HH: One name on many people’s lips is that of Carly Fiorina, clearly the most surprising story of 2016, skyrocketing into if not frontrunner, then near-frontrunner status, and making me look bad every single day that she does because of the book that I wrote, The Queen, in which I said that really can’t be done. Carly Fiorina, welcome back, I always appreciate that you’ve forgiven me my many sins.
CF: (laughing) Hello, Hugh, how are you doing?
HH: I’m great.
CF: You don’t need any forgiveness. We all make mistakes.
HH: We all make mistakes. It’s sort of like someone writing off Thatcher in 1974. Oh, she’ll never get out of that job. I feel like, really, by the way, are you a student of Thatcher?
CF: Am I a what?
HH: A student of Margaret Thatcher?
CF: Well, she certainly is someone that I have admired greatly. I have read her autobiography, and if I had time, I would read the latest book on her. But certainly, she’s someone I admire greatly, and always have.
HH: So when I go on cable and I say Carly Fiorina is going full Thatcher, you don’t mind that?
CF: No, I don’t mind that, although, you know, I’m also not Margaret Thatcher. I’m Carly Fiorina, so I’m flattered by the comparison, but I’m also not trying to be someone else. I’m trying to be myself.
HH: I’m just talking about the unwillingness to compromise to get people’s favorable opinions. She was not for turning, and I sense that in you. Let me ask you about the headline of the day. Do you think Paul Ryan should agree to be the Speaker of the House?
CF: Oh, I don’t know. That’s up to Paul Ryan. You know, look, he obviously is someone that would unify the party at a very difficult time. He obviously has the respect of everyone in that caucus. He has been described as a transformational leader. I think that would be true. On the other hand, you know, Paul Ryan has been pretty clear that he has family considerations, that he feels his best value is in the job that he’s in. So I’ll leave that up to Paul Ryan.
HH: Now I asked both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz yesterday what is their advice to the House caucus, whether specifically as to individuals who could lead it, or generally as to what they ought to be doing. What’s your advice, Carly Fiorina?
CF: Well, I find it a little bit curious that people are so upset by what’s happened. I actually think it’s kind of healthy what’s happened. You know, the House of Representatives is the people’s house. It is the house closest to the grassroots and the activists. And so it should be responsive to the activists out in the field. And so I don’t find it disturbing that the next guy in line didn’t have the lock on the job. I don’t find it disturbing that the caucus is trying to figure out how do we make real progress against a president who is increasingly willing to just ignore Congress. I don’t find it disturbing that this caucus is having to figure out how do we produce results for the American people who put us here in the face of a president who really doesn’t care who we are or what our accountabilities are. So I actually think this is healthy.
HH: It is if it comes to a successful conclusion. It will be disastrous if, I think, in my opinion, Speaker Boehner limps along for months as a lame duck Speaker because no one else wants the job. That would not be a good situation, would it?
CF: No, it wouldn’t. But I think it’s too soon to conclude that that’s what’s going to happen. I really do. I mean, we have one day since we’ve learned this surprising news. And let’s see whether people can rally and come to the right conclusion here.
HH: Now let me also ask you about what I wrote about for CNN Opinion in mid-week, and have talked to, again, a number of candidates – Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, that if the President were to accept some kind of deal where Defense spending got a big plus up, and a little bit of domestic sugar cookie was given to him for his favorite pet projects, I would urge the Republicans to do that, because the military is in such a bad way. What do you think about the sugar donut for the President, and serious blow up the sequestration for the Pentagon, Carly Fiorina.
CF: Well, I think if that’s the best we can do, I think that is what we have to do, unfortunately. And I say that with great disappointment, because obviously, the world is in a very dangerous state right now. And our military needs investments. I think it’s very disappointing, obviously, that Republicans haven’t managed to pass a budget. I think it would take pressure off the situation. This continuing ruling by continuing resolution, I think, is an example of how broken the system is. And I think it exacerbates the problem and frankly gives the President more leverage than he deserves. I think it would very much depend on what the sugar cookie is. But I think given what we’re seeing play out in the Middle East, given the aggression by Russia, given the decision by Ash Carter, which I applaud, by the way, that the Navy is going to start patrolling in those disputed waters so that China gets the message that they can’t control that trade route, I think we have to invest in the military. It is worth remembering that the sequester is kind of a deal that everybody agreed to, because everybody thought it was going to allow them to kick the problem down the road. And of course, problems always come back.
