ve retired your debt, so you obviously have capacity. But do you have to match Jeb in getting $100 million bucks in the bank?
CF: No, I don’t think so. Look, I think Jeb Bush, who was a very fine governor, and is a very fine man, and I’m sure he will be a very fine candidate, but I think one of his great assets, of course, is his donor network. And he wants to show that asset off. Eventually, lots of people are going to have to raise lots of money to make it to the end. But I certainly don’t feel the need to raise anywhere near that kind of money to make it to the debates. And I think that the debates are an opportunity for voters in this country, and particularly Republican primary voters, to get a look at what appears to be at this juncture, a pretty big field.
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HH: Carly Fiorina, there’ll be three issues, I think, that will matter most in the Republican primaries. Number one, can the candidate beat Hillary? Number two, what about Common Core? And number three, what about the war on terror? So let’s talk about that. Can you beat Hillary Clinton?
CF: Yes, I can. I think Hillary Clinton’s a formidable candidate. I think she’s a flawed candidate. I think honestly speaking, one of the ways to beat Hillary is to ask her what she’s actually accomplished. You know, if she talks, when she talks about her record as secretary of State, she starts by saying she’s flown a million miles. That’s not an accomplishment. It’s an activity. And I think as well that look, let’s just say Hillary might have a bit of a hitch in her swing if she had to face a woman.
HH: Second question, I’ve never seen an issue explode more rapidly than opposition to Common Core at the grassroots. We talked about this with Governor Jindal and Senator McConnell in Kentucky. What’s your position on the Common Core controversy?
CF: Well, I don’t support Common Core. And I don’t support Common Core, because there’s absolutely no evidence that anything that a big, centralized bureaucracy in Washington does, makes things better. In fact, there’s loads of evidence to the contrary. The Department of Education has been growing in size and in budget for 40 years, and the quality of our education continues to deteriorate. It’s also true that the most important thing in a child’s education is a good teacher. And that’s why we need to focus on choice and accountability, and the ability of parents and children to have real options. Finally, the justification for Common Core frequently is that well, we have to compete against the Chinese. Look, I’ve done business in China for over 20 years. I know the Chinese. Yes, they can take a math test. But one of the reasons they continue to steal our intellectual property is because they cannot innovate. And the reason they cannot innovate is not because they’re not smart. It’s because their culture and their education system does not teach innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, risk-taking. These are the things that we need to continue to teach in our schools, just as we need to continue to build the skills of our children, as well as our workers. And you don’t do that with big bureaucracies. You do that by having great teachers, have the ability and the flexibility to teach the things that our kids need, which include risk-taking, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation.
HH: The last one is the threat from abroad. Earlier this week, Lindsey Graham appeared on this program, Senator from South Carolina, and said this.
LG: I think the president of the United States is undercutting the president of Egypt. We’re in a religious war.
HH: And then, we’re in a religious war, and then today, the president of France to a grieving French nation said this.
FH: Not to be divided means that we must not make any confusion, and to make it easy to remove any out-trumping concerning these terrorists, these fanatics who have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.
HH: So Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham says we are in a religious war, but the president of France said the fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion. Who’s right?
CH: Well you know, it’s interesting, the president of Egypt, al-Sisi, gave a very interesting and courageous speech today in which he spoke with scholars of his religion, and said that we need a reformation. I believe that terrorists who kill in the name of Islam are subverting that religion. I also believe that we have to have the courage to say that the Islam religion is being used as an excuse by a set of terrorists to slaughter innocents in the most horrific way possible.
HH: And a last question before we run out of time, the immigration debate has opened the year with the president doing an executive order. What’s Carly Fiorina’s position going to be about immigration going forward? We’ve got about a minute.
CF: one, we must secure the border. And until we can demonstrate that we can secure the border, the American people won’t trust that government means what it says, and will do what is says. Secondly, we have to fix the legal immigration system. And finally, while I would support at some point, after we’ve done those things, the ability of people who are here illegally to gain legal status and work, I do not support their path to citizenship. There has to be consequences for those who follow the law, and there have to be consequences for those who do not.
HH: Carly Fiorina, I hope we talk early and often throughout 2015, especially when you formally declare, if that is forthcoming in March. You can follow Carly on Twitter, @CarlyFiorina. Her website, her own name, www.carlyfiorina.com.
End of interview.