We've got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!
Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey — just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who are now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp-witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us it's so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.
Take her widely hailed performance in the second debate among Republican wannabes, where she touched many viewers with her impassioned and vivid attack on Planned Parenthood. With barely contained outrage, Fiorina described a video that, she said, shows the women's health organization in a depraved act of peddling body parts of an aborted fetus. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking," said a stone-faced Fiorina, looking straight into the camera, "while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"
Oh, the horror, the monstrosity of Planned Parenthood! And how moving it was to see and feel the fury of this candidate for president!
Only ... it's not true. Although she dared the audience, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to go watch it, turns out that there is no such video — no fetus with kicking legs and no demonic Planned Parenthood official luridly preparing to harvest a brain.
So did Fiorina make up this big, nasty lie herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of showbiz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or maybe she's just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some vicious haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there's nothing darling about it, much less presidential.
I remember back in 1992 when the third-party candidate Ross Perot chose Admiral James Stockdale, a complete unknown, to be his presidential running mate. In his first debate, the vice presidential candidate began by asking a question: "Who am I? Why am I here?"
We should be asking the same about Carly, as she has recently surged in the polls of GOP primary voters. Her campaign is positioning her as a no-nonsense, successful corporate chieftain who can run government with business-like efficiency. During the debate, Fiorina rattled off a list of her accomplishments as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the high-tech conglomerate: "We doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its topline growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation," she declared in PowerPoint style.
Statistics, however, can be a sophisticated way of lying. In fact, the growth she bragged about was mostly the result of her buying Compaq, another computer giant in a merger that proved to be disastrous — in fact, Hewlett-Packard's profits declined 40 percent in her six years, its stock prices plummeted and she fired 30,000 workers, even saying publicly that their jobs should be shipped overseas. Finally, she was fired.
Before we accept her claim that "running government like a business" would be a positive, note that the narcissistic corporate culture richly rewarded Fiorina for failure. Yes, she was fired, but unlike the thousands of HP employees she dumped, a golden parachute was provided to let her land in luxury — counting severance pay, stock options, and pension, she was given $42 million to go away.
But here she comes again, lacking even one iota of humility. Fiorina is throwing out a blizzard of lies, not only about Planned Parenthood, but also about who she is. She's the personification of corporate greed and economic inequality, and she's trying to bamboozle Republicans into thinking she belongs in the White House.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)
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