HH: Carly Fiorina, some people are surprised by your facility with foreign affairs and national security issues. They don’t know of your CIA experience. Would you explain to people what role you had for them?
CF: Well, I chaired the Advisory Board for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years. I had held, for a variety of years, over a variety of positions in business, the highest clearances available to a civilian. I’ve advised the NSA. I’ve advised two secretaries of Defense, the secretary of Homeland Security, and a Secretary of State. In addition, of course, I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world and met leaders on the world stage in a variety of positions, whether they were business positions or policy positions or charitable positions, frankly. So it is a long and somewhat extensive experience, more extensive, actually, than many people running.
HH: Now Carly Fiorina, today news came that a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard general, the man who helped put down the Green Revolution in 2009, so no tears being shed here, but he was killed in Syria, meaning that the IRG is at work in Syria. Do you think Americans quite understand the significance of the amount of deployment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in that country and elsewhere?
CF: Oh, I’m sure some of our military most definitely do. I’m also quite sure that President Obama and his closest staff either don’t understand it or don’t care. I mean, we obviously have a full-court press by the Iranians, the IRG, as you mentioned, not only to be active in Syria, but also to bring Russia into Syria. We now know, it has been widely reported, I mean, you and I have talked about the trip that General Soleimani took to Moscow to talk with Vladimir Putin and his generals many months ago, but we now know that that trip, among others, involved detailed discussions of the role the Russians would play with the Iranians in Syria. So this is obviously a very serious effort on the part of both the Iranians and the Russians to work together to achieve military objectives in Syria. And it is a highly, highly dangerous situation now.
HH: The general’s name is Hussein Hamadani, and it underscores, it’s not quite having fighting Joe Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs, be killed in Aleppo where Hamadani went down, but it would be like having the chief of staff of the Army go down. And so it’s hugely signifying of their commitment to controlling that region.
CF: Well, that’s right. And so now you have ISIS, which I think from all the reports I’ve seen, ISIS is responsible for this attack, this killing, this assassination, whatever it was. I don’t think we know the details. But what that suggests is that this is now all-out war between ISIS and the Iranian Guard, the Russians, etc. That is a highly dangerous situation.
HH: Let me ask you about some political questions now. You are being attacked by some old corporate enemies. I’m sure you’re not surprised by this, but how are you going to respond, because you’ve answered all this again and again and again. But if they keep coming back to grind their axes, what are you going to do?
CF: Well, it’s not so much corporate enemies. It’s political operatives. I mean, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a political operative, you know, masquerading as a professor at Yale. Steve Rattner is a political operative. Barbara Boxer certainly is a political operative, and she apparently has stood up and said, oh, you know, I’m going to devote the final days in the Senate to try and defeat Carly Fiorina. Look, here’s what I know. The facts of my record are clear. The facts of my record speak for themselves. I’m perfectly prepared to be held accountable for my record. And all of these people who are attacking my record, number one, have never been held to account for any of their words. They haven’t ever saved a job or created a job. Their policies destroy jobs. So I think the American people are smart enough to figure this out. I’ll of course defend my record when it’s necessary to do so. But I think the American people, especially those who are paying attention right now, have decided you know what, this is a person who’s prepared to make a tough call in a tough time. She’s prepared to be held accountable for it. Guess what? We need somebody who understands how jobs are created and saved, what destroys them, and we also need someone who’s prepared to make some tough calls and be held to account in Washington, D.C.
HH: And now, Carly Fiorina, I want to switch to a couple of pop culture things. You have made reference on a couple of times that when you were fired by Hewlett-Packard, Steve Jobs called you. There’s a new Steve Jobs movie coming out. I haven’t asked you this in all the times I have interviewed you here. I think it’s like 40. How well did you know Steve Jobs, and what was he like as a colleague and a friend?
