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When Carly Loved Hillary

April 14, 2015

Carly Fiorina, the disgraced HP CEO and failed California Senate candidate, says her odds of entering the 2016 Republican presidential contest are "higher than 90 percent." Of course, that's not because she believes she can win the nomination, but because the odds she wants to be the GOP's vice presidential nominee are 100 percent. And to secure that slot, Fiorina has made clear to all that she will run as the Anti-Hillary, a conservative attack dog who is willing able to do the dirty work the GOP's ultimately male nominee will not. That's why Fiorina was among the first to take to the airwaves after Hillary Clinton's campaign announcement to declare that the former Secretary of State and twice-elected Senator from "lacks accomplishment."
But back in the summer of 2008, Carly Fiorina had only praise for the woman who almost won the Democratic nomination for president. Of course, seven years ago, Fiorina's mission was to bring supposedly disgruntled Hillary voters over to John McCain. As with her loss to Barbara Boxer two years later, at that task, too, Fiorina failed miserably.
In the days after Barack Obama clinched the delegate count to assure his nomination, John McCain's economic adviser was dispatched to win over unhappy Hillary backers that June. As Newsweek ("Carly Fiorina: Praising Hillary, Pushing McCain") reported at the time:

For the past 15 months, Carly Fiorina has given her life to John McCain. A brand-name businesswoman owing to her tumultuous tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina serves as "victory chairwoman" of the Republican National Committee and is the McCain campaign's most outspoken and energetic female surrogate. But as she strolled around a dining room in the battleground state of Ohio last week, praising "a focused, determined, intelligent, empathetic, powerful leader," she wasn't talking about the GOP nominee. She was talking about Hillary Clinton--a woman, she told the 50 women gathered to see her in a Columbus suburb, who'd been wronged. "Women in positions of authority, particularly bold women who are trying to change things, are ... caricatured differently, commented upon differently and held to different standards," she said. "I watched all of this happen to Hillary Clinton."

But Fiorina's "female-focused speaking tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania" quickly went off the rails. For starters, she assured Americans that John McCain "has never signed on to efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade." But McCain abandoned that stand from his 2000 campaign in favor of the GOP's draconian 2008 platform which called for reversing Roe and instead passing a "human life amendment" to the Constitution. Fiorina sparked another controversy when she raised the topic of health insurance coverage of contraception. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

"Let me give you a real, live example, which I've been hearing a lot about from women. There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth control medication. Those women would like a choice," she said.
But as the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America pointed out, McCain twice voted against measures that would have required insurers to cover birth control.

The same article also explained the apparent necessity for the Fiorina smoke-screen: "a survey conducted for NARAL confirmed that and suggested that Barack Obama gained when women learned of McCain's positions."
As it turned out, Carly Fiorina didn't just try to dupe women voters about John McCain's positions on reproductive rights. In 2010, she tried the same trick on Republican primary voters in California. On the web site for her 2010 Senate campaign, we learned that "Carly is Pro-Life":

Carly believes that life begins at conception; she is pro-life. She earned an "A" rating from the National Right to Life Committee and has been backed by the Committee's California affiliate, the California Pro-Life Council. Carly has also earned the endorsement of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life political action committee.

But as Fiorina ramped up her own Senate push, Red State among other worried about the "unanswered questions" when it came to her anti-abortion bona fides. The site catalogued her sins, including Fiorina's use of the term "reproductive rights" at a September 2008 at a gathering in Minneapolis for business women attending the Republican National Convention. And as the San Jose Mercury News suggested in 2004, Carly Fiorina was for choice before she was against it:

A person familiar with Fiorina's intentions said she has long harbored a desire to get into politics, but doesn't want to reveal her aspirations because she doesn't want to be perceived as less than dedicated to her job at HP.
Republican insiders said Fiorina, whom they described as a moderate and pro-choice, is a rare breed, and she could have a bright future in politics.

Then again, maybe not. After all, the woman who was "spectacularly fired by the Hewlett-Packard board" in 2005 fared even worse at rounding up votes for John McCain. Even without her shameless attempts to falsely portray John McCain as a moderate on abortion, Fiorina's own biography isn't exactly White House material. AS Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management put in seven years ago:

"What a blind spot this is in the McCain campaign to have elevated her stature and centrality in this way. You couldn't pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer."

Seven years, nothing has changed, except for Carly Fiorina's views about Hillary Clinton. Now, the Anti-Hillary asks, "Mrs. Clinton, name an accomplishment." But in that not-forgotten summer of 2008, Carly Fiorina answered her own question:

"I'm a woman, and as a woman, I'm really proud Hillary Clinton ran for president. I am enormously proud of what she did, and frankly, I have enormous sympathy for what she went through."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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