Carly Fiorina — with luck, California’s next U.S. Senator *UPDATED*

[I didn’t take notes at the meeting I’m about to describe.  If you were there and did take notes or have a better memory than mine, and if you find any mistakes in what I wrote, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I’LL CORRECT MY POST AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.]

I just returned from a Carly Fiorina townhall in Mill Valley, California.  Just to orient you, Mill Valley is located in Marin County which, in 2008, saw 78% of its population vote Democratic.

When I arrived at the venue, I couldn’t find parking.  This wasn’t just because more than 300 conservatives showed up to hear Carly speak.  It was also because several dozen Boxer “community organizers” (and didn’t we used to call them “rabble rousers”?) showed up as well.  Their little signs said that they were infuriated that Carly supports Proposition 23, which will suspend California’s Proposition 32 (aka California’s Global Warming laws).  They also had signs lambasting Fiorina for firing HP workers during her tenure there.

Most amusingly, the protesters also had signs stating that Fiorina was “too extreme” for California.  I had a hard time squaring this complaint with reality, considering that Boxer is one of the most partisan Senators in U.S. Senate History.  During her 28 years — 28 years! — in Congress, Boxer has shown herself to be a tried-and-true liberal, who has never seen a tax she hasn’t supported, or a tax break she hasn’t attacked, whose support for abortion rights takes her to extremes even pro-Choice people don’t like to explore, who consistently fails to support our military (which is entirely separate from opposing the war as a matter of principle), who supported the stimulus wholeheartedly, who voted for ObamaCare, and who agrees with and votes for every cause near and dear to the liberal heart.

That’s the scene:  outside, noisy, scraggly rabble rousers; inside, very happy, relaxed conservatives, delighted at long last to have a credible candidate running in a year in which she just might win.  The room in which we sat had floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides and, until they got bored, the protesters kept plastering their little signs up on the glass, as if by waving these one liners, they could convince these committed Carly supporters suddenly to yell out “I surrender,” and then run screaming from the room.

The charming, ebullient Melanie Morgan invited all of us to give the protesters a big wave, and we cheerfully did so.  I think it took them aback, because they disappeared soon after that.  I think they found it disconcerting that we were unfazed by their presence.  There’s nothing like staring bullies down, especially if you can do so with a smile on your face.  (Islamist apologists and grovelers, please take note.)

Fiorina, who showed up right on time, which is always a nice sign of respect to ones audience, is shorter than I had thought she would be.  She’s such a trim, upright, tidy figure that I somehow had the impression that she’s a very tall woman.  She’s not; she just has a tall presence.

Carly is a wonderful speaker:  she has clear, warm voice, and speaks without any annoying verbal ticks.  No “ums” and “uhs” from this lady.  I guess you could call her the un-Obama.  (She didn’t need a teleprompter either.)  She also has a nice energy.  Even though it was obvious that this was her usual speech, it didn’t have a canned feel.  Instead, it had a fresh vitality that made those of us sitting there feel as if she was conversing with us, rather than going through the usual political “blah blah.”

Unsurprisingly, Carly attacked Boxer vigorously, castigating Boxer for being totally invested in big government and big spending (except, of course, when it comes to our military).  She also pointed out, as she has before, that Boxer, while a reliable vote for any liberal cause, has been an ineffectual Senator.  In Boxer’s twenty-eight years in Congress, she has succeeded in getting her name on only four bills, three of which were non-substantive bills (naming rivers and buildings).  Indeed, said Fiorina, Boxer is so ineffectual Democrats had to take Cap-and-Trade away from her, even though it was supposed to be her baby — apparently, no one likes to work with her.

Fiorina steered away from giving specifics of what she’ll do when (if) she gets to D.C.  This was a wise move because, as a junior Senator, she will have somewhat limited power, given the Senate’s byzantine hierarchy — although Fiorina did joke that, as a medieval history major, she may be just the person to deal with that labyrinth.  In any event, it remains to be seen what the Senate’s composition will be, something that will affect Fiorina’s ability to put her beliefs and ideas into effect, at least in the short term.

Instead of nailing herself to impossible specifics, Carly focused on her philosophy of government and governing:  small government; states’ rights; accountability and daylight for all government agency spending; support for the military; support for small businesses and all businesses; world economic leadership, in all new fields (biotech, infotech, energy tech, etc.); the overturn of the congressionally-created Dust Bowl in California’s Central Valley, once the farming capital of America; and wise environmental stewardship that recognizes the need to develop clean new energies, including nuclear, even while taking advantage, in a environmentally-friendly way, of traditional energy (i.e., oil).

During question time, the two questions I found most interesting were these:  How will Carly counter the strongest attacks made against her, namely her support for Prop. 23 and her decision to fire HP workers; and how will she shrink government, since government has a natural tendency to make itself grow.  Carly answered the question about Prop. 23 by saying that the United States needs a reasonable, coherent, straightforward national energy policy, that nevertheless respects states’ rights.  The U.S. must also be an energy leader, if it is to maintain its position in the world, one that allows it to export its unique respect for freedom and social mobility.  Being an energy leader involves, as I mentioned above, environmentally sound development and use of all available energy sources.

