MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR OUR SENATE PRIMARY
Josh Trevino, DeVore For U.S. Senate
June 1, 2010
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Josh Trevino. Josh is Communications Director for the Chuck DeVore for U.S. Senate campaign. Assemblyman DeVore is pictured below...]
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As we enter the last week of the contentious campaign for the Republican nomination for United States Senate in California, Republicans owe it to themselves and their party to take a moment and think hard about the choice they're about to make. Hard-fought and hard-hitting as this race has been, it does not necessarily break new ground. The fact is, we've been here before -- and we shouldn't make the same mistakes we made last time.
PART I: WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE.
If you're reading the Flash Report, you know full well the myriad challenges of being a Republican in the Golden State. The Democrats, supported by the corrupt and engorged public-sector unions, have quantitative advantages in every sphere: registration, cash, media, et cetera. Republicans, and specifically conservatives, have only the advantage of being generally right. The question of the past decade has been how we translate that rectitude into electoral and policy victory.
You're familiar with the dreary litany of failed answers to that question: We must "moderate." We must surrender our principles. We must abandon our own for the latest celebrity. We must compromise with the forces that bleed white the greatest state in the Union. We must chase cash rather than defend conviction.
What has all this "pragmatic" wisdom gotten us?
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Abel Maldonado. Proposition 1A. AB 32. KFI's John and Ken demanding "heads on a stick." Tea Parties declaring their total lack of faith in our party. Year after year of minority status, losses, and frustrations while the people of California suffer the oppression of Democratic greed, incompetence, and plunder.
The sad fact is that compromising with liberals and tempering our conservatism is a "pragmatism" indistinguishable from defeat.
We don't have to walk down this well-worn path yet again. But we assuredly will if we nominate Carly Fiorina next Tuesday.
Let's be forthright: I'm the communications director for Chuck DeVore, one of Fiorina's two rivals for this nomination, and I readily acknowledge that the recent polls show her with a certain lead. Arguendo, if one believes those polls to be accurate, we owe it to ourselves to ask whether we want to step off that precipice -- "pragmatic," moneyed, shallow, inexperienced celebrity over proven, experienced, stalwart conservative -- once more. (As it happens, I don't believe those polls are accurate, and I suspect the Fiorina campaign doesn't either, for reasons I'll get to.)
To put it differently, Flash Report readers know quite well that in the California GOP of 2010, it's a badge of pride to assert that one voted for Tom McClintock over Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2003 gubernatorial contest. It signifies an understanding of how horribly wrong the "pragmatic" deal with the untested, moneyed celebrity went. Indeed, I suspect that if all the people who claim to have supported McClintock actually did, California would be a vastly better place now.
To be blunt, if Carly Fiorina wins this nomination, the number of post facto Chuck DeVore voters in 2010 will similarly explode. She embodies the exact same false promise that Schwarzenegger did, and she will disappoint and betray in the exact same ways. The pity is that so many in our party and movement allow themselves to be deluded and deceived, again, by the allure of money and celebrity -- again.
But it doesn't have to happen.
PART II: MYTHS, FACTS, AND TRUTHS.
At this writing -- indeed, barely an hour ago -- the Fiorina campaign has just put out a "Myth vs. Fact" sheet on its candidate's record. (This is a practice carried over from her troubled tenure at Hewlett-Packard, when she had her communications personnel designate critiques of herself as "myths." Countervailing praises of Fiorina were "facts," of course.) It begins with an indignant attack upon Chuck DeVore, which I am happy to quote in full:
Chuck DeVore has on multiple occasions misrepresented Carly's record and her views on the issues. It is unfortunate that, in the desperation caused by his inability to climb out of a distant third place in all recent polling, he has gone to such lengths to fabricate a baseless smear campaign against Carly.
Here, it's worth citing Paul Mirengoff of the venerable Powerline:
The standards for conduct ... are pretty low these days, but taunting an opponent for low poll numbers strikes me as quite unappealing. DeVore has every reason to question Fiorina's conservative credentials, such as they are. Her campaign certainly hasn't been shy about questioning those of her other opponent, Tom Campbell.
