Unlike Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina Welcomes Tough Questions from Media, Public

After former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced she was running for president Monday morning, she conducted a conference call with national media to take questions about her campaign plans and positions on the issues. Fiorina describes herself as “reasonably confident” she will be a competitive candidate, and gives substantive answers on a wide variety of topics ranging from tax reform to foreign policy and social issues.

The style of Fiorina’s announcement — a Tweet and video — drew comparisons to Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but the similarities end there. Clinton, who made her announcement weeks ago, has shunned the press and has yet to sit for an interview with a national journalist. In contrast, Fiorina kicked off her announcement day with an appearance on Good Morning America, followed by a conference call with dozens of reporters from national media outlets, including Breitbart News. She also was interviewed by Katie Couric and Sean Hannity, and has several more scheduled for the rest of the day.

Fiorina also promoted an appearance on the live videostreaming app Periscope that took place at 4:00 pm ET Monday.

She accepted questions submitted through Periscope’s chat function or on Twitter with the hashtag #Carly2016. Deputy Campaign Manager Sarah Flores screened the questions, and picked a broad mix of topics, mostly serious, but some more lighthearted. It should be noted that Flores included several tough questions about Fiorina’s status as a political newcomer and challenges during her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, and Fiorina did not shy away from answering them either — again, another contrast to Clinton, who has given only the slimmest of responses to questions about financial improprieties and influence peddling at the Clinton Foundation.

The following article is a summary of Fiorina’s responses to questions from the media during the morning press call and the public questions from Twitter and Periscope. Fiorina’s Periscope interview is available at this link for the next twenty-four hours.

Campaign and Fundraising Plans

“I think we have time,” said Fiorina. “There has been a greater reception to my candidacy than I think many might have expected, and we continue to see that in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and elsewhere.”

Fiorina’s plan is “to continue to meet with as many people as possible…to talk about why someone outside the professional political class makes the most sense now at this pivotal point in our nation.” As Breitbart News reported, Fiorina’s announcement video also centered on this theme, attacking Clinton for belonging to this “professional political class.”

“Nearly everything about me is different” from the other candidates, said Fiorina, noting that only retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who also launched his campaign today, had also never held political office. However, Fiorina emphasized that she was “not a political neophyte,” saying that she understood how the world works, how the economy works, and had met more world leaders than any other candidate except, of course, for Clinton, who was First Lady and Secretary of State.

In response to a question about why she featured Clinton in her video, Fiorina responded that it was because she was the likely Democratic nominee, and that she would still be running for president regardless of who was running on the Democratic ticket. “She is the personification of the professional political class,” said Fiorina. “She and her husband have been in politics their entire lives…she reminds people that there is a huge disconnect between that political class and the hopes and concerns of hardworking Americans everywhere.”

Fiorina acknowledged that she would not raise as much money as other candidates, “but we’ll raise sufficient money.” Clinton “is going to have more money than anybody, that’s just a fact,” but Fiorina said that she would “run a different kind of campaign” and would spend the money she raised wisely, so that she would be able to be competitive and “do what we need to do.”

The Republican Party has not yet announced what the requirements will be to qualify to participate in the presidential debates that will begin this August, but Fiorina said that she was “reasonably confident” that she would “make sufficient progress to be on that debate stage.” Currently polling in the low single digits, Fiorina said that she was “not particularly concerned” about them at this point, and pointed to several other factors that she believed could show momentum for a candidate, like endorsements and crowd sizes at events.

“It’s my first day, we’ve got a long way to go,” Fiorina said, adding that her campaign planned to spend a lot of time in the early primary states and was encouraged by the reception she had received so far. She had made similar comments in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News last week.

Fiorina also rejected the idea of reaching out to specific groups of voters, saying that “our party needs to be united, not divided; actually our nation needs to united, not divided.” She explained that she talks “to all kinds of primary voters, [and] I talk to all of them in the same way.”

She acknowledged that she had lost her only previous attempt at elected office, a 2010 attempt to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), but also noted that California is not only a deeply blue state, the California Republican Party is drastically outmatched by the Democrats in terms of ground game there. Still, Fiorina was proud of the 57 percent she won in the Republican primary and the number of Independent and Democratic crossover votes she won.

Economic Policy and Tax Reform

“In order to create more jobs, we need to get the real economic engine of this country going and growing again…small businesses, new businesses, and family-owned businesses,” said Fiorina, “and they are being crushed.”

“We are now destroying more businesses than we are creating for the first time in U.S. history,” she continued. “That is a terrible fact.”

The solution, according to Fiorina, is to “throttle back the pile of complexity” that small and new businesses are facing. While she was adamant that “rates are too high, across the board,” Fiorina advocated for a “wholesale tax reform,” not just “tweaking” the rates or “tinkering around the edges,” but to start over with a less complex and fairer system.