As for having fired the HP workers, Carly said that sometimes, as a leader, you have to make tough choices.  There was a high tech recession then, and she had the choice of cutting some positions, or letting HP go entirely.  When she got HP back on track, she doubled its size and hired large numbers of workers.  Those are the choices government management has to make too.   (And let me add here my own opinion that one of the most outrageous things about the Democrats’ insistence that they must raise taxes on the employers and wealth-creators of America is so that Democrats can continue to fund our currently bloated government.  It doesn’t seem to occur to the yahoos in D.C. that they should trim government radically.)  Carly lucidly ran through the numbers about the way in which government has grown even as the private sector has deflated during the recession, not to mention the fact that struggling Americans are providing the government workers with a much higher standard of living than average Americans enjoy.

Speaking of trimming government radically, Fiorina says the solution is simple:  Search for and destroy waste, fraud and corruption.  She pointed out that most government agencies increase their spending dramatically right before the fiscal year ends, so that they can justify a demand for yet more money the next time they testify before the Appropriations Committee.  She explained that the Committee always opens with a single basic question:  “How much do you need?”

Carly wants to see a change in culture that has the Committee say “Tell us if you actually served your purpose and how you can fulfill that role using significantly less money.”  She would make each agency justify itself as is, rather than justify its demand for more.  Also, she would like to see a rule that has all Senate bills priced out to the last dollar, and then posted for two weeks before a vote.  (And wasn’t that one of Obama’s broken promises?)

If you’re interested in Carly Fiorina, here is her campaign website; here are the positions she’s taken on California propositions (although she is careful to point out that she is running for federal, not state, office); and here is the site where you can sign up to volunteer for her campaign.

UPDATE:  The local reporter managed to take all of the above, and make it about Tea Partiers (whom Fiorina, a Republican, never mentioned) and the environment.  Apparently he missed the rest.  He also refused to take Sally Zelikovsky’s challenge to report on the fact that the protesters damaged her car — a bit of news that is relevant when one considers that Tea Partiers are constantly charged with violence.

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  • Ymarsakar

    I have my doubts about her. However, that was in a position as CEO, not Senator. I’ll give her a chance to prove her bonafides. Certainly when the alternative is Bocking Boxer. Perhaps she was naturally suited to the Senate type of planning and execution rather than the CEO/Executive position. Time will tell.

  • Mike Devx

    My comment isn’t on Carly Fiorina – I wish her the best of luck against the Boxer Machine.  I sure hope Carly wins!
    Sarah Palin just endorsed conservative Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell against RINO Mike Castle in Delaware.  This (and Nevada’s Sharron Angle vs Harry Reid) is where the really interesting conservative battle lines are drawn right now.
    What Sarah Palin had to say in her endorsement:
    The wave of positive change can really sweep across our land with the election of Constitutional Conservatives who promise to use common sense and rein in the federal government spending! Please support Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. She will support efforts for America’s energy security, patient-centered health care reform, cutting government waste, and letting the private sector thrive and prosper! We can’t afford “more of the same” in Washington. Christine will help usher in the real change we need to get America on the right track.

    The battle line seems to be: Support a true conservative no matter where they are running, vs support the most electable Republican, which in a left-leaning state is a Republican who votes with the Democrats at least 60% of the time.  Is Mike Castle the guy who gives us a 51st Republican Senator in 2010?  At what cost – if he continues to vote with and strike deals with the Democrats at a rate that would make even the odious Lindsey Graham blush with shame?

    And… My God… WHY in the WORLD do we conservatives have to keep putting up with Lindsey Graham from South Carolina?  Surely South Carolina can give us a real conservative!!! Graham is a terrible joke and he so often gives me a massive headache.  Conservative Traitor!

    But my question is to fellow Book devotees here.  Which argument do all of you think is the better one?  Vote for Mike Castle because he’s with us about 1/2 the time and may be more electable?  Or vote for the real conservative even though in a left-leaning state she might not be able to get 51% of the vote?

    If it helps clarify, Castle was leading the Democrat in a recent poll by a few percentage points, and I think O’Donnell was trailing the Democrat by about 2% points.  Someone may be able to offer better numbers than my perhaps-faulty memory…

  • Mike Devx

    Here’s a blurb from Jim BeMint on why he’s formed a coalition for endorsing only strong conservatives (and NEVER a Mike Castle)
    […] our first endorsement of the 2010 election cycle came in April of 2009 when I went against the pleas of the Republican establishment and endorsed conservative Pat Toomey over liberal Arlen Specter. To me, the endorsement was a no-brainer. Specter had for years abandoned conservative principles (if, in fact, he ever truly had any) and instead consistently voted to support a big government agenda.

