Carly Fiorina

Fiorina's False Pitch

She's a great seller, but her actual plans aren't up to snuff.


Credit: Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

It's easy to see why many Republican voters are newly taken with Carly Fiorina. She is a superb debater, with a steely gaze, a flawless delivery and a mastery of talking points. She knows what she wants to say and how to command attention. She exudes a bulletproof aura that inspires confidence. 

There are only two problems with Fiorina: what she has done in the past, and what she promises for the future. An inspection of those is a reminder of where she got started: in sales. She may offer an irresistible pitch. But creating a good product? That demands a skill set she isn't known to possess. 

During her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, its stock plunged 52 percent—double the drop in the Nasdaq average, and worse than her competition, including Dell, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft. The company repeatedly whiffed on her financial targets. In the end, Fiorina got cashiered. More telling, perhaps, is that in the decade since, no corporation has hired her. 

This picture contrasts starkly with her 1999 arrival at Hewlett-Packard, where, according to The Wall Street Journal, "she was greeted as nothing less than a savior." When she was fired, the Journal noted that Fiorina "had a flair for marketing and public speaking" and "a compelling public persona" but "was a highly polarizing figure who stirred deep animosity among many veteran employees." 

Her big decision was acquiring rival Compaq, a move that became to her what the Iraq war was to George W. Bush: a dismal failure from which she apparently learned nothing.

"This was a big bet that didn't pay off, that didn't even come close to attaining what Fiorina and HP's board said was in store," concluded Fortune's Carol J. Loomis shortly before Fiorina was fired. Yet Fiorina pretends it was a triumph. 

That's not the only sign that she talks a much better game than she plays. She got an ovation for rejecting Donald Trump's attempt to explain away his disparagement of her looks: "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." 

You might forget that when she ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010 against incumbent Barbara Boxer, she was caught on video belittling her opponent in Trump-like fashion: "God, what is that hair? So yesterday!" 

In Wednesday's debate, Fiorina was equally facile, and equally misleading, on more substantive topics. Asked how to handle Vladimir Putin, she replied, "What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the 6th Fleet. I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland. I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I'd probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message." 

It was the sort of litany that thrills conservatives, but as policy, it was the second day of a garage sale—replete with items that are useless, superfluous or irrelevant. The U.S. Navy is the biggest and most capable on Earth. We spend eight times more on defense than Russia—without counting what our NATO allies spend. If all that doesn't intimidate Putin, a slightly augmented Sixth Fleet isn't going to make his blood run cold. 

Neither is "a few thousand more troops" in Germany. Putting bases and GIs in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania might deter aggression against them—but oddly, she didn't suggest it.

Barack Obama canceled a missile defense program in Poland because it didn't work. He replaced it with a system that Robert Gates, his defense secretary (and George W. Bush's), believed was better. Obama has also conducted military exercises in the Baltic states. Putin would get the message, all right: that Fiorina is a fraud. 

She wowed the crowd by daring Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch the video from a Planned Parenthood abortion of "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." 

The nonpartisan noted an inconvenient fact: "The scene she described, though, does not exist in any of the videos" released by the Center for Medical Progress. Other fact checkers agreed, and her campaign offered no footage to rebut them. 

That's Fiorina in a nutshell. What was obvious to anyone who watched the debate is what Businessweek noted when she took over HP: "Carly Fiorina has a silver tongue and an iron will." The rest, however, is fool's gold. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Other fact checkers agreed, and her campaign offered no footage to rebut them.

    I am beginning to suspect this faux pas will be Fiorina’s “47 percent” here at Reason.

    Campaigns for the presidency are a joke. Few candidates come into the race with many concrete plans to offer, but instead advisers and their focus groups come up talking points the candidate can use on the variety of individual issues for which the politician gave no previous thought, and those become policy.

    We’re to blame, of course. We so let ourselves become distracted with petty little things that hit at our pet issues or a general misstatement by a candidate that we let them define the candidate away from viability. What we’re left with are carefully manufactured blank slates like Barack Obama.

    1. Hell yeah. If these folks in fancy clothes are bad, wait till you see their advisors and the bureaucrats they pick to suround them.

      Look, even though I don’t support this “America’s next top slaver” shitshow, Rand Paul is letting the people know he is at least going to shrink government, the debt, and reduce the amount the gov’t is extorting people. They couldn’t see it with his father, nor can they see it with him.

      Many want a free lunch, and don’t know or couldn’t care about the future generations they are screwing, and the liberty they are taking away from everyone else.

  2. What the fuck is a “seller?” Do you mean “salesman?”

    1. No coffee for her!

    2. SalesMAN?

      Why do you hate women?

  3. she was caught on video belittling her opponent in Trump-like fashion: “God, what is that hair? So yesterday!”

    Firoina’s comment was about fashion, a variable within someone’s control. Trump’s comment was about Fiorina’s face, which is not a controllable variable (for the most part). Fiorina’s comment is like saying a black kid’s clothes are ugly, Trump’s comment is like saying black skin is ugly.

    Do you see the difference SC?

    1. And Fiorina’s comment wasn’t meant for public consumption. Comparing that statement to Trump’s is asinine.

    2. Probably wasn’t a wise move though. It’s easier for a man to get away with insulting people than a woman, at least among some people. I guarantee that most of the people who think Donald’s insults are “speaking his mind”, are going to dismiss Carly as bitchy. And none of the feminists who try to reverse the double standard are going to find Carly appealing, since she’s on the wrong side.

    3. That’s a distinction without a difference. Neither is relevant to the office of the Presidency.

      But I might vote for a Big Hair woman, especially if died blue.

