A business approach. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina campaigning on executive leadership experience. We're questioning Carly Fiorina on this edition of Iowa Press.
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For decades Iowa Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than 40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, October 16 edition of Iowa Press. Here is Dean Borg.
Borg: Carly Fiorina is offering her business executive experience to the nation. And that includes heading computer maker Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005. She holds degrees from Stanford, University of Maryland and MIT. Five years ago tried unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate losing to incumbent California democrat Barbara Boxer at that time. Trying now though for the republican presidential nomination. She is polling behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson, two others without governmental executive experience. Mrs. Fiorina, welcome back to Iowa Press.
Fiorina: Thank you so much. And please call me Carly.
Borg: Thank you, thank you for that. And welcome to Iowa. Do you like the campaign style of being in Iowa?
Fiorina: I do. I'm in Iowa a lot, intend to be in Iowa a lot more and I'm not just saying this because I'm in Iowa and on Iowa television, but I really love Iowa. First of all, it's a beautiful place. Secondly, I so appreciate how seriously people in Iowa take their politics.
Borg: Well you may get that in the questions then that I'm going to introduce to you two journalists who are well known to Iowans, Associated Press Political Reporter Catherine Lucey and Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson.
Henderson: There has been a discussion about the format for the next debate among the presidential candidates and the length of that debate. What are your thoughts?
Fiorina: Well, you know, we had a three hour debate at CNN and when you have ten or eleven people on stage that's actually not a lot of time. So I hope that CNBC will have a three hour debate but I understand there are a couple of candidates who would rather shorten the format. I also think that the more questions that get asked the better because actually everyone has heard politicians give speeches and everyone has heard politicians give prepared comments. I think what people like to see is how does someone think on their feet and how does someone answer an unexpected question. So, to me, more questions and more time are called for actually.
Henderson: Would you be among the top tier candidates were it not for the debates?
Fiorina: No. Absolutely not because going into the first debate less than 40% of voters had ever heard my name. By the time I got to the CNN debate less than 50% of voters had heard my name. And in a recent poll, 40% of republican primary voters still said they don't know me at all. So, in other words, I have to introduce myself to the American people. And a debate is a wonderful opportunity for me to do so.
Lucey: One of the issues that has come up at debates for republicans and democrats has been Planned Parenthood. You have been a vocal advocate for defunding Planned Parenthood. Here in Iowa that agency serves thousands of women, often in rural areas, and they say one of the main things they do is family planning and cancer screenings. You're a breast cancer survivor.
Fiorina: I am.
Lucey: Are you concerned at all that cutting off this funding could impact women's health?
Fiorina: Well, first we should be investing in women's health. I certainly do understand the importance of women's health. And so I'm always curious the backers of Planned Parenthood never are advocating for more taxpayer funding to, for example, community health centers, of which there are far more than Planned Parenthood clinics. Community health centers provide a broader range of services. They actually do mammograms, for example, something that Planned Parenthood had to finally admit they don't actually do. Pregnancy centers are privately funded. I'm always interested that advocates for Planned Parenthood funding never want taxpayer dollars to go to pregnancy centers which offer also many services towards women's health and alternatives to an abortion. And finally, I'm always curious as well that the advocates for Planned Parenthood funding never want to deal with the reality that Planned Parenthood funnels millions of dollars in political donations to pro-abortion clinics, something these other women's health centers don't do. This is a political operation, that's the truth. Of course we need to invest in women's health. But let's called Planned Parenthood what it is. It is a favored political operation that happens to have a pro-abortion ideology.
Lucey: You have said you look forward to debating Hillary Rodham Clinton in a general election and she obviously comes down on the other side of this issue and she has said that republicans are interfering with a woman's right to choose. What would you say to her? And how would you take on that issue with her on a debate stage?
