Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, announced her candidacy for the Presidency on May 4 via a YouTube Video. She gave her first public speech after the announcement at the South Carolina Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina on May 9.
I had only heard of Carly Fiorina but knew little other than she was the CEO of Hewlett Packard. Her speech was the last on the agenda of a weekend packed with speakers. She spoke for approximately 25 minutes. For those who waited until the end, they found that Carly Fiorina was worth the wait. She spoke with the conviction of another Margaret Thatcher.She opened her speech on the offensive against Hillary Clinton.
“Like Hillary Clinton, I too, am running for President of the United States. But unlike Hillary Clinton, I am not afraid to answer questions about my track record or my accomplishments.”
She noted that since Hillary Clinton’s announcement on April 12, nearly a full month earlier, Hillary had taken a total of 7 questions on the record. In striking contrast, Carly Fiorina stated that she had answered over 200 questions since her announcement just five days earlier.
She referred to a new series in the New York Times entitled, “Questions We Would Have Asked Mrs. Clinton Had We Had the Opportunity.” When Carly Fiorina made the statement, I did not know if this was a joke or not. It is not a joke.
Fiornia continued with her own questions in a rapid fire fashion:
(1) Why, in your first public statements after the terrorist attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi, why did you talk to us about the need for religious tolerance? (2) Why do you lecture us on the need to empathize with our enemies while Christians are being beheaded and crucified in the Middle East? (3) Did you really see no conflict of interest for family foundation taking large donations and your husband taking very large speaker fees from foreign governments who had business before you while you served as Secretary of State? (4) Why should we be reassured when you tell us that you had two Secret Service agents guarding that server in the basement at Chappequa?
Fiorina linked the last question about the server to her own experience as Hewlett Packard CEO. She said that we were not worried about the server getting stolen, we were worried about it being hacked.
From the opening salvo on Clinton, Carly Fiorina then moved to tell about why she is running for President. She referred to her daily Bible reading and Matthew 12:34, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” She said that she wanted to speak about what fills her heart.
Going back to her growing up days and Sunday School where her mother taught her that “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” She shared her experiences, good and bad.
She briefly outlined her career starting as a secretary, later CEO of the largest technology company in the world and now running for President of the United States. That kind of a journey is only possible in the United States because our founders knew that everyone has God given gifts.
Fiorina led Hewlett Packard during the dotcom bubble and burst. During the down times when other companies were falling by the side, she transformed HP from a company falling behind to a company surging ahead. Then she forthrightly addressed an issue that will arise. She said that she was fired in a boardroom brawl.
In addition to the career adversity she faced, she talked about two personal challenges in her life. One was her fight with cancer. The second was the loss of their youngest daughter to addiction. She said that when that happened, she and her husband, “relied on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ to save us from a desperate sadness.”
She made mention of her husband of 30 years, Frank, and said that when they were married, she learned that his mother had been advised to have an abortion. Because of strong convictions, Frank’s mother gave birth to him. “I think often how different my life would be had she made a different choice.”
She emphasized her unashamed pro-life position by reminding her listeners that she ran against Barbara Boxer for US Senate in California. “I ran as a proud pro-life conservative and you don’t do that unless you really mean it.”
She stayed on the offense against political correctness boldly saying,
“I am tired of being called extreme on this issue. The platform of the Democrat party is a life is not a life until it leaves the hospital. That, ladies and gentlemen is extreme.”
Keeping with the theme of what fills her heart and moved her to run for the Presidency, she spoke of a deep disquiet over a fear of losing the sense of limitless possibility that has defined our nation. Sounding a populist theme, she used the term, “crony capitalism” to describe how the powerful, wealthy, and connected, are the only ones who can survive today.
Using Dodd-Frank as an example, she said,
“The consequence of Dodd Frank is that 10 Wall Street banks too big to fail have become five Wall Street Banks too big to fail and meanwhile 3,000 community banks have gone out of business.”
She laid the blame on the professional political class calling them the protectors of the status quo. She called the mismanagement of the Veterans Administration “a stain on our nation’s honor.”
Fiorina observed that the Christian non-profit organization she led could deliver a loan to a small business in the slums of New Delhi over a cell phone. In contrast a veteran will spend months filling out paper work, more months while another bureaucrat reviews the paperwork, then many more months while another bureaucrat decides if the veteran can get an appointment or not.
Carly Fiorina made a strong point regarding experience and foreign relations. She said that she had probably met with more world leaders than anyone else running for President with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton. However, unlike Hillary, she was not doing it for photo ops.
She served as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Central Intelligence Agency, advised two Secretaries of Defense, Secretary of State, and a Secretary of Homeland Security. In emphasizing her ability to stand strong, she said,
“I have sat across a table from Vladimir Putin, just the two of us… I can tell you, having met this man, it is clear to me that a gimmicky red reset button will not thwart his ambition.“
In the portion of her speech relating to foreign policy, she offered concrete, executable steps to take. To show Putin and world dictators the American resolve, she said that we should rebuild the 6th fleet, rebuild the missile defense program, conduct military exercises in the Baltic states, and arm the Ukrainians. In the fight against ISIS, she said that we could arm the Kurds, share intelligence with Egyptians, give Jordanians arms and bombs so they can fight this fight with us.
If elected she said that on her first day in office she would make two phone calls. First to Israel Prime Minister Netanyau.
“I would make that phone call because I want the world to know that America stands behind our allies. I want him to tell the world that his was the first phone call I made.”
Her second call would be to the Supreme Leader of Iran. She admitted that he might not take the phone call but he would get the message loud and clear, “Whatever the circumstances were, the circumstances have changed now.” She would implement tough, unrelenting sanctions until he allows full and open inspections.
She took on the issue of some who might question whether or not a woman can serve as President. She said that several weeks ago she was asked if a woman’s hormones prevented her from serving in the Oval Office.
Her response should go into the record books as one of the best responses ever. Taking another jab at the Clinton legacy, she asked the ladies in the audience,
“Can any of you think of a single example in which a man’s judgment was clouded by his hormones? Any at all? Even in the Oval Office.”
She went on to say, “Hillary Clinton must not be President, not because she is a woman but because she is not trustworthy and does not have a track record of accomplishment.”
On a more serious note, Carly Fiorina closed her speech with the powerful symbolism of two women, Lady Liberty and Lady Justice. She spoke of the torch of freedom in Lady Liberty’s hand that is a beacon of hope in a very troubled world.
Lady Justice holds a sword in one hand. In the other hand she holds a scale,
“and with that scale she reminds us that all of us are equal in the eyes of God and therefore all of us must be equal in the eyes of the law and government, powerful and powerless alike. And she wears a blindfold and with that blindfold she reminds us that this must be always a nation where it truly doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like or what your circumstances are. Here, in this country, every American’s life should be filled with possibilities, with liberty and justice for all.”
For her first speech as a candidate, she covered all the bases with conviction and powerful persuasion. One might think that a former CEO would come across as out of touch with the common man. On the contrary, she came across as a populist who would be as comfortable buying a handbag at Belks as she would at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her convictions were crystal clear and without hesitation.
If I were asked to advise Carly Fiorina, I would advise her to make a convincing argument that she could carry her home state. California has 55 electoral votes.
If she can convince Republicans that she can win California, then she will convince them that she can win the White House. For the pragmatic Republicans that is a powerful argument. Her strong convictions about equality, life, defense, and liberty are powerful arguments for the ideological Republicans. Her status as a political outsider standing against crony capitalism will carry weight with the independent voter. Do not write her off and do not automatically relegate her to possible VP.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my comments. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.