Carly Fiorina is one of the success stories of the early days of this presidential cycle. Her unstinting, well-formulated, and vehement attacks on Hillary Clinton make her seem like the presumptive Democratic nominee’s worst nightmare. As such, she now ranks ahead of Rand Paul and Chris Christie in the Real Clear Politics average and ahead of Marco Rubio in the latest Fox News poll.
However, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post claims that in May 2008, Fiorina, who was campaigning for John McCain, told her that if she hadn’t been backing McCain for president, she would have been for Clinton. According to Marcus, Fiorina added, “that’s off the record.”
In my opinion, Marcus should not be reporting a comment that Fiorina intended to be off the record. But whichever way the journalistic ethics cut, the public is entitled to take Marcus’ information into account, assuming we believe her report.
Fiorina’s campaign told Marcus that she doesn’t remember meeting or talking to Marcus “on this or any other subject.” It also states that at the end of the Clinton-Obama primary — i.e., around May 2008 — Fiorina would have supported Clinton over Obama.
Fair enough. But Marcus’ claim is that Fiorina said she would be supporting Clinton if not for McCain. In other words, she would be supporting Clinton over the Republican slated to be nominated in McCain’s place.
Marcus is a very much anti-Republican and she has previously declared herself “offended” (somehow) by Fiorina’s campaign.
Moreover, Marcus’ story is plausible. John McCain was probably the least conservative of the major Republican contenders; Hillary Clinton was the least leftist of the three major Democrats (Obama and John Edwards were her competition). For many, they represented the “establishment” figures in the race. In fact, I know a few people, “establishment” types, who ranked Clinton and McCain one-two among their preferences (though none of them ranked McCain number one).
In addition, it’s plausible to think that Fiorina might be well-disposed towards a female candidate. As Marcus says, both were “prominent jousters at the glass ceiling.”
Finally, Marcus says that later on in the year, Fiorina publicly expressed her “great admiration and respect of Hillary Clinton and her candidacy and leadership.” This, by the way, was essentially John McCain’s line on Hillary. I heard him express it when I traveled with him in New Hampshire (McCain told us up-front, as he typically does, that “everything is on the record”).
Fiorina’s attacks on Clinton in this cycle focus on her abysmal record as Secretary of State. That record post-dates the favorable comments she allegedly made about Clinton in 2008. Thus, there is no inconsistency on Fiorina’s part.
What’s worrisome, though, is that Fiorina was prepared (if Marcus is telling the truth) to back Hillary for president based on her pre-2008 record. Clinton hasn’t always been an incompetent Secretary of State, but she has long been a leftist and a shady character.
Thus, if Fiorina was at all favorably disposed towards Clinton in 2008, conservatives should hold it against her, just as they should hold Donald Trump’s indisputable admiration of Hillary against him.
The lesson here is obvious. Conservatives should be wary of high-level corporate executives who espouse anti-establishment views but who have no record of public service to back them up. A “career politician” will have made hundreds of public policy decision, some of which, inevitably, will displease us.
Non-politicians, unburdened by such calls, can invent themselves as they see fit based on the exigencies of the campaign at hand. But their sincerity will be untested.
Voters must decide whether to trust that what they hear is what they will get. My rule of thumb is this: don’t expect big-time corporate executives to lead a crusade against the establishment.