“Simplicity is as important as the rates,” she said, explaining that the extreme complexity of the tax code was a harsh burden on small businesses. “Complexity always tilts the playing field to the big and the powerful and the well-connected.”

Fiorina elaborated more on this topic with Breitbart News last week, advocating for a substantial, across the board reform of the tax code and regulations that affect American businesses. “We have to start undoing some things,” she said. “Literally, undoing some things. Undoing the complexity of the tax code. Undoing the regulatory thicket. So that these economic drivers can breathe and flourish.”

Foreign Policy

As Breitbart News reported, Fiorina said that her first call as president would be to the Prime Minister of Israel, to reaffirm the traditional friendship between our two countries, followed by one to Iran with a strict message that the United States would impose sanctions until Iran consented to allow “full and unfettered inspections” of its nuclear facilities. “We need to stop talking to Iran,” she said. “This is a bad deal in every respect [and] it’s going to get worse between now and June.”

Regarding China, Fiorina said that country is “of increasing concern,” noting that “as a trading partner, they have not operated in an above-board fashion.” Fiorina recalled China’s lobbying efforts to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and how they had made a number of significant commitments regarding intellectual property protections and fair access to Chinese markets, but so far have failed to meet these commitments.

“We need to be very firm with the Chinese about how they play the trade game,” said Fiorina. She also supported working with other allies in the region, including Australia and India, to make sure that China’s assertiveness did not go unchecked.

Fiorina identified another of her foreign policy priorities as “to finally push back against [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.” Noting how Putin had consolidated political, military and economic power, and was “making real progress on territorial power” but was “basically not being challenged at all.” Fiorina criticized the Obama administration as “providing a false choice” between its weak approach and going to war. “That’s not true,” she said, quickly running through a list of several other options she supported:

We should begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet [the U.S. Naval fleet and staff based in Europe], we should rebuild the missile defense program, we should conduct regular military exercises in the Baltic States, and we should have armed the Ukrainians quite awhile ago.

All of those things would send a very clear message.

The Middle East “is obviously a top priority,” added Fiorina. “There are very specific things that our allies have asked us to do to help them fight ISIS; we haven’t done any of them,” including arming the Kurds, providing bombs and material to Jordan as King Abdullah requested and sharing intelligence regarding ISIS with the Egyptians.

Chris Moody, CNN’s Senior Digital Correspondent, did an in-depth look at Fiorina’s foreign policy experience, including her work with the CIA’s External Advisory Board, and other advisory work with the Pentagon and National Security Agency.

Hewlett-Packard

Fiorina’s business experience is part of the foundation of her campaign, especially regarding her positions on economic issues, but her work at Hewlett-Packard was controversial, including the layoff of some 30,000 employees. Her tenure ended when the board forced her to resign in 2005.

Noting that the early 2000s were extremely challenging for the entire technology sector — the “worst technology recession in twenty-five years” — Fiorina said that many companies, not just Hewlett-Packard, lost half their stock value during that time. The NASDAQ stock index, according to Fiorina, only recovered back to where it was before the dot com bubble burst just a week or so ago.

Fiorina touted a quick list of accomplishments while she was CEO at Hewlett-Packard: taking the company from $44 billion to almost $90 billion, growth rate from 2 percent to 4 percent, tripled the rate of innovation to 11 patents a day, and quadrupled cash flow.

“We transformed a company that was lagging behind in every single category to leading in every single category, and it takes leadership to grow a company. It takes leadership to grow an economy. It takes leadership to grow a nation. And growth is very important if we’re going to put people back to work.”

Still, Fiorina acknowledged, the layoffs were a “very difficult time,” and there was “nothing worse as a chief executive” than having to tell people they no longer have a job. She added that she was proud of the severance benefits and career counseling the company offered laid-off workers, which she described as more generous than was industry standard.

Immigration

Breitbart News’ Alex Swoyer covered Fiorina’s comments on immigration, where she said that “the privilege of citizenship should be left to those who worked hard and did it the right way,” a position consistent with her remarks in Iowa last week. She also advocated for stronger border security measures as the necessary first priority, noting that both our southern and northern borders were unsecured and vulnerable.

Abortion

Fiorina’s comments on abortion Monday morning were consistent with her interview with Breitbart News last week on the same topic, where she proudly stated her pro-life beliefs and described the Democrats’ position on the controversial issue as the one that was extreme:

People are completely unaware of how extreme the Democratic Party has become on this issue. So when I tell people that the Democratic platform basically is any abortion at any time for any reason at any point in a woman’s pregnancy right up until the last minute, to be paid for by taxpayers, people are shocked.

Barbara Boxer in 2010 described her policy as “it’s not a life until it leaves the hospital.” Nobody agrees with that.