Fiorina: You know, one of the things that so many voters don't understand is what actually Hillary Clinton's position is on abortion. Here's her position, it's not a life until it leaves the hospital. Most Americans are horrified by that. Here is her position, that a young girl, a teenager, say a thirteen or a fourteen year old needs her mother's position to get a tan at a tanning salon, but not to get an abortion. Here's Hillary Clinton's position, that it's okay that a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic is less regulated than a tattoo parlor. I think most Americans are horrified by the extreme nature of Hillary Clinton's position on abortion and most Americans disagree fundamentally with her on this. The truth is, the majority of women, the majority of young people and the majority of Americans have now found common ground and the common ground we have all found is that abortion for any reason at all after five months is wrong. So let's take that common ground, let's have democrats allow to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which democrats continuously block.
Borg: I'll move from a domestic hot button issue then to international politics. Just this past week, President Obama on Afghanistan decided that drawing down to the level that had bene previously announced was not wise and we're going to have about 5,500, if not more, but 5,500. If you were president at this point, given what you know about Afghanistan at this point and where we are, what would you have done?
Fiorina: Well I certainly would not have announced a complete withdrawal on a date certain because what that did was signal to all of our enemies that we did not have the heart or the endurance for this fight and it caused our enemies to wait us out. President Obama has finally come to the recognition that not only is Afghanistan still a very dangerous place because of the Taliban, but Afghanistan is unfortunately rapidly becoming a haven for ISIS.
Borg: So is this week's decision at 5,500, is that -- do you support that?
Fiorina: Well yes, I think it's the sort of minimum necessary. Is it enough? Not at all clear. And President Obama we also know has been rejecting the advice of his military advisors for many months on Afghanistan, on Syria, on defeating ISIS in general. This is a President who has averted his eyes from the realities of what is going on in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq. He declared victory in Iraq along with Secretary of State Clinton in 2011, withdrew every troop there and the result is utter chaos and danger.
Borg: If you move on to be president, succeed President Obama, you will inherit. What will you do?
Fiorina: Well I think there are several things that must be done. First, we have to have the strongest military on the face of the planet and everybody has to know it. So I would begin to rebuild our military in very serious ways. That means investing in what is called the tooth, the tip of the spear and reforming the tail, Pentagon bureaucracy. But we have to reinvest in our military. We don't have enough Army brigades, we don't have enough Marine batallions, we don't have enough naval battleships. We need to reinvest in our military. Secondly, we need to stand with our allies and confront or adversaries and we are doing neither. So that means we have to confront Vladimir Putin. I would begin by rebuilding the Sixth Fleet because it is in his back yard, rebuilding the missile defense program.
Borg: I've heard you say that on the campaign trail. But back to Afghanistan this week, if you were moving into the presidency then eventually in 2016, would you then increase our presence in Afghanistan?
Fiorina: Possibly yes. Obviously that's not an easy decision to make but I would want to understand from our military advisors what they thought was necessary to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for ISIS, which is the potential we see happening on the ground. Now, by the way, I think that our strategy in Afghanistan was overreaching and naive. We tried to build a central government in Afghanistan is a nation that has not governed itself in that way. So we did many things wrong. On the other hand, to precipitously withdraw as President Obama wanted to do and as he did in Iraq is clearly not in our national security interests. And so we must prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for an even more dangerous brand of terrorism than the Taliban represented.
Borg: So we may have troops there just like we do in Germany and South Korea --
Fiorina: That's right. We may. We may.
Henderson: Since almost the creation of Israel, American Presidents have been trying to broker some sort of accord to bring peace to that region. What new strategy would a President Fiorina use?
Fiorina: Well I think honestly speaking we have extremely pressing issues in the Middle East now. So as perhaps you have heard me say before, I am very serious when I say on day one in the Oval Office I would make two phone calls, the first will be to BB Netanyahu, a man I have known a long time and I consider a friend, to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel always. And the second will be to the Supreme leader of Iran to tell him new deal, there's a new deal now, and the new deal is this, until and unless you open every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not yours, we the United States of America are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money. We must stop the money flow because Iran is using the hundreds of billions of dollars of money that they are now being given to do what, rebuild their military capability? They just launched a long range missile, build their nuclear capability and continue to wreak havoc in the Middle East. It is a long standing strategy of Iran to become the regional hegemon and now they are being aided in that objective by Russia. The unholy alliance of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia is incredibly dangerous. And I would then move very quickly to gather our Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Kurds, the Kuwaitis, the Jordanians, the Saudis and give them the support they need to defeat ISIS. They know they must defeat ISIS but they cannot do it without leadership, support and resolve from the United States of America.
