An Exclusive Interview With Carly Fiorina
9-24-2009 6:44 am
FR Publisher Jon Fleischman had the opportunity to chat with U.S. Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina for about a half hour yesterday afternoon and here is his take-away from their conversation...
The California Republican Party's Fall Convention starts tomorrow out in Palm Desert - and as someone that has been regularly attending these semi-annual confabs since the late 1980's, I can tell you that this particular convention is considered the "opening bell" for the upcoming statewide elections - and of course the primaries that will precede them in June. Next year there will be a lot of offices on the ballot - the two most significant of which will be the positions of Governor and United States Senator - Arnold Schwarzenegger is term-limited out of the former and Democrat Barbara Boxer currently sits in the latter.
In the primary for Governor, delegates to the convention will get to hear from Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman, and Tom Campbell in person - as each has a prominent spot on the agenda. As for candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, only one of the two candidates, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, will be on hand for the big gathering. What about Carly Fiorina, the much talked-about former CEO of Hewlett Packard who has been receiving a lot of attention as she moves forward with her campaign efforts?
I had the opportunity speak at length with Carly Fiorina yesterday afternoon - so I am now in a very good position to explain to readers why she will not be able to make it to convention, even though it is clear to me that she really does want to be there. We also chatted about healthcare, other issues.
As most informed California politicos know, Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer about six months ago - in fact, she first found out that she had cancer the weekend that she spent at the last State GOP convention in Sacramento in late February. I remember finding out about that after the weekend was over, and I looked back on the time I spent with her at the convention; I can say she really kept her composure during what must have been a pretty stressful time.
When we started our phone chat, which lasted almost a half-hour, we spent quite a bit of time talking about her challenges with battling breast cancer. Many FR readers may not know this, but I am a cancer survivor myself, now over ten years in remission. Because of this, I can both empathize with what Fiorina is going through, and at the same time understand something that is difficult for many who have not walked in our shoes to understand - which is that when you get past the inconvenience of treating the illness, you actually come away from the whole experience with a tremendously positive outlook on life, and a newfound vitality and energy that had not existed previously. Maybe it's just with a fresh perspective you treasure life, and everything that comes with it, just that much more.
Fiorina said that, "Battling cancer isn't fun and she wouldn't recommend it," but she went on to say that, "the experience has made me stronger, and I realize more than ever the importance of family and close friends."
Fortunately for Fiorina, her months-long battle is coming to a conclusion, with virtually all of her therapy treatments done. But she does have a few minutes of localized radiation therapy early each morning and that - frankly - is the only impediment to her storming the GOP convention will all of her pent-up enthusiasm.
Fiorina specifically told me that, "I am very sorry that I won't be with all of my fellow Republicans at the state convention. I so enjoyed visiting with people and the kind reception that I received in February. That said, you can be sure I will be at the next one!"
Fiorina did share that she has been using this period of time to really study up on a lot of the issues with which a United States Senate candidate must be fluent, as well as pulling together a core team of folks to lay the groundwork for what lays ahead.
And with one serious challenge being almost behind her, I quickly steered the conversation in the direction of a big challenge ahead of her - running for the United States Senate. Because it seemed the natural question to pose, I asked Fiorina why she wants to run for this office. She responded...
"The work done by a United States Senator is very important and matters quite a bit. The legislation that is considered in the Senate touches every business and every family in America. The person who occupies this Senate seat will truly have an opportunity to make a difference for the people of California. As a Senator, Barbara Boxer has been particularly ineffective. As has been the case her whole career, her left-wing ideology trumps common sense, and there is no effort on her part to try and represent the wishes of people in this large state. Clearly the people of California can do better than Barbara Boxer."
While I didn't want to spend too much time on the phone with Fiorina (who was quite patient with me as I think I probably did as much talking to her as she did talking to me), I did want to ask her about the big issue facing the Senate as you read this - the drive of President Obama and Senate and Congressional Democrats towards government-run healthcare in America.
"Barbara Boxer represents the most extremely leftward position on this critical issue," said Fiorina. "She has and continues to say that a public option is an absolute necessity even though it is clear that the public option is not popular with her constituents. It takes something like 256 days for an American veteran in the government healthcare system to get an eye exam -- that is a clear example of how government delivery of health care is neither effective nor efficient."
Fiorina went on to tell me that, "My recent experience has convinced me that it is vitally important to keep decision making in the hands of patients, their families and their doctors. Many decisions about healthcare will be the most personal, complex decisions that someone makes - everyone sees their decisions differently and people will make different decisions about their health care. The thought that government can somehow create a marketplace for healthcare is laughable. Government doesn't know how to create competition - in fact, government doesn't like competition. But yet injecting more healthcare choices, and competition, into our system is exactly what is needed.
I closed our conversation by noting that the Democrat National Senatorial Committee had just put together a YouTube video slamming her - which of course she had already seen. So I asked her what she thought of how aggressive the Democrats are being in attacking her already.
Fiorina was quick and assertive with her response on this question: "I will run on my record with pride. I will stack my record against Boxer's record any day of the week. The fact that they have been attacking me for nine months now means one thing: Barbara Boxer is vulnerable and they are worried that I am the candidate that will take her out."
So while Fiorina will not be at this weekend's convention, if I took a couple of points away from my conversation, it would be these: The first is that Carly Fiorina is really looking forward to finishing up the last part of her treatments so that she put all of her focus on moving ahead with her run for the U.S. Senate. Second, Fiorina sees a stark contrast between herself and liberal ideologue Barbara Boxer and is passionate about seeing Boxer lose her re-election. And finally, she feels genuinely bad that circumstances preclude her being part of this coming convention.
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