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California Senate Race: Carly Fiorina, Climate Change and an Idiotic Ad

3 years ago
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There's an old cliché: Character is how you behave when no one is looking. And there's another way of testing character for a politician: what he or she is willing to say to get elected. Carly Fiorina failed that test this week -- when she released perhaps the most idiotic and juvenile campaign ad of the election year.

Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is the leading candidate in the California Republican Senate primary and is expected to beat former Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in next week's election. (This week, Campbell pulled his television ads.) So Fiorina has begun blasting away at Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who she'll face in the November election. And she did so with a 30-second ad that shows Fiorina is not a serious person.

The spot features video of Boxer saying, "One of the very important national security issues we face, frankly, is climate change." Then Fiorina appears on the screen and somberly intones, "Terrorism kills, and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather. I'm Carly Fiorina. I ran Hewlett-Packard. I chaired the external advisory board for the CIA. . . . I'll work to keep you safe."

It only took half a minute for Fiorina to demonstrate she is not a responsible adult. First, she brazenly misrepresented Boxer's remark. The senator noted that climate change is one national security challenge; Boxer did not indicate it was more worrisome than terrorism. Second, to dismiss concern about climate change as nothing but fretting about the weather is, to put it mildly, dumb.

If Fiorina had paid attention to the CIA's actual work, she would know this. Last September, the CIA launched its Center on Climate Change and National Security. In announcing the creation of this center, the CIA said:
Its charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The Center will provide support to American policymakers as they negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues. That is something the CIA has done for years.
The CIA called climate change "an important national security topic -- the effect environmental factors can have on political, economic, and social stability overseas." Moreover, as my Mother Jones colleague Andy Kroll points out, earlier this year, the Pentagon released a report noting, "While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world." In Africa, for instance, national leaders fear that the projected rise of several degrees this century will lead to dislocation and disease for millions. That certainly would pose security challenges.

With the CIA and the Pentagon both declaring climate change a national security matter, Fiorina is campaigning as a demagogic know-nothing. Far from enhancing her national security credentials, this ad shows she doesn't have a clue. Or if she does, she's willing to trade it in for a cheap political shot.

This is not the first time Fiorina has played politics with climate change. In 2008, when she was advising Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, she enthusiastically supported McCain's climate change plans, noting, "I think there is growing consensus that the issues of climate change and energy independence are inextricably linked." She gave a thumbs-up to a proposed cap-and-trade system that would reduce global warming emissions. Yet last November -- when she was already running as a conservative in the California primary -- she suggested that the science on global warming was iffy, though she still called it a "serious issue."

This is confusing. If it's a serious issue, then what's wrong with Boxer saying that?

Fiorina, who has loaned her campaign about $3 million of her own money, is a perfect example of the whatever-it-takes pol. Then again, her campaign -- which previously brought us the infamous demon sheep ad -- is doing something right. Fiorina is a failed corporate exec, yet she is poised to win a statewide GOP contest. At HP, she engineered the not-so-successful acquisition of Compaq, oversaw massive layoffs, defended outsourcing, and was eventually nudged aside, though she departed with a rather generous $21 million severance package. After six years of running the company, she ended up a symbol of multiple corporate excesses: golden parachutes, outsourcing, and M&A mania. Still, she has a fighting chance of becoming a U.S. senator.

Her HP past may not come back to haunt her. But perhaps this anti-Boxer ad will. I can envision a counter-spot from Boxer: "The CIA and the Pentagon both say climate change is an important national security issue. Yet Carly Fiorina compares it to worrying about the weather. Californians need a senator who's serious . . ." We may not see the return of demon sheep in the coming Boxer-Fiorina face-off. But expect the Boxer campaign to do something about this weather ad, not just talk about it.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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57 Comments

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martacmar

Huffington did not succeed in BUYING his election and neither will Fiorina. If Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina really cared about California, maybe the millions of their own money they are spending to buy the election would be better utilized by investing in job creating businesses not increase profits by shipping jobs overseas as was the case under the "wicked witch" as some HP employees referred to Carly. At least Meg Whitman has a better record as CEO.

June 09 2010 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
billdollar

Carly Fiorina is a fake opportunistic politician "who will say and do anything" to get elected. She was fired from Hewlett-Packard for driving the company's share holder value over a cliff, and driving away thousands of very talented professionals. She was a one person train wreck for this company, and now she wants to apply her failed idea's to ruin California. She and Sarah Palin need to open a coffee shop in the Tundra far away from being able to harm America. Her new TV commercial is a joke! Fortunately, the huge Latino vote in California will keep this nitwit from being elected in the general election.

June 06 2010 at 2:16 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Michael

Are "idiotic" and "juvenile" now the stuff of "civilogue", Mr. Corn? Just asking...

June 05 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
AL

Idiotic? That's an "uncivilouge" expression. I think she.(Fiornia) had a point, and to anger Corn even more, I cast my vote already to field a candidate that will hopefully retire The Hon Sen Boxer.

June 04 2010 at 1:23 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to AL's comment
cruising7388

Don't get your hopes up too much, pappy. There are millions of us in California that will enthusiastically support for Barbara Boxer. She is a gracious lady and has done well for both the state and the country.

June 10 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
daveineaston

Mr. Corn was bureau chief for the Nation magazine, now works for Mother Jones. While many of these folks are likeable on a personal level, the part of the brain that distinguishes between what is theirs and what belongs to others does not function. Nor does the part that should record the catastrophic consequences of utopian plans previously launched. The world is new again every day to folks like Corn, and all that matters is good intentions.

Give me a jerk who knows how to count over an angel with a grossly distorted view of human nature, any day.

June 04 2010 at 11:43 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
rlspzim

Corn uses an "Olbermann" style headline, claiming an ad is "idiotic" based on nothing more than support for his own left-wing nut job, Barbara Boxer. In case you haven't noticed, Corn, CA is in big trouble, as is the country. Boxer shares in the responsibility for that. Chuck DeVore is conservative, but lacks name recognition. Tom Campbell is just another RINO, and, get used to it, Carly Fiorina will be CA's next Senator.

June 04 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rlspzim's comment
ticknert2

Not a chance.

June 04 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
hairhofla

Good thing we've still got politics in Texas -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented.

- Molly Ivins

June 04 2010 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
hairhofla

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.

- Mark Twain

June 04 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
jimwzdp

Right. And Barbara "call me Senator" Boxer is just a shining beacon of integrity. When libs like Corn attack over this kind of petty and normal campaign rhetoric, you know they are afraid - VERY AFRAID of what's going to happen in November.

June 04 2010 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
kbella1sal

Carly Fiorina is just the latest Boutique candidate. Sadly, we have Meg Whitman a Mega-Boutique candidate doing much the same thing. "I have Money, I'll say Anything, Give me your vote today and I'll forget you tomorrow"... Makes you want to rolf up your breakfast.

June 04 2010 at 10:36 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kbella1sal's comment
jom7003

If Fiorina is 'boutique' (she is worth about 30 million; how would you characterize John Kerry (160 Million) Diane Finestein (50 million)??

June 05 2010 at 7:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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