Borg: All that may be changed, Mrs. Fiorina, by the time you'd reach the White House.
Fiorina: Yes, sadly so, it will be worse, not better because this administration refuses to do what is necessary.
Borg: And it may be exacerbated by Russian presence now in Syria.
Fiorina: No doubt. It will be exacerbated by Russian presence because the Russians are not there to defeat ISIS. The Russians are there to prop up Assad and most importantly they are there, they may be bombing ISIS occasionally, but most importantly they are there because they are forming an alliance with Iran. Iran wants to be the regional hegemon of that area and Russia sees an opportunity to extend its influence into the Middle East in a big way by allying with Iran. That is a very dangerous situation.
Borg: And how would you intercept that now?
Fiorina: How I would intercept it now, but as you point out I'm not the president now so things will be immeasurably worse unfortunately by the time I am, but what I would be doing now first I would be constructing no-fly zones. President Obama calls these foolish ideas that don't work. I don't know where he has been. No-fly zones have worked over and over again. And we must be able to fly where we want and when we want in Syria. We cannot allow Russia to tell our jets where to fly. Turkey, sadly, has been asking us to work with them to create a no-fly zone on the Turkish-Syrian border for years. We haven't done it and we should. We need to cordon off some areas, both for humanitarian reasons, but also to protect some of the rebels that are fighting against Assad. And, as I say, we need to work with our Arab allies. An example, King Abdullah of Jordan, a man I have known a long time, you may remember that he was here in this country when the Jordanian pilot was burned alive in a cage by ISIS and he was here asking us for bombs and material for his Air Force. He is fighting ISIS on the ground as we speak. We haven't given him those bombs and material. So now he is going to China to get them. It is in our interest to help him defeat ISIS.
Borg: As you may know we have far more questions than we have time. Catherine?
Lucey: So, Carly, you have written about the challenges you faced as a woman rising in the business world, having to meet with guys at the bar. Now you're one of two women running for president. What has surprised you about being a female candidate in 2015?
Fiorina: You know, it's interesting. Two things. One, I get asked the craziest questions by the media, by the way, but voters take me seriously. So I want to draw a distinction between what things the media tends to sometimes ask. What do voters ask? Voters ask serious questions. What about ISIS? What about health care? What about our economy? They take me seriously. But the media, for example, asked -- I was asked on a Saturday morning, did I think a woman's hormones prevented her from serving in the Oval Office? What a question. My answer was, gee, can we think of any occasion when a man's judgment might have been clouded by hormones?
Henderson: So if you are the nominee and you're running against Hillary Clinton, in your view what subjects should be off the table?
Fiorina: Well, you know, I hope we wouldn't have a lot of discussions about our appearance, although I doubt that will be the case. Hillary Clinton and I both are commented on about our appearance. But let me just say, I think there is one very significant difference between how Hillary Clinton and I will approach running for the presidency and already have. Hillary Clinton makes much of the fact that she will be the first woman president. She plays the gender card over and over and over again. I will ask no one to support me because I'm a woman. I am asking for people's support because I believe I am the most qualified candidate to win this job on behalf of the Republican Party and to do this job on behalf of the American people. And I happen to be a woman.
Borg: Let me take you back to California and the Senatorial campaign there then. What did you learn from that campaign that is serving you well in this presidential campaign? You ran against another woman there, Barbara Boxer.
