RCP Newsmaker Interview With Carly Fiorina

RCP Newsmaker Interview With Carly Fiorina

By RealClearPolitics - August 5, 2010

RCP: Your opponent, Senator Barbara Boxer, is also a novelist. Have you read either of her "Washington thrillers"?

Carly Fiorina: Well I'm not a novelist. I've only written one book and that is a memoir. No, I have not read her novels.

RCP: What do you make of the fact that the two Republican candidates for the highest offices up for grabs in California this year are former CEOs of tech companies?

Fiorina: I think what you are seeing is people from the real world choosing to get engaged, and I think that's all to the positive. Our government was intended to be a citizen government. I think that's what "of, by, and for the people" means.

I think people who come from the real world - I started as a secretary, eventually became a CEO - are tired of career politicians like Barbara Boxer or Jerry Brown, who seem to be unwilling to put in place commonsense policies that will work to create jobs and cut spending, which is what we have to do now.

RCP: Boxer has served in the Senate since her election in 1992. Is that too long?

Fiorina: I think it's too long given her track record. There's some very fine public servants but she's been a politician for 34 years. She's been in Washington, D.C. for 28 years. She hasn't represented the people of California. She's voted for over $1 trillion worth of tax increases.

She's running up and down the state of California over the last few weeks declaring that the stimulus has worked when in fact the unemployment rates in California were 10.2 when the stimulus passed. They are 12.3 percent today. We have 21 counties with unemployment above 15 percent. She makes no mention of the fact that we now know that much of the stimulus money has been wasted.

That's not representing the state. This is a state where we are destroying jobs because of big government, high taxes, thick regulation. She's voted for all those things.

RCP: Would you be willing to commit to running for only one or two terms?

Fiorina: I've already said that I think two terms is probably enough.

RCP: You talk about how California is in bad shape, financially. What would you do to help improve that in the Senate?

Fiorina: Obviously the Senate is a federal office, but to get California's economy moving again we need to do some things in the federal arena. Certainly part of California's problem has to be dealt with in Sacramento, but, example: While California deals with 12.3 percent unemployment and more businesses are being destroyed everyday, the federal government is growing its employees at 14.5 percent. Taxpayers pay for that. We have to cut federal government spending.

Example: We cannot allow small businesses to suffer through a tax increase in January. In fact, we should be cutting taxes for small businesses because small businesses are the engine of growth in our economy.

Example: The Endangered Species Act is a federal piece of legislation. It has caused the water to be turned off in our great Central Valley. It has spawned a thicket of regulation in our state. We need to get the water turned back on and that has to happen in Washington, D.C., believe it or not.

RCP: The Boxer campaign is trying to make an issue of the layoffs that happened on Hewlett Packard when you were CEO, calling you a "job destroyer." How do you respond to that?

Fiorina: I managed Hewlett Packard through the worst technology downturn in 25 years, the dotcom bust. And tough times call for very tough decisions. That is the worst decision a leader can make, is to lay people off.

Every family and every business in California knows what that tough choice is like, because every family is cutting back and every business is laying off right now. I know why jobs go, and I know why they come. Net-net we created jobs during my tenure, because I understand what it takes to create a job. Barbara Boxer, on the other hand, continues to vote for policies that destroy jobs. That is why she is saying the stimulus bill is working when it's clearly and obviously failing.

RCP: In mid-July, the Boxer campaign had a little over $11 million and your campaign had a little less than $1 million. What's the situation right now?

Fiorina: I'm not going to get into our internal financial documents. As you know, those get reported on a timely basis. Let me just say this: We're confident that we'll be able to raise the money to compete with Barbara Boxer and we're confident that we'll have the money to win in November.

RCP: Are you willing to loan your campaign the money to help close the gap?

Fiorina: We're confident we're going to have the money necessary to win in November.

RCP: How much money are pro-choice groups going to spend to reelect Boxer?

Fiorina: I don't know. You'll have to ask them.

RCP: How much difference did Sarah Palin's endorsement make in your primary fight?

Fiorina: It was very important because I'm not a known political personality, obviously. I've never run for public office before. I was very proud of the endorsements that I received and certainly hers was a very important one.

RCP: You endorsed and campaigned for John McCain in 2008. What did you learn from that that's been helpful in running for Senate?

Fiorina: I learned that I liked campaigning. I like talking with people. I enjoy people. I am fascinated by people. The process of campaigning is something that is not a chore for me. It's a joy and a privilege for me.

