[Note from Scott Ott: The presidential primary process doesn’t help us to decide who’s qualified to bear the party standard, and to serve as chief executive. It’s just our way of crushing the hopes and dreams of anyone who dares poke head from hole. Because you already know all of the reasons why every candidate, and potential candidate, has no right to expect the nomination, I’m going to write an utterly one-sided series on why each one should get it.]
Today’s nominee: Carly Fiorina. (If you’re concerned that I’m not providing fair and balanced analysis, I’m sure the folks in the comment section will compensate for my deficiency.)
To prepare for this Herculean task, I have watched speeches and, in this case, read Carly Fiorina’s latest book, “Rising to the Challenge.”
Why Carly Fiorina Should Be the Republican Nominee
1. Positive Vision: Fiorina’s refrain is her belief in “human potential” which she says is squelched by big government — from the poverty factories we call public schools, to the shackles of entitlement dependency, to the mighty headwinds of regulation that stifle entrepreneurism and competition, to the hand-in-glove relationship of big business with big government. She loves the innovation that springs from liberty, and speaks eloquently of its power to fuel prosperity.
2. Compelling Personal Story: A law-school dropout, Fiorina became a “Kelly girl” doing temp work, until someone noticed her potential. Focusing her abilities, she rose through the ranks to become CEO of the world’s largest technology company. Eight months before announcing her maiden run for office, she was slammed with breast cancer that led to a double mastectomy. Fiorina also lost an adult daughter to addiction. Still, she and her faithful husband of three decades soldiered on. Her story will connect with voters, and help neutralize that Democratic meme that Republicans are the silver-spoon gang. Many conservatives bridle at the whole “personal story” pishposh, forgetting perhaps that we have a president now who ascended to the seat buoyed by little else. For all of our rationality, we must never forget that most folks think with their hearts first.
3. Executive Experience: Whatever you think of her tenure at Hewlett-Packard (HP) — many call it mediocre or worse, largely due to an ill-advised merger with Compaq — she was, in fact, CEO of HP from 1999-2005, a lengthy tenure by modern standards. Not only does that mean she has actual executive experience, the likes of which few other candidates can claim, but she has the mustard to take big risks, and she has tasted big failure, big betrayal, and ultimately, that walk to the parking lot with her desktop knick-knacks in a box. (She doesn’t say it happened that way. I embellish from personal experience.) These may not seem like attributes and experiences that commend a person to the post of president, but most leaders will agree with me that failure is an essential building block for future success, so long as you both learn from the loss, and refuse to let it stymie your sense of adventure.
4. A Bold Warrior: The word that comes up, time and again, even from Fiorina’s detractors, is “poised.” She recently stood before a crowd of strangers in Dallas County, Iowa, [see video below] and took questions with a sense of calm that belies her relative political inexperience. When she ran against liberal lioness Barbara Boxer for a Senate seat from California she would quip that she has faced cancer, so a Boxer doesn’t scare her. There is a peace that passes understanding when you have weathered the ravages of chemo, radiation and the knife, and come out alive. She has passed five years cancer-free. After reconstructive surgery, Fiorina contracted an infection in her left breast, requiring surgery six days before the election. The doctor installed drains in her chest. The night of her loss, before her speech, she ripped the drains out intentionally, determined to stand tall without those “pieces of plastic in my body.” To this day, she seems to be the only potential nominee willing to go to war against Hillary Clinton, relentlessly attacking her record (or lack thereof) on TV and on the stump.
5. Active Compassion: In 2008, Fiorina started a non-profit called One Woman Initiative (OWI), an attempt to lift women in Muslim-dominated countries, economically and politically. In 2013, OWI formed a partnership with Opportunity International, a nonprofit that makes small (average $150), seed-capital loans to the poor to help them become financially independent. She also chairs, since 2012, Good360, an organization that takes surplus merchandise which might otherwise hit the landfill, and distributes it to those who need it, especially for disaster relief. Many talk about the role of the private sector in charity. Carly Fiorina does something.
6. A Framework for Decision-Making: Ideology comes to the fore during primary seasons — with no one being conservative enough for some folks, or moderate enough for others. But pronouncements about principles languish on the clearance rack without practical means of implementation. Yes, Fiorina was chair of the American Conservative Union Foundation (host of CPAC), but one must have a process for putting principles into practice. In “Rising to the Challenge,” she outlines a framework for decision-making that starts with determining purpose, reforms the structure to accomplish that purpose, determines metrics for measuring progress, and crafts compensation to reward organizational values. This is Leadership 101 stuff, but it’s Greek to many politicians, and alien to government. Fiorina repeatedly notes that she has made mistakes, but leaders know that the act using such a framework not only helps to achieve a positive vision, but draws crucial lessons from failure.
7. Foundation of Faith: Carly Fiorina is a Christian, and not afraid to say so. She’s also open about the important role that prayer plays in her life. She acknowledges her weakness, and want of wisdom, and turns to the fount of all wisdom to seek it. Her faith sets her against abortion in nearly all cases, but also gives her grace to seek common ground with those who see it differently. You don’t have to be a Christian to be president of the United States, and there are some faithful believers whose entrance into the Oval Office would spike the price of gold. No, it’s not a qualification for the presidency, nor is it a barrier to it. That said, there’s a salutary humility that comes from acknowledging that the Christ is sovereign, and you are not. It springs, in part, from the realization that I would have joined in the jeers at the foot of Jesus’ cross, and yet he forgives, and adopts his enemies as his own children. It would be refreshing to have a president who bows to only one Sovereign.
NEXT: I’m reading Sen. Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams” right now, and have already read Ben Carson’s “One Nation.” I’ll write next about why each of them should be the Republican nominee. I have previously penned a brief review of Carson’s book.