Fiorina: And gender was never the issue, never the issue. What the issue was, was her policies, was her performance. And, by the way, those should be the issues. What I learned is that the ground game matters. What I learned is that a conservative, and I ran as a proud pro-life conservative in the deep blue state of California, which you don't do unless you really mean, we forced the democrats to spend $30 million defending what they thought was a safe seat and despite my loss I won more republican votes, more democrat votes and more independent votes than anyone running anywhere in the country that year. That's how big California is. That was a fight worth having. You've got to get people out to vote but never did I make gender an issue in that race.
Henderson: In 2012, republicans felt Mitt Romney's experience in the business world would be an asset were he to be elected president, yet it became a liability in the way that the Obama campaign prosecuted the campaign against him. How can you assure republican voters this time around that your experience at HP and other business stops along the way won't become a liability for you if you are the nominee?
Fiorina: It's interesting, there are a lot of politicians that run for office and lose too but we don't end up saying, gee, politics cuts against you. But that is exactly what is going on this cycle. People are tired of politicians. That's why you see outsiders, three outsiders, at the top of the polls. 82% of the American people now think we have a professional political class that cares more about the protection of its own power, privilege and position than it does about getting anything done. And so people are looking for someone with a track record of leadership. What is leadership? It is challenging the status quo. It is solving festering problems. And it is producing results. That is what I have done all my life. That is how you go from being a secretary to being a CEO. You challenge the status quo. You solve problems. You produce results. And I actually think the American people are desperately looking for a leader who will now challenge the status quo of Washington, D.C., solve some festering problems and produce results on their behalf because they haven't seen that in a really long time.
Lucey: You mentioned lessons learned about ground game. Obviously you have shot up in the polls and in fundraising since the debates. But what do you need to do now in Iowa and what is your strategy here? You've had a smaller presence here than some of the other candidates and have been here less than some who have been here practically all the time. So what is your strategy for the state? And where do you place? Do you need a top three finish out of this state?
Fiorina: Well, I actually, if you look at the number of endorsements that we have rolled out here in Iowa I think it's pretty impressive. As I arrived here in Iowa this week we rolled out another 22 endorsements. I think we have the makings of a very fine ground game here in Iowa. I've spent a lot of time in Iowa, I will continue to spend a lot. I think it's pretty clear what it takes to place well in Iowa. You need to do the homework. You need to go into people's homes. You need to go to the -- I'm going to a high school football game tonight. You need to meet people. You need to answer every question they have. You need to get people to the caucuses. That's what we're going to spend our time doing here.
Henderson: How do you convince voters that you, among the outsiders, are the best as opposed to Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson?
Fiorina: Because I have a track record. I think to do the job --
Henderson: And Mr. Trump doesn't?
Fiorina: Yes, he has a track record but my track record is more relevant than either one of theirs. I think to be president we need someone now who actually understands how the economy works and who has been in it. I am, I am a self-made person. You need somebody who understands how the world works and who is in it. I have long experience, I know more world leaders on the stage today than anyone running with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton. I have chaired the advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency. I have held the highest clearances available to a civilian. I have advised two secretaries of defense, a secretary of homeland security, CIA, NSA and a secretary of state. You need a president who understands bureaucracies because our government has become a giant, bloated, inept, corrupt bureaucracy and we have to cut it down to size and hold it accountable and I think it helps that you understand technology because technology is an incredibly powerful tool but it is also a weapon that is being used against us.
Henderson: As someone who says they understand the business world and the financial world, there is a debate among republicans about whether the debt limit should be raised. As president, would you continue to press for raising the debt limit?
Fiorina: Well before I continued to press for raising the debt limit I would submit a budget that spends less. How is it possible that the federal government spends more money each and every year, for 50 years by the way, under republicans and democrats alike, and never has enough money to do the important things? You know how that's possible? Because we don't know where our money is being spent and we never examine where our money is being spent. All we talk about every year in appropriations hearings is how much money do you get over last year's money? And so all we're doing, this is why people think there is a professional political class, all we're doing is growing government year after year after year and of course that growth in government is not only bankrupting us as a nation, but it is crushing us as a nation. As all these rules roll out we are crushing small business owners, we're crushing family farmers, we're crushing possibilities for too many people. So let us start with the cause of our debt problem which is too much spending.
