Friday, September 25, 2015

Fiorina.. the GOP's Wendy Davis?

The GOP establishment relief is palpable. After watching Perry, Graham and Jindal crash and burn, Carly Fiorina is the first of their hitmen to take on Donald Trump and survive.  More than survive. She is moving up in the polls. Of course, Fiorina did get a helping hand from Trump when he made his comments about her face. That gave her the opportunity to stand on the debate stage and – with righteous indignation – repudiate The Donald. It was a softball, but Fiorina still gets credit for knocking it out of the park.

Sensing a breakthrough, the GOP establishment immediately put in motion its propaganda machine and within a few hours puff pieces starting appearing on conservatives’ favorite cable news channel. Reliable establishment pundits like Jennifer Rubin hailed Fiorina as an acceptable “outsider”.  It is not so much that the donor class has given up on a Jeb! administration. It is just that Carly is a convenient transition vehicle as the rebellious GOP base moves from its Trump infatuation to eventually supporting the Bush Dynasty. Use Fiorina to get Trump out of the way. Once The Donald is back in his Fifth Avenue tower, the GOP establishment will take Fiorina down so that only Jeb! will be left standing. A pretty devious, albeit transparent strategy.

Carly Fiorina has never been a serious candidate for the Republican nomination. Even many of her admirers see her no higher than number two on the ticket. Her role in the nomination process, thus far, has been twofold.  First, she brought diversity to the Republican field – much like Carson, Jindal, Cruz and Rubio. Second, she can incessantly attack Hillary Clinton and use her gender to shield the GOP from the war on women charge.

She does make an excellent first impression. Poised, disciplined with an uplifting personal story. Carly is an excellent debater as she demonstrated in both debates. Unfortunately for Fiorina her record just doesn’t hold up on closer inspection. In many ways, she is like another woman politician who made a great first impression only to implode on closer examination: Wendy Davis.

Like Wendy, Carly’s campaign is centered on the story of a woman of humble beginnings that reaches the top of her profession. Wendy told the story of a single mom living in a trailer and through hard work and perseverance went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. Carly tells a story of a secretary working her way up the corporate ladder to become a CEO. Inspirational stories that can only happen in America!

As it usually happens, simple narratives turn out to be a bit more complex. Wendy lived in a trailer for about six months. More importantly, on her way to Harvard Law School a second husband entered the picture with the means and disposition to help Wendy achieve her goals. Fiorina did briefly work as a secretary but not because she came from a modest background. She is the daughter of Joseph Tyree Sneed, III who was a Deputy Attorney General and member of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. And Carly too found a very supportive second husband as she climbed her way to becoming a corporate executive.

Both women use the gender card whenever is convenient while claiming that they are just as tough as the boys. Both women used the issue of abortion to stand apart from other candidates. Wendy’s famous filibuster of an anti-abortion bill launched her run for governor of Texas. Fiorina’s other stand out debate moment was a graphic, gruesome description of practices at Planned Parenthood.

Ever since the second debate was over, fact-checkers have questioned whether the video Fiorina described exists. That's just fine with Carly as she much prefers to be arguing about Planned Parented than having to defend her tenure at Hewlett-Packard. Besides, taking a kernel of truth and spinning a false narrative is what she does best. Just like when she created the impression that her biological young daughter died from abusing illegal drugs. On closer inspection, it was her stepdaughter who died from alcohol and prescription drug abuse at age 35.

Once the details of Wendy Davis’ biography were revealed her campaign never recovered and perhaps the same will happen to Fiorina. The process of electing the president of the United States is long and arduous.  At times, the campaign season seem interminable and it is tempting to look at other countries with envy as their entire electoral process takes place in a matter of weeks instead of months. But then a candidate like Carly Fiorina comes along and we are all grateful that we can take the time to that a closer look.