      1. I do not think a dead person is eligible to be President, whether they passed melancholy or not.

        1. There must be a Weekend at Bernie’s joke in here somewhere.

  4. This thing about her time at HP should be treated carefully. In any event, it probably is a better background than the current vapid community commie organizer in power.

    And Reason endorsed Obama.

  5. “More telling, perhaps, is that in the decade since, no corporation has hired her. ”

    How do we know what the real reasons for this is?

    Maybe it’s by choice?

    What’s telling is you threw this in without any attempt to explain why this is so, no?

    1. How do we know what the real reasons for this is? Maybe it’s by choice?

      I’m sure she got plenty of offers, not just very good ones. Any tech company hiring her would likely experience a swift exodus of their top talent. Maybe she got offers from paper mills or sanitation companies or female product companies.

      Does that make it her choice? I don’t think so.

      1. Any tech company hiring her would likely experience a swift exodus of their top talent.

        Her name is poison for any tech firm looking to hire her–you’d have an immediate revolt of your employees on your hands. Fair or not, tech bubble popping or not, that time at HP is going to follow her to her grave.

        She’s getting love from the GOP donor class because she’s effectively LARPing as an outsider right now. But someone who was endorsed by John McCain and Lindsey Graham during the Republican primary for Boxer’s Senate seat is the definition of an establishment candidate.

    2. The most important part of the story is missing. After she was fired, HP finally got Compaq integrated into the company (very painfully, because the Board at that time was completely dysfunctional) and HP became the biggest manufacturer of laptops in the world. This is what she was aiming for in the first place – out of the printer business (their biggest segment when she started) and into the big time laptop business, without starting from scratch (hence the Compaq acquisition). And they were profitable, at least as long as laptops could be profitable at all.

      Also, it’s important to remember that she was caught in the crossfire between the old HP guard (who personally knew Dave (Packard) and Bill (Hewlett) and worshiped them) and the new guard, which was trying to wrestle the company out of instrumentation, printers, and mechanical stuff and into the fully digital era. Carly represented the new guard, and the HP old timers were having none of it (her).

  6. Beggars can’t be choosers, and we have to work with the hand/candidates we’ve been dealt. And I’ll vote for anyone who isn’t Hillary. Seriously, anyone.

  7. Is it just me, or are you guys obsessed with the Republicans whilst the leading Democrat is a self avowed Socialist?

    Reason is just about as caught up as the mainstream media in all of this.

    1. Perhaps you missed the recent column in which Reason describes Sanders as possibly being a socialist libertarian. Or perhaps you’ve missed that there was a debate last week, in which only one party, the Republican party, participated.

  8. An inspection of those is a reminder of where she got started: in sales. She may offer an irresistible pitch. But creating a good product? That demands a skill set she isn’t known to possess.

    That’s all we’re going to get for the presidency: a salesman of one form or another (a community organizer is basically a volunteer snake oil salesman). None of these people are capable of “creating a good product”. What we ultimately need to do is look at “the company” they are selling for.

  9. Bobby gates also cancelled the F-22 and doubled down on the F-35. Is Chappy sure he wants to use him as an expert?

    And if buying Compaq was the disaster explain how Hurd rode the wave after they booted Carly. He certainly didn’t do anything more than the usual shuffle-them-around-to-prove-I’m-doing-something executive dance.

  10. Chapman is simply stupid here. Fiorina’s plans were quite different than those related by Chapman, and Carly came on board just in time to see the company and sector collapse. If Chapman thinks anyone could have prevented that, he is dumber than he appears in this article.
    Several executives KNOWLEDGEABLE of HP’s situation will tell Chapman point blank that her plans are what eventually saved HP, despite her inability to convince the Board and lost their confidence. Male Chapman should look at what happened to others who misrepresented Carly’s
    past actions. Carly knows what happemed and has the ability to defend herself – witness the drubbing she administered to those who claimed she was lying about the born alive fetuses in those videos. I’d love to hear Chapman the Ignorant question carly and get his head handed to him.

    1. “knows what happened and has the ability to defend herself ”

      Yes, we should always listen to the candidate and let them tell us what really happened. They would never mislead us **cough**Hillary**Cough**

  11. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  12. “Nonpartisan”


    1. “The nonpartisan”


      This perfectly encapsulates Chapman’s article. Instead of actual facts, simply a sampling of opinions which Chapman treats as The Truth, including his own.

      Yeah, FactCheck, no bias there at all. Who would ever suggest that the Annenberg Foundation is in any way biased?

  13. The scene, by the way, does in fact exist, exactly as she described it, as shown conclusively over at The Federalist. You can go there and see it for yourself, Chapman, which you clearly have not done. You yourself say you’re relying on what others tell you.

    You don’t have to change your views on abortion or Planned Parenthood because of the scene. But as a matter of FACT, it does exist. Denying that it does serves nothing other than agenda.

  14. a superb debater, with a steely gaze

    flawless delivery

    mastery of talking points

    knows what she wants to say and how to command attention

    exudes a bulletproof aura that inspires confidence

    offer an irresistible pitch

    All of which make her extremely well-suited to be the next RNC chair.

  15. And I’d still vote for her before I’d vote for trump. I find an empty sack to be more appealing than a sack of shit.

  16. I’m just sickened by yet another grossly dishonest article from Reason.

    Yes, indeedy do, a couple of quotes from other articles that say Carly was a loser at HP really amount to evidence.

    Also, it’s really the same to be “caught on video” criticizing someone’s hair, versus coming out and saying in an interview someone can’t be president because of how their face looks.

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