Indeed. But there's something more here than the rote nastiness from the Fiorina camp. Remember I wrote that I suspect the Fiorina campaign has rather different numbers, rather more worrying, than the public polls? Put this in the evidence bin for that. If you're wondering why a candidate with a purportedly commanding and unchallengable polling lead, one week from election day, is devoting significant time to answering charges from a "distant third place" competitor, there are only three reasonable answers:
That polling lead is neither commanding nor unchallengable.
The candidate is psychologically incapable of enduring sustained critique.
Chuck DeVore is right about Carly Fiorina, and she agrees with him.
A saying I recall from the Carolina upcountry comes to mind: "A bit dog barks." The Fiorina campaign, which -- if its premature victory lap is to be believed -- ought to be coasting in for the big win, is the "bit dog." And it is baying its indignation.
Let's take the "Myth vs. Fact" sheet's issues in order. It provides a remarkably good summary of the Fiorina campaign's assessment of its candidate's own weaknesses -- and the evasions deployed to cover them. This is a long read, but you should go through it for two major reasons: to contemplate what the Democratic machine would do with this in a general election; and to render you utterly clear-eyed about who, politically, Carly Fiorina really is.
The "Myth vs. Fact" sheet begins:
"MYTH: Carly supported the Wall Street bailouts. FACT: Had she been in the U.S. Senate when the bailout was being debated, Carly would have voted against it." There is no evidence whatsoever to support this contention -- and considerable evidence directly to the contrary. Every Fiorina statement during the period when the Wall Street bailouts was debated and enacted in autumn 2008 shows her defending them with considerable vigor. There's a great deal of evidence on this, but it's sufficient here to note her September 15th, 2008, interview with David Gregory. Here, she is in full McCain-proxy mode, enthusiastically supportive of bailouts and arguing for more, not less, government intervention in the markets. That same day, Fiorina appeared with Fox's Neil Cavuto, where she again issued a defense of the Wall Street bailouts. One month later, in mid-October 2008, Fiorina appeared twice on Fox News to again issue a clarion defense of the bailouts: "the bank bailout was, unfortunately, necessary because credit is tight for hardworking Americans and small businesses." When it counted -- when she was asked to weigh in on the national stage at the moment of decision -- Carly Fiorina wholeheartedly endorsed the Wall Street bailouts. Need it be said, Chuck DeVore did not.
"MYTH: Carly supported the economic stimulus package. FACT: Carly opposed the stimulus plan." This is false. The truth is that Carly Fiorina was a conditional supporter of the Obama stimulus from the start. On CNN in December 2008, she said the President-elect was "absolutely correct in saying that people on both sides of the aisle think economic stimulus is necessary" -- with the caveat that it had to give "small business" its cut. In April 2009, she went on record to say that "she finds it encouraging that Congress is spending substantial amounts of money on broadband infrastructure" as part of the Obama stimulus. Finally, at the Web 2.0 Summit on October 22nd, 2009 (see the 7 minute, 30 second mark here), she complained that stimulus funds went to construction, but not biotech. The Fiorina campaign's assertion that Carly Fiorina "opposed the stimulus plan" is simply a lie. She did not.
"MYTH: Carly supported ObamaCare. FACT: Carly supports the goals of health care reform ... but has consistently opposed the Democratsâ€™ bill." This is also false. "The Democrats' bill" on Obamacare was the single most-reported, most-debated, most-contentious domestic-policy issue of 2009. Yet on October 22nd of that year -- barely two weeks before formally launching her campaign, and almost a year after deciding to run -- Carly Fiorina told the Web 2.0 Expo that she had no opinion on Obamacare. "I haven't read the bill," she said. (Go to the 26-minute mark here to see it. This bears repeating: Carly Fiorina was agnostic on Obamacare. Consistent opposition indeed -- and rather discrediting to a self-described "lifelong conservative." Within a month, Fiorina was telling audiences, "I agree with the goals of health care reform" -- a hedge her "Myth vs. Fact" sheet repeats. But when it came to signing the Club for Growth's Repeal It pledge, committing the signatory to work toward the repeal of Obamacare, she waited until after Obamacare passed -- whereas Chuck DeVore signed it in December 2009. "Consistent opposition" this isn't: the problem isn't that Carly Fiorina "supported Obamacare," but that she was nowhere to be found when the fight was on.