I also learned that every single one of us can make a difference and I think these are consequential times. I think the choices we make now -- about whether to get our economy going again or whether to continue to spend taxpayer money - I think these choices really matter. And I think I can make a difference.

RCP: Two hot button issues this year are immigration and Obamacare. Is it fair to say that you're for repeal and for enforcement first?

Fiorina: I am for repeal of the healthcare bill because it will not work. And I believe we must secure our borders so, yes, that is accurate.

RCP: A lot of Republicans are not just in favor of repeal but what they call "repeal and replace." Would you find yourself in that camp?

Fiorina: Well I do think that the original goal of healthcare reform - to ensure that Americans have access to quality, affordable healthcare - is a laudable goal. And I think we should achieve that goal. But I would go at it totally differently than the healthcare reform bill that we are now stuck with. That's why I think it has to be repealed.

Let's start with things that we know work in healthcare. I mean, I am a cancer survivor, so I have seen the best and the worst of our healthcare system--

RCP: What's the worst?

Fiorina: The worst is that you have uncoordinated, disintegrated, and repetitive processes and procedures. And those are costly. So, example: When I would go in to get chemotherapy infusions, my blood pressure would be taken multiple times. It's not necessary and it's costly.

We know, for example, that integrated patient care - another term for that is patient centric care - is less costly and higher quality. So we should be enacting that, motivating that, rewarding that more broadly. We know medical malpractice reform works. It worked in California. We should be enacting that nationwide.

And we also know that throwing 16 million uninsured people into Medicaid won't help them get treatment. Because in California, where Medicaid is already underfunded, where we've just been handed another $3 billion unfunded mandate because of the healthcare reform bill, we're already taking people off of Medicaid and telling them they can't gain access to services. So the fix for the uninsured isn't going to work.

RCP: In California and elsewhere, public employee unions seem to have played a rather large role in the current financial problems. What would you do to address public employee unions?

Fiorina: Clearly, some of this reform will have to happen at the state level, in Sacramento. You're absolutely right that public employee pensions and benefits and salaries are a huge contributor to the fact that many of our cities are bankrupt and our state is for all practical purposes bankrupt.

What can be done at the federal level is to start by making sure that we are not adding federal government employees to the payroll, which we are doing this year. We are increasing federal government employment by 14.5 percent this year. And more importantly that we start to cut federal government spending - and that means, yes, cutting some federal government employees. And then ultimately we will have to reform federal government pensions and benefits as well. But I think we need to start at an even more fundamental place which means to start growing federal government employees and start cutting back on federal government spending.

RCP: Another looming financial crisis, of course, is entitlements. What should we do about Social Security and Medicare?

Fiorina: Look, it's clear that the entitlements have to be reformed and it's clear that there are some sort of commonsense ideas beginning to percolate about things that we should consider. For example: As life expectancy increases, we should consider upping the retirement age.

On the other hand: Before we even get to that, we need to tackle the huge amount of waste and abuse and fraud and duplication that exists in the federal government budget today. I mean, there have been well documented studies that suggest that waste and abuse and, in some cases, fraud, could equal as much as half a trillion dollars.

RCP: But unfunded liabilities are in the tens of trillions.

Fiorina: Yes, you're right. But in the real world, because you have a big problem it doesn't mean that every dollar doesn't add up. And the facts are that the federal government hasn't held its level of spending even flat, much less reduced it, in decades. We have to get about the heavy lifting of actually holding Washington, D.C. accountable for how they spend other people's money. And we don't. We need to start there.

RCP: One idea that the governor of Minnesota has floated is means testing the COLA increases in Social Security. Would you support something like that?

Fiorina: Look, I'm prepared to look at every idea - every sensible idea - that's put on the table. But I am not prepared to ignore, once again - as we do year after year after year - the huge amount of waste, duplication, lack of accountability that sits in federal budgets today. We have to tackle that.

We got yet another example of that with the report that McCain and Coburn released yesterday about the waste in the stimulus. You know, every dollar actually does count, particularly when it's not yours. And so, to the American people, when we are spending $2 million photographing exotic ants, something's wrong.

RCP: Plus the ants might not like it.

Fiorina: (Laughs.) Well, there's that.

RCP: This last question I have ask for future historians of pop culture: Whose idea was the "demon sheep" commercial?

Fiorina: Fred Davis.

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