Fiorina's 'Segway' Candidacy
The promises Carly used to win the proxy fight failed, and failed spectacularly. The growth prospects predicted in the proxy fight did not even come close to meeting their 2003 predictions even by 2004 -- not by a long shot -- as shown in the Fortune article table and accompanying analysis. In a classic case of good money chasing bad, financing the merger required HP to cash in assets in the highly profitable printing business. Whereas stockholders previously had a 100% stake in the crown jewel printing business, they now had a 63% stake at the price of taking on Compaq’s low-margin PC business. And, as noted above, Carly’s promised growth in the PC business missed targets by a country mile, thus cementing in place HP’s poor income and stock performance throughout her stint as CEO.
Here’s the relevant lesson for her campaign bid: if you make lofty promises, be prepared to deliver -- or take responsibility if you don’t. Not only did Fiorina not deliver, she has attempted to explain away the HP failures with faulty metrics and excuses.
In fact, her super PAC has a page lauding the Compaq merger with puffery akin to the hype leading up to the Segway unveiling.
The Inside-Out Candidate
In a year of voter rebellion against establishment D.C., Carly has promoted herself as an “outsider,” a status that has largely gone unchallenged. But an examination of Carly’s political history illuminates her alignment with the GOP establishment in both positioning and political views.
Her foray into politics began by signing on with the RNC and serving as McCain’s principal advisor on economic affairs during his failed 2008 presidential run, a move that would pay off during her failed Senate bid against Barbara Boxer. While the grassroots and Tea Partiers went all-in for Chuck DeVore during the GOP primary, Carly piled up endorsements and money from establishment pillars such as John McCain, Lindsay Graham, the RNC, and the NRSC.
In turn, Carly staved off a primary challenge from the more conservative DeVore on the back of that establishment-fueled 3-to-1 money advantage.
After her run against Barbara Boxer that saw her bid undercut by opponents pounding away at her unsuccessful HP tenure, Carly was rewarded with a promotion to vice chair of the NRSC -- an organization dedicated to fighting Tea Party challengers and reelecting entrenched establishment incumbents such as Orrin Hatch and Thad Cochran.
One of her first acts as vice chair would be to push back against newly elected freshmen in the House, and to promote compromise between McConnell, Boehner, and Obama during the 2011 debt ceiling standoff. McConnell and Boehner would ultimately capitulate to Obama -- the first of many in the budget showdowns. This would not be the last time Carly promoted the Establishment line during the budget battles.
In 2013, Carly excoriated Ted Cruz for leading the government shutdown over Obamacare. While stating she “felt badly” for Boehner, Carly called Cruz “extreme” and a “flamethrower.” She accused him of pursing the faulty motives of “name recognition” and “money,” and laid blame for the shutdown squarely at his feet alongside Obama.
Given her stance just two years ago, how genuine is her will to follow through on her promise to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood? Consider also that she recently told Chris Wallace that she wants to expand government funding on women’s health issues.
Accompanying Carly’s establishment ties are political views that vacillate between moderate and slightly less moderate. Her positions include support for the Gang of Eight pathway-to-amnesty bill, acceptance of the “scientific consensus” on man-made global warming, promotion of increased federal funding in education, and a would-be confirmation vote for hard-left jurist Sonia Sotomayor.
In Fiorina's defense, some commentators have focused on her conservative positions, including her reversals on the TARP bailouts, cap-and-trade, and internet taxation. One commentator has gone so far as to compare her to Margaret Thatcher, an absurd comparison given Thatcher’s 20-year conservative political track record before being elected prime minister.
But what of Fiorina's alleged “evolution” at the tender age of 61?
While a candidate’s political positions may oscillate over time, their actual method of thinking is more stable, particularly for a person of Carly’s age. As it turns out, Carly claims to practice Hegelian dialectics as her primary mode of decision-making, as provided in this 2001 speech. This method is not MBA pomp aimed at corporate dispute resolution, but rather a rigorous application of the dialectical thinking method, no doubt the result of her BA in philosophy from Stanford.
Hegelian dialectics pits what the practitioner regards as two extremes against each other -- the “thesis” and “antithesis.” The thesis and antithesis are not fixed principles, but rather a subjective selection of opposing ideas from which the conflict is resolved through a new “synthesis.” Untethered from any firm principles grounded in reality, each synthesis rests on shifting sands, as one man’s synthesis may be another man’s thesis or antithesis.
And what can we expect from Carly’s application of Hegelian dialectics? Compromise.
As shown in her application of dialectics, government-backed charter schools are the synthetic resolution between public schooling and a pseudo-private voucher program. More government spending on education and infrastructure by foreign countries is the resolution between full debt relief and full repayment of debts by debtor nations. Capitalism and profit-seeking, desperately needed to bring the third world into the modern area, is undercut by anti-globalist attacks on capitalism and resolved with nothing more than rhetoric concerning “social value” and “local” action.
Given the wide array of Carly’s moderate political positions and her unprincipled, compromising method of thinking, is it reasonable to expect her to be a crusader and hardliner for free markets and limited government, as this author has suggested? No. Carly’s dialectic approach is not a means to roll back the entrenched leftist ideology of the Obama years, but rather a recipe to compromise with it.
Fiorina may be a candidate of the moment with her slick new Segway sales pitch, but I’m not buying the hype.