"MYTH: Carly opposed Arizona's immigration law before supporting it. FACT: Carly supports Arizona's law." It's great that Carly Fiorina now supports Arizona's SB 1070. It's a pity it took her a while to get there. On the weekend Arizona's law became national news, Fiorina was home in Washington, D.C., where she managed to tell Politico that her fellow Republicans have a "racist tone" on immigration -- and tell the Wall Street Journal's Allysia Finley that she opposed SB 1070. Fiorina, wrote Finley, "opposes Arizona's new immigration law because it seeks to deal with a federal issue on a state level." (Finley, incidentally, is entirely willing to regurgitate Fiorina-campaign propaganda in remarkable quantities, so this is unlikely to be a case of an errant journalist -- and if it were, where's the correction?) Much as Carly Fiorina might wish to deny it, the Wall Street Journal has her on recording opposing Arizona's SB 1070. Fortunately, it took her about 24 hours to reverse herself: a well-practiced maneuver.
"MYTH: Carly supports cap-and-trade. FACT: Carly has been clear about her opposition to cap-and-trade legislation." Unfortunately, it's not so. On October 12th, Fiorina delivered an enthusiastic -- and unrequested -- endorsement of the John Kerry / Lindsey Graham collaboration on climate-change legislation during an appearance on Fox's Neil Cavuto show. A month later, on November 18th, she refused to tell journalists "whether she would back mandatory caps on carbon emissions," and declared "that global warming demands a serious response." If this is being "clear about her opposition to cap-and-trade legislation," one wonders what her endorsement of it looks like.
"MYTH: Carly has taken no position on Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. FACT: [S]he has reserved judgment on whether or not she would vote to confirm Ms. Kagan." This refutes itself: refusing to say whether one would vote yea or nay on a nomination is "taking no position." Both Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell explicitly stated they'd vote no on Kagan. Why can't Carly Fiorina?
"MYTH: Carly supported Sonia Sotomayor. FACT: While the Senate was debating the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, Carly was fighting breast cancer and therefore did not have the opportunity to examine Sotomayor's record closely. However, in considering future judicial nominations, Carly's priority will be to ensure that Supreme Court justices will interpret the Constitution, not legislate from the bench." It's worth reprinting all of that for two reasons: first, to point out for all the verbiage, Fiorina doesn't actually say how she would have voted on Sotomayor, given the chance; and second, to note that the "myth" here is a straw man. No one has ever accused Carly Fiorina of supporting Sonia Sotomayor during the latter's confirmation to the Supreme Court. The problem is that Fiorina has said time and again, after the fact, that she would have surely done so. Belatedly awaking to the fact that support for Sotomayor is not actually a quality of a "lifelong conservative," Fiorina denied she ever made these statements when on the Sean Hannity show in late March. Alas that the record contradicts her.
"MYTH: Carly has no foreign policy or national defense experience. FACT: Carly has served as an advisor to the Department of Defense, the Department of State and to the CIA." Let's be blunt: these appointed civilian advisory boards are not exactly the foundation of comprehensive experience in foreign policy or national defense. They certainly don't compare to Chuck DeVore's decades as a commissioned U.S. Army officer, nor his professional experience in Russia, Taiwan, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Honduras, Pakistan, and elsewhere. They don't even compare to Tom Campbell's excursions abroad to learn foreign languages and make all the wrong friends. Even on their own terms, these resume items are weak: remember when Fiorina freaked out on the radio when DeVore pointed out that she skipped most of the Defense Business Board meetings? The truth is that Carly Fiorina does have some "foreign policy [and] national defense experience," but it's wholly the sort of thing she doesn't want to tout in an election: sending Californian jobs to India, relocating major laboratories to China, and circumventing U.S. export restrictions on Iran.
