Editor’s Note: Hilary Rosen, a CNN contributor, is a Democratic political strategist and managing director of SKDKnickerbocker and an adviser to the Democratic National Committee. The opinions in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Hilary Rosen says Carly Fiorina's challenge to Hillary Clinton silly
Clinton's accomplishments, experience far outweigh those of failed HP CEO, she says
Rosen: She pushed women's rights and brokered early childhood programs, Iran sanctions, peace deal that helped Israel
The buzz about Carly Fiorina after her debate performance this month, and her subsequent rise in the polls, assures that she will be a candidate to reckon with in the GOP primary for the next several months.
“Tough” is arguably something many men don’t like to experience from a woman on a daily basis – unless that woman is attacking another woman. This seems to be the ground Fiorina is staking out in the presidential primary campaign.
While some of the male candidates are trying to get attention by attacking their big new rival, Donald Trump, Fiorina has set her sights on Hillary Clinton, hoping to prove both that she is her equal in terms of qualifications to be president and that she can take her on in the general election in a way Republican men cannot.
In a recent commentary that appeared on this site, Fiorina made two main points: First, that Clinton has yet to take up her challenge and declare any of her accomplishments, and second, that the Clinton team’s strategy is to denigrate Fiorina’s experience as a CEO.
The problem with this approach is that Fiorina doesn’t seem to realize this election isn’t about her or Clinton or any of the candidates for that matter. The election is about understanding the concerns of voters -- their daily lives and priorities.
It’s not about Fiorina’s tenure as a CEO – though there are plenty of people in Silicon Valley who express distaste for her leadership of Hewlett-Packard. Indeed her story – beginning her career as a secretary and rising to a CEO position – is not only admirable but aspirational for millions of American women.
The problem is what her HP years tell us about her: that she was a failed CEO who took her higher wages and benefits and then pulled up the ladder behind her. She says she laid off thousands of people in an effort to “save” the company, but that claim has revisionist history written all over it. As financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin and others have observed, under her leadership, HP made large, questionable acquisitions, which inflated revenue, but without a workable strategy for growth. Bottom line: Her own pocketbook was saved with a fat contract and severance, and the company and thousands of employees were left in worse shape than when she started.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has spent her entire career in the service of other people. It’s clear that Fiorina is purposely neglecting Clinton’s successes as a way to get press attention, but Americans well know that Clinton from her earliest days has built a distinguished record of accomplishment – one that indeed does reflect her understanding of their lives and priorities.
• As first lady of Arkansas, she instituted cutting-edge early childhood education programs;
• As U.S. first lady, she worked with Congress and succeeded in passing a historic childhood health insurance program;
• She put women’s rights on the global agenda, changing countless lives in developing countries;
• As a U.S. senator, she led the way in getting support for the first responders on 9/11 and bringing new economic development to upstate New York;
Got that, Ms. Fiorina?
Moreover, if the GOP wants to be credible, it should be careful about investing too much of its hopes in Fiorina, who makes mistakes and trips herself up on the campaign trail in a way that will get more scrutiny as she rises. Just in the past few weeks:
• She mistakenly said that Obamacare has led to a 50% increase in people visiting emergency rooms.
• She waded into the vaccine debate, saying that parents should be able to choose whether to vaccinate their children. Doctors have warned such an approach is dangerous and has recently led to outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases like measles.
Hillary Clinton has one job in the upcoming CNN Democratic debate: She needs to convince Democrats that we don’t need Joe Biden to enter the race to keep the White House. So, whether or not he shows up in Las Vegas on October 13, (CNN rules allow him to enter as late as the day of the debate), his presence will loom large.