And so, the truth is, even on this issue…young people are far more pro-life than they were a decade ago, because of all the science, the majority of women, the majority of young people, the majority of Americans actually, have found common ground on the issue of abortion after five months. We now know, at five months, a fetus can feel pain. And so I think, even on this issue, there is common ground and there is a way to talk about this issue that’s not judgmental, that’s not angry, that’s not vitriolic, it’s authentic and empathetic, which is how I hope I always come across.

Gay Rights

Fiorina said that she has been “upfront” on her position on gay rights issues since her 2010 campaign. She has “always supported civil unions,” and provided benefits to same-sex couples when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

“I think that government cannot bestow benefits in a discriminatory fashion,” said Fiorina, “but I also know that for millions and millions of us, marriage has a spiritual foundation. It is a religious institution and only a man and woman can create life, which is a gift that comes from God, and while not everyone may agree with us, I think it it vitally important that we respect and protect people’s rights to hold that view.”

Fiorina continued that she hoped America would “come to a place in our nation where we can be respectful and tolerant of different views” on this issue.

On the specific issue of allowing benefits for same-sex partners of federal workers, Fiorina was generally supportive of the concept, as it matched the company’s policy when she was at Hewlett-Packard, but would want to examine the details of how the Obama administration had enacted the policy before endorsing it specifically.

Obamacare

A better alternative to Obamacare, said Fiorina, would be to allow states to administer high risk pools and other competitive free-market solutions. She cited New Hampshire as an example of a state that had been using a high risk pool to effectively provide health insurance coverage for their people before Obamacare destroyed that option.

We need to try what we have never tried in the health insurance market, which is actually the free market…Insurance has been a regulated oligopoly for decades and decades and decades…we need to try the free market, which actually provides for real competition. We know that real competition provides greater choices, greater value, and lower prices…

Obamacare needs to be repealed. The law itself is longer than a Harry Potter novel. It is accompanied by tens of thousands of pages of additional regulation.

Criminal Justice Reform

Fiorina reiterated her support for police body cameras and cameras in prisoner transport vehicles that she had mentioned in her interview with Breitbart News in the aftermath of the riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.

Regarding the broader issue of criminal justice reform, Fiorina praised the work of “a number of Republican governors who have made great strides around criminal justice reform,” including “decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use,” reducing prison populations and violent crime. “Drug addiction shouldn’t be criminalized,” she said. “We need to treat it appropriately, and when you look at the stats, it’s clear that a lot of what goes on in an inner city like Baltimore is sort of like an industry: you have a lot of young people who are getting access to drugs and then they’re getting arrested frequently. It’s just a bad, bad cycle.”

“Ultimately, of course, we need to create a circumstance in which people have a stake in their community, and they have a stake in their community because they believe their community offers them possibilities for a future.”

College Affordability

In response to a Periscope question about student loan debt, Fiorina criticized the Obama administration for nationalizing the student loan industry. Before, it had been a competitive industry and parents and students had choices. Fiorina made the comparison to the technology industry — “the most competitive in the world” — as one where consumers kept getting access to better and cheaper devices.

The federal takeover of the student loan industry did not just destroy choice, said Fiorina, it also resulted in higher interest rates.

Fiorina added a short comment in support of choice at all levels of education, from K-12 through college.

Equal Pay

A Periscope questioner asked about equal pay for equal work, and Fiorina noted that this was already the law of the United States and had been since the 1960s. Since it is already illegal to pay a woman less for the same job, the issue, in Fiorina’s view, was how job positions were evaluated by employers.

The “single greatest equal pay issue,” according to Fiorina, was the seniority system, where employees are paid more the longer they are at the same job. This system — currently used by the federal government and labor unions — can disadvantage women, who often take time off to raise children, or enter the workforce later after their children are grown.

Fiorina supports a meritocracy system, paying on performance instead of seniority. This was the system she instituted at Hewlett-Packard and she stated that she would seek to end the seniority system in the federal government if she were president.

Response to Clinton Foundation Scandals

Fiorina noted that she had served as the chairman of two major charities. “All I can say to you, is that when a charitable institution has to restate 990s [the IRS annual reporting form for tax-exempt organizations], not once but multiple times, that says it all.”

She slammed both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s attitude asking people to “just trust us,” saying that their record did not support granting such trust, especially with so many unanswered questions. “Trust is earned, through transparency, and I think they have not been particularly transparent on a whole host of things.”

Miscellaneous

In a short “rapid response” segment on Periscope, Fiorina revealed that she does not like hot dogs, prefers mermaids to unicorns because they were her granddaughters’ favorites, and her new favorite ice cream was a “chocolate chocolate truffle” she had tried during a visit to New Hampshire last week.

Fiorina also said that she “used to be fluent” in Italian, but had probably gotten a little rusty, and also had a “reading knowledge” of French, German, and Spanish.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.


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