CF: Well, I actually knew him quite well. We came to be friends when I went to Hewlett-Packard. He was a, you know, when I say friends, his version of a business meeting was we would go walking in the foothills behind Stanford University. And we would talk about all kinds of things. I mean, I can remember sitting on a log, and he shared with me that he wanted to open retail stores. This was before the Apple stores had been open. And he went through his whole vision of what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. And I had been around retail a long time. I was the president of AT&T’s consumer products business. HP, of course, had a very huge consumer products business. And so there I was telling Steve Jobs, you know, Steve, it’s a really tough business. You have to control every aspect of that business in order to be in control of that business. You have to control distribution. You have to control display. You have to control everything in order to make that business work. I don’t know whether I had any influence on him, of course, but he said well, okay, I’m going to control it. And of course, he did control it, and went on to build an incredible retail presence that everyone thought would fail, and I have to say, I was skeptical as well. But you know, Steve Jobs was a true visionary. He knew what he wanted to do, and he was determined to do it. And he was, you know, his core idea, and he was so right about this, his core idea was the products should be beautiful, so that people loved them. He was the first person really in technology to understand that a product needed to be personally loved. And he made that vision come true. So he was a fascinating, wonderful guy to be around, and a business meeting with him in the foothills of Stanford was always unlike any other business meeting with anyone else.
HH: Now I’m curious the experience of friendship with Jobs and with other entrepreneurs out of the Valley. Would that impact well your staffing of a government? That would make you a unique presidential appointer. I mean, presidents have been appointing for 200 plus years, but none coming out of that kind of entrepreneurial hot box environment. Would that make it a unique process for you?
CF: Absolutely, because first of all, I know people in that hot box, as you say, who are eminently capable of challenging the status quo, which is what we surely need in Washington. We also, of course, need people who really embrace technology instead of fear technology. And a lot of Washington, D.C. really is technophobic. I mean, they truly are. But third, I think, you know, the technology industry is a good reminder of what a free market really looks like. I mean, we don’t really have a free market in this country anymore. We have a nation of rules that get rolled out by a lot of rulemaking organizations that are bureaucracies accountable to no none and elected by no one. But the technology industry is probably the last truly hyper-competitive industry left. It’s the least regulated industry still in the world, and as a result, it’s the most entrepreneurial. It’s the most innovative. And customers get what from all that competition? They get better value, better products at lower prices year after year after year after year.
HH: You know, when you mentioned Washington, D.C. is technophobic, the latest email dump from former Secretary of State Clinton not only raises eyebrows about her relationship with Sidney Blumenthal, which is increasingly verging on the obviously criminal for Sidney Blumenthal, but she doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing when she’s migrating her server. She actually, when it went to Datto, the more I read about it, she is absolutely clueless about technology.
CF: Well, that’s right, and I think, look, obviously she has sort of defined the standard of clueless. But on the other hand, if you think about a lot of people in Washington, and I mean no disrespect, but let’s just be factual. People who have been in politics all their lives have also been surrounded by staff all their professional careers. And those staffs took care of those things. And so you know, think about how many politicians still don’t have the latest, greatest technology. Not all politicians are technophobic, obviously. But a lot are, and of course, the more pressing problem is you have government systems that are just not of the modern age. I mean, you have systems that have been trying to undergo upgrades since the 1980s. That’s the case with the VA, for example. I mean, government systems are really outmoded. If you remember the data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, that, the director of the Office of Personnel Management was warned by her inspector general that there were major vulnerabilities in that system. And when you read those reports, you find out that the vulnerabilities were sort of, wow, Technology 101. You know, you need to have two step authentication processes. I mean, there were just basic things that are industry standard now in 2015 that were not in place. And I think that’s true all throughout the government, and it makes us very vulnerable.
HH: Last question, pop culture. There are two movies out right now – Sicario and The Martian. One is about the worst depravity in human kind, Emily Blunt’s movie and Benicio del Toro, and the other, the Martian, is about the best that human beings can do with science starring Matt Damon, of all people. I don’t know if you’ve seen either of them, but which direction are we heading towards – the depraved direction or towards back to the uplift and the possible?
CF: Well, I haven’t seen either movie, but that depends on us. It depends on us, which direction we’re going. It depends upon whether leaders step forward and citizens exercise their citizenship. You know, one of the things I’ve always said, Hugh, is I am prepared to lead the resurgence of this nation. But I will need citizens to help me. It truly is up to us now. We are at a pivotal point. And we need to elect a leader who actually can lead the resurgence of the nation. And as citizens, we have to remember who we are. Ours was intended to be a citizen government. We cannot just fall back and let this happen. We actually have to take our government to head in the right direction.
HH: Carly Fiorina, always bracing to talk to you. Thank you for kicking off Politicon broadcast today so well. And I will see you soon down the debate trail. Thank you, Carly.
End of interview.