"MYTH: Carly does not support overturning Roe v. Wade. FACT: Carly has said she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity." The quote given in support of the "Fact" here does not turn up on any Google search, but let's assume it's legitimate: any confusion here is Carly Fiorina's own fault. Throughout this campaign, Fiorina has racked up an impressive record of avoiding or dismissing pro-life issues altogether. The day after she announced her candidacy, November 5th, Fiorina was directly "asked whether she would vote to reverse" Roe v. Wade. She dodged the question: "The focus of my campaign are the issues that matter to the people of California, and what matters is what's on the table right now -- is how to we create more jobs and how do we get federal spending out of control." Four days later, in response to a question on her pro-life views, she told KPCC that "these social issues are not what's on the table today." (Incredibly, she said this at the same time the so-called Stupak Amendment was a topic of national debate.) Fiorina then told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, "I do not believe where a potential judicial nominee stands on [abortion] is a qualifier or an unqualifier." She then went on to characterize the entire American pro-life movement as essentially a waste of time, saying: "[M]any, many voters are going to conclude while that is a very important issue, it is frankly a decided issue. The law is clear in the state of California, where there is a constitutional guarantee to the right to an abortion. So why are we talking about a theoretical issue?" If this sounds like a politician likely to overturn Roe v. Wade to you, one can only applaud that trust.
"MYTH: Carly supported amnesty for illegal immigrants before opposing it. FACT: Carly does not support amnesty for illegal immigrants." In a San Jose Mercury News story on November 18th, Fiorina "declined to say whether she would vote to create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants now in the country. 'I think it's very unproductive to talk about single issues in isolation or to answer hypothetical questions,' Fiorina said." This evasion prompted Mark Krikorian at National Review Online to write, "Carly Fiorina has just started in politics and she's already weaseling out of direct answers ... Yes, she would vote to create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants now in the country." The first time in this campaign in which Fiorina came out against amnesty was on April 30th with CNN, affirmed not a full week later at the May 6th debate. In light of this, is it fair to say Fiorina "supported amnesty for illegal immigrants" in the past? We can certainly say she tried hard not to say whether she did.
"MYTH: Carly supports Internet taxation. FACT: Carly Fiorina has always opposed taxing the Internet and imposing more regulation on legal activities carried out online. As a technology industry leader, she worked to stop new taxes on the Internet from becoming a reality." There is no evidence whatsoever to support a single assertion here. Flash Report readers may recall this exhaustive examination of Carly Fiorina's record supporting endeavors to tax sales on the Internet. I commend it to you. But if you don't want to wade through the distressing tale in full, just know this: she has a long pro-tax history, and here's a reporter catching her in a lie on it.
"MYTH: Carly wants to regulate freedom on speech on the Internet. FACT: Carly strongly opposes more regulation of legal activities and speech on (sic) Internet." This is an odd item to bring up, but it's been bothering the Fiorina campaign ever since its candidate uttered some rather ill-chosen words at the October 22nd, 2009, Web 2.0 Summit (at the 11 minutes, 25 seconds mark): "Well, I do think that we're coming to the point where we need to acknowledge that the World Wide Web and the Internet cannot be forever a sphere apart from the rest of the world. The World Wide Web cannot be forever the wild, wild west, where anything goes." Weeks later, Fiorina claimed she was referring to criminal activity only -- which is already, ipso facto, illegal.
"MYTH: Carly has no record of supporting the Second Amendment. FACT: Carly and her husband, Frank, are gun owners and strong supporters of the Second Amendment. Carly received an 'A' rating from the National Rifle Association." "Myth" is fact here: Fiorina truly doesn't have any record whatsoever on Second Amendment issues. Her purported 'A' rating from the NRA is actually a score on a candidate questionnaire -- not an organizational assessment of a public record, and still less an endorsement. The remaining assertions here are apparently falsehoods: as Republican activist Ed Sheppard has written, when Fiorina addressed the San Francisco GOP, Fiorina "made it very clear that it was her husband, and not her, that owned the guns." According to Sheppard, Fiorina furthermore "would not answer 'Yes' or 'No' when I asked if she would support a re-introduced assault weapons ban." When pressed by a journalist, Fiorina couldn't even say when she joined the NRA. If, indeed, Carly Fiorina is a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment," we have no evidence beyond that questionnaire to support that.
So much for the "Myth vs. Fact" sheet. Here's your takeaway from all that: we've just gone through, in detail, a Fiorina-campaign exposition on Carly Fiorina's purported conservatism, compared it to the record, and found the record contradicting the Fiorina narrative every single time.
Every. Single. Time.
PART III: "TWO ROADS DIVERGED IN A WOOD, AND I --"
The pity is that we've only scratched the surface of Carly Fiorina's un-conservative, and often liberal, record. Among the many things we haven't discussed:
We haven't discussed her Master's thesis, in which she advocates for greater federal control of local schools.