    On the other hand, as a former Pennsylvania Congressman, Pat Toomey had a voting record that backed up his strong conservative positions. He consistently fought for free market, pro-growth fiscal policies.

    Yet, despite this obvious disparity, as soon as word hit of my endorsement, I was chastised by members of the Republican establishment for not being a team player. In short, it was suggested that I had somehow betrayed the Republican Party with my endorsement.

    In the end, though, I was vindicated as it became clear who really had betrayed the Republican Party. As you know, shortly after I endorsed Pat Toomey, Arlen Specter showed his true colors and admitted that he was no Republican — opting instead to switch parties and run for Senate as a Democrat.

    The key phrase in there for me is this one:
    as soon as word hit of my endorsement, I was chastised by members of the Republican establishment for not being a team player. In short, it was suggested that I had somehow betrayed the Republican Party with my endorsement.
    This means several things:
    – The GOP is often simply about maintaining the status quo.  And about keeping the current elite insiders together.  Once elected, always elected… no matter what.  It’s like a Kids Klub.
    – The GOP doesn’t actually want strong conservatives.  Not at all.
    I’m reminded of the great Angelo Codevilla article (and now a small book we should all support!?!?) about our ruling class elite, and how there’s really little difference among the Democrats and Republicans of this ruling class elite.  It explains why we always seem to get bigger and bigger government, intruding more and more into our lives.  We never get smaller government, even when the GOP is in power.  Because they don’t really want smaller government, our ruling class elite.  They *like* having power over our lives, and think they know better what to do with our lives than we do.  Our ruling class elite.
    And The Codevilla piece mentions George Bush Sr telling Gorbachev about that idiot hidebound Reagan and all the nutcase strong conservative idiots who are “with him”.
    So that is the other side of the Mike Castle, Christine McDonnell fight.  Mike Castle is a part of our ruling class elite.  Christine McDonnell is not.  And she’s pretty much a Reaganite and a strong conservative, which our ruling class elite even in the GOP does not like and does not want. Period.
    I’m starting to think I should contribute to help her.  What if she can pull off the victory?  Give her a chance to?!?!  Then that 51st (or 52nd or 53rd) Senator will be a strong conservative voice rather than the completely unreliable Mike Castle.  And what if Mike Castle REALLY is another Arlen Specter, or David Souter – a liberal in sheep’s clothing?  What if, in being a deciding vote, he goes even MORE for Democrat votes, as long as they keep giving him what he wants?
    I think I’m deciding I’d rather not risk that.  If the downside of running Christine ODonnell on our side is that we lose – and lose vote #50 or #51, still it may have been worth it, because to REALLY move this country inthe right direction, we’re going to need strong voices – and she is articulate and consistent on conservatism.  Mike Castle is just more of the same, the status quo, and in the long run – the real tale of our country over the next 20-30 years when all the major crises will hit, that we need to survive – more of Mike Castle, more of the usual ruling class elite, will doom us…

  • Ymarsakar

    “But my question is to fellow Book devotees here.  Which argument do all of you think is the better one?  Vote for Mike Castle because he’s with us about 1/2 the time and may be more electable?  Or vote for the real conservative even though in a left-leaning state she might not be able to get 51% of the vote?”
    Depends on if you believe elections are the end all and be all of power. Personally, I do not. That lets me discount election victory often times, for numerous reasons.

  • Ymarsakar

    “Mike Castle is just more of the same, the status quo, and in the long run – the real tale of our country over the next 20-30 years when all the major crises will hit, that we need to survive”
    Thinking in those time scales is a good thing. It will allow us to out plan the Left.

  • suek

    >>Which argument do all of you think is the better one?  Vote for Mike Castle because he’s with us about 1/2 the time and may be more electable?  Or vote for the real conservative even though in a left-leaning state she might not be able to get 51% of the vote?>>
    Is half a loaf better than none?  That’s really the heart of the problem.  For example, the Maine Senators.  Would it be better if Dems were elected instead of half-hearted Republicans who vote _with_ the Dems most of the time?  At least Republicans would get know they weren’t being represented.  On the other hand, numbers of representatives determine who is the majority party.  It might mean the difference between being a minority or a majority party – and that could be more important than how an individual votes on issues.
    Generally speaking, I think I’d prefer to vote for the conservative.  If the conservative loses, then there simply isn’t enough support for a conservative agenda.  If there is a very close balance in the House or Senate, then I might change my position, but generally, I’d go with the conservative.  And if the conservative turns out to be not so conservative, then vote him/her out.  I’m not terribly enthusiastic about Fiorina, for example.  But if she can oust Boxer, I’d vote for her even if she were another Dem.  Boxer has cemented her position over the years – it would have to be easier to get almost anybody out, so if _anybody_ could beat her, I’d vote for him/her.  And who knows – maybe she’ll turn out to be terrific!

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