Borg: Let me take you back to recent news then. This past week talking about smaller checks, Social Security recipients are going to get the same amount, no cost of living increase this year, and some of them are complaining.
Fiorina: As they should.
Borg: Well what would you do differently then?
Fiorina: Let me tell you where I'm going to start. By the way, there are binders full of great conservative ideas on how to reform Social Security. Have they ever been implemented, ever? No. All we do is talk about it. Every presidential election cycle we talk about it again.
Borg: What would that do for recipients in Iowa, what you plan to do with Social Security, how would that help the?
Fiorina: What I would plan to do first is go after the 30% of government spending that is completely out of control because why, as a Social Security recipient, should I believe that the government can tackle wisely and fairly and well a complicated problem like Social Security when they can't execute their responsibilities with excellence. The government has become inept and corrupt. And when people say to me, well, 30% it's only 30%. Do you know how much money 30% of federal government spending is? Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. We just got an inspector general report the other day that said the government has paid in appropriately out a trillion dollars to people who don't deserve it. Boy I tell you what, we better get some of that under control before I'm prepared to go to the American people and say, let's talk about how we should reform Social Security. But we must protect at all costs those people who are dependent on Social Security.
Lucey: One other economic issue, you have come out against mandating paid maternity leave. During the democratic debate this week Hillary Clinton said the U.S. should recognize the challenge that so many parents face, particularly working moms. What do you say to that? And how would you make sure that moms, particularly women in low paying jobs, could get leave benefits?
Fiorina: So Hillary Clinton used as an example of how well that works the state of California. Wow. The state of California. The highest poverty rates in the nation, the exodus of the middle class. Yeah, there are 114 or so billionaires doing great in California. But if you're in the middle class you are getting crushed and you are leaving and industry after industry after industry has left California. If you're poor, you're doing okay in California. That is not the future that I think we ought to be presenting to the American people. And here's the truth. In countries where government has mandated, mandated very generous packages of benefits for women, guess what the impact is? Fewer women are hired. We have to be realistic when we look at these policies. I don't think what we want to promise women is fewer women in the workforce. And indeed more women have fallen into poverty in the last six years under President Obama than in the previous decade, 4 million women and girls have fallen into poverty in the last six years. We're not helping women. Democrat progressive policies are not helping women. So here's what I believe. In order to help women we must build meritocracies where you're not judged on how long you have been in the chair, you're judged on your contribution, you're judged on your merit. We should use technology incredibly aggressively to give women the flexibility they need in their lives. By the way, what is one of the most technophobic places on the planet? Washington, D.C. They don't use technology very aggressively and yet technology is an incredible tool for women. And finally we need to change our dependency programs. If you're a single mom with two kids and you're on food stamps and your kids depend upon those food stamps and you're lucky enough to go from working 20 hours a week to working 40 hours a week you lose all of that. And boy does that seem like a really risky and terrible choice to you. And so too many of those women, instead of moving forward in their lives, they fall back because they feel as though I can't give up these food stamps, my children are depending on me. We cannot ask women to make that choice.
Henderson: You are married to a person who could become the first gentleman. What would his role be?
Fiorina: Well, Frank, he's a wonderful man and I look forward to all Iowans getting to know him better. He was here recently. He started out as a tow truck driver, he's a man's man.
Henderson: Would he be a policy pusher?
Fiorina: There are two things that he really would like to focus on. One is addiction because we lost a daughter to addiction and addiction is an epidemic in this nation. And our programs aren't working. And secondly, with a particular emphasis on veterans, because our veterans are not adequately cared for in this country and it is a stain on our honor that they are not.
Borg: I have to interrupt because we're out of time. Thank you so much for being with us.
Fiorina: Thank you for having me.
Borg: I'll call you Carly, come back again.
Fiorina: Thank you, it would be my pleasure.
Borg: Next week another edition of Iowa Press, 7:30 Friday night, noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thank you for joining us today.
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