We haven't discussed her support for destroying the protections of Proposition 13, which arguably would have cost Californian property owners well over $40 billion by now.
We haven't discussed her professed love of Hegel, which wiser persons grasp is a philosophical precursor to a love of oppression and the leviathan state.
We haven't discussed her bizarre affinity for Jesse Jackson and liberal gender politics.
We haven't discussed her near-fatal vulnerability on basic citizenship, having failed to vote until age 44 in 2000.
We haven't discussed her draconian and frankly appalling loyalty demands, which apparently include an imperative to throw friends under the bus.
We haven't discussed her notoriously high-handed "celebrity" behavior on the campaign trail.
We haven't discussed her denigration of campaign opponents' military service.
We haven't discussed the lurking scandals in her corporate background that would assuredly become tremendous issues in the hands of a Democrat-friendly media in a general election: Iran sales, Russian bribery, and a trial involving Lucent and alleged Fiorina-era wrongdoing beginning this month.
We haven't discussed any of that. I'd rather not. Carly would rather not.
But if Carly Fiorina is the nominee, the Democrats will make sure we do.
That's the problem with Fiorina as a prospective nominee. There's an argument to be made that she's our strongest contender -- an argument aptly summarized as $$$$$ -- but take the cash away, and she offers a stupefying array of weaknesses, flaws, vulnerabilities, and avenues of attack that Democrats are straining at the leash to exploit. As it's likely Barbara Boxer would be able to neutralize whatever funding advantage Fiorina brings to a general election, what does that leave the Republican with? Sharp words? More and better fact sheets?
How, exactly, does Carly Fiorina propose to prevent what is all but inevitable: that the Democrats would react to her nomination with relief, knowing they could forget talking about issues -- and start talking about her?
Sadly, we can predict the sequence of events. A nominated Fiorina would swftly shed her loudly proclaimed conservative convictions, which always had an expiration date of June 8th. She will be spurred leftward by Democrat and press attacks claiming she's too conservative, and privately, she'll agree. Meanwhile, the Democrat attack machine will dredge up every unhappy HP veteran on the planet. The Iran story will revive. Fiorina's penchant for embellishing her ideological credentials, now aired in the Flash Report, will suddenly become major news. What started as a crusade to hold Barbara Boxer accountable will become a referendum on an unpopular fired CEO. Instead of Boxer suffering for being the face of liberal misgovernance, Fiorina will find herself the face of corporate malfeasance. A willing press corps will assist in the effort. At some point in November, everyone will wonder how the California Republicans could have talked themselves into this nomination.
No one will take the blame. Post facto Chuck DeVore voters will multiply.
Well, that's the probability. If Fiorina is the nominee.
Like I said before, it doesn't have to happen. This race is more volatile than it seems, and only one outcome is reasonably certain: Tom Campbell will lose. The question in your hands, dear Flash Report reader, is who wins. You have two choices.
You can go with Carly Fiorina. Despite knowing all you know after reading all this, you can go with her. If you didn't mind Governor Schwarzenegger all that much, you can do that. If you don't flinch at the prospect of yet another self-funded millionaire defeat, you can do that. If you believe the California Republican Party is a "rotten borough," a shell for the next dilettante who wanders by, you can do that. If you're willing to accept proclamations of conservatism as punchlines rather than principles, you can do that. If bogus arguments of "pragmatism" sway you, you can do that.
But I'll bet you're better than all that. My guess is that you -- and a surprising, shocking, un-poll-able number of Californians -- are going to stop and think one last time before filling out your ballot. I'll bet you think hard about who Fiorina is, who she was, and who she's likely to be. And I'll bet you think about the alternative: a man who is neither wealthy, nor a celebrity, nor a showman. A man who was a company-grade commander before he was a business executive. A man who owns only one house, no yachts, and no jets. A man who voted every time he could. A man who's been with you in every fight for every conservative cause from day one. A man who, if he is the nominee, automatically forces Boxer to do the one thing she fears most -- fight on the issues.
I'll bet you think about Chuck DeVore.
And I'll bet you make sure 2010 is no 2003.
Joshua Trevino is the communications director for DeVore for California.