HUMAN EVENTS Exclusive Interview: McCain 'Victory Chairman' Carly Fiorina

The Democrats want to make an issue of John McCain’s admission that he’s not an expert on the economy. But we are electing a president, not a stock broker. One of McCain’s strengths seems to be his ability to attract superb people to advise him. One of them is his his primary surrogate, Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina was one of John McCain’s earliest and most visible advocates. As one of the most widely recognized businesswomen in America she has traveled and spoken on his behalf widely. Last Friday she was named chair of Victory ‘08 and will be the primary advocate for McCain and the RNC.

From 1995 to 2005, Fiorina served as Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company and was the first and, to date, only woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. During her career, Fiorina rose through the ranks of AT&T Corporation and Lucent Technologies, where she led Lucent’s IPO and became president of its largest business. She has also served on the boards of many of the world’s largest corporations, including Merck & Company, Cisco Systems and Kellogg Company, and sat on the executive board of the New York Stock Exchange. Fiorina is the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir Tough Choices. She currently serves as the Chairman of the External Advisory Board for the Central Intelligence Agency and as Chairman of the Fiorina Foundation, a philanthropic organization, as well as numerous other charitable organizations. In addition to an undergraduate degree from Stanford University, she holds an MBA from the University of Maryland and a Masters of Science in Business from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

HUMAN EVENTS had the chance to talk to her about the campaign and what government should and should not do to make America’s economic future brighter.

What attracted you to McCain’s campaign?

Fiorina recounts that she first met him in 2000 when testifying on the subject of internet taxation and the dangers of taxing a promising new technology. She recalls that, “He got it immediately.” Fiorina explains that McCain has been a supporter of permanently banning internet taxes and phone taxes and understands that “tax policy can either encourage or kill innovation.” She continues, “I was reintroduced to him eighteen months ago after reading his book Faith of Our Fathers. I concluded he was a man of tremendous character, real authenticity and right on the major issues of our time.”

Does the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade concern you?

She responds emphatically, “It concerns me tremendously.” She explains, “What is lost in the talk about free trade are the facts of free trade. The facts of free trade are that it creates jobs and opportunity. The facts of free trade are that in addition to creating our opportunities it also creates opportunities for our allies.” She notes that in the case of countries like Columbia who we wish to cooperate with us diplomatically and fight the drug war we “need to give them the incentive of market opportunities with the U.S.” Likewise, she notes that in Africa “we can’t expect to lift their economies out of poverty” without access to American markets.

What can the government do to enhance America’s economic growth and competitiveness?

Fiorina agrees with McCain’s approach: “Make the R&D tax credit permanent. Incent innovation. Don’t tax technologies that drive innovation.” She further explains, “The corporate tax rate makes a difference. Our corporate tax rate is higher than anyone’s but Japan.” She also urges that we “need to invest in industries with innovation like space, green technologies.” She notes that she has just returned from Abu Dubai where they are investing $150B in a “green island” and that China invests billions in space. The lesson she says is “innovation is how you grow” technology and the economy at large.

What about American workers displaced by globalization?

Fiorina explains that retraining it is not just “critically” important for workers that are laid off from industries which may have moved to countries with lower wages. She explains that it is not in the interest of American business for people to remain unproductive. She says that for the laid off worker in Ohio, for example, McCain would urge retraining through community colleges so they can work in new emerging technologies. “We’ll continue to compete because we have the most productive, most innovative workers.”

What is the right direction for health care reform?

She says, “John believes in free markets. Mandating health care is not the way to go.” She explains that McCain’s approach is the correct one: make healthcare “affordable and accessible.” She notes that his plan to “provide tax credits to families, support walk-in health clinics and improve health care for veterans” are all moves in the right direction. (As for veterans, she says that the current system is absurd where veterans to be force“to stand in line to stand in line to make an appointment.”) She says that other policies which will bring down costs include allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines and allowing drug importation. By encouraging health care providers to “focus on outcomes” and directing resources to the top five diseases we can also increase quality and reduce cost, she explains.

Having been through many public ups and downs does she relate in some way to McCain personal story?

Fiorina (whose storied business career has been covered more closely than perhaps any other business leader in recent time) laughs, noting “I certainly can relate to the ups and downs.” She adds that McCain’s story is “in a class by itself.” She says “What you see in John is someone of extraordinary perseverance and character. He never waivers in a storm.” That she says is the sign of “great leadership.”

Does McCain have the executive skills needed to be President?

Although McCain has not been a business leader or served in the executive branch, Fiorina says “Leadership is not about position and title. Leadership is about the capability to make the right choice.” She also explains that leadership “is about the confidence to surround yourself with the people” who have varied advice and can assist in making the tough decisions. She also says that leadership requires collaboration and McCain “has demonstrated his ability” to work with others in what she terms “principled, pragmatic” way.

Would she consider a VP spot?

She laughs, but does not rule it out, saying, “I’m not thinking about it.” She explains that McCain is in no rush now, which makes sense given that the Democrats have not even chosen their nominee. For now, she says she will enjoy explaining what it means to be a Republican and why McCain is the right choice for President.

McCain will be evaluated in part by conservatives based on his ability to select talented people and articulate a free market vision of America’s future. In that regard, bringing on Fiorina may be regarded as a significant step in the right direction.