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Carly Fiorina: McCain Is 'Perfect Enough'

Ronald Kessler By Wednesday, 21 May 2008 09:23 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

As chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company, Carly Fiorina coined the term “perfect enough” to goad the hidebound, overly cautious company to embrace change and innovation more quickly.

Now, as the Republican National Committee’s "Victory Chair," Fiorina is pushing John McCain for president. She says conservatives who are skeptical about him need to look at the broader picture.

“When people strive for perfection, they frequently don’t make much progress,” Fiorina tells Newsmax. “So what I said in my book ‘Tough Choices’ is, if you’re focused on making progress, if you’re focused on making the right choices, then perfect enough is usually better than perfect. And in this case, no candidate for president is perfect. John McCain is perfect enough.”

Fiorina signed on with the McCain campaign 15 months ago, and she stuck by him last summer when almost everyone counted him out. She doesn’t need a job. She left HP with $21 million. But Fiorina sees this election as a critical one for the country and is devoting herself full-time to articulating what she sees as McCain’s long-term vision.

Certainly Fiorina’s own vision has been vindicated. One of the changes she advocated as CEO was the acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. to transform HP into a company that was competitive in both computers and printers.

To obtain approval, she battled a change-resistant board and faced a skeptical press, which was fixated as usual on short-term results.

In early 2005, Fortune magazine ran a critical article, “Why Carly’s Big Bet Is Failing.” Two weeks later, the board fired Fiorina, who had been described as one of the most powerful women in corporate America.

Largely because of the acquisition she brokered, HP today is a stunning success story, having overtaken Dell as the world’s largest computer maker and seen its stock zoom. Fiorina is just as confident that McCain is the right choice for the country and for conservatives as she was about the changes she implemented at HP.

“Conservatives who are skeptical need to go back to the facts and the record,” Fiorina says. “John McCain has consistently been pro-life. McCain has consistently said that he believes judges should not legislate from the bench, that their job is to interpret the Constitution. McCain has consistently demonstrated that he believes that government should be smaller, not larger. He has consistently said that earmarks are a distortion of our processes and not an appropriate use of taxpayer money, and he has backed that up by never asking for one earmark in 20 years.”

People's Voice

As a conservative, McCain believes that “you put money and power and choice and control in the hands of people, not in the hands of government,” she says. “The government’s role is to protect our nation against our enemies, and government’s role is to unlock and unleash the creative potential of the American people.”

Underscoring Fiorina’s point that McCain is “perfect enough,” while Ronald Reagan is now an icon of the conservative movement, when Conservative Digest asked 350 conservative opinion leaders what they thought of President Reagan two decades ago, nearly two-thirds of them were critical of him for not implementing the conservative agenda.

If Fiorina pushed to change HP’s stodgy culture, she also saw a need to develop leaders, as opposed to managers.

“A leader’s job is sometimes to see what not everyone can yet see,” she says. “And I think that ability, to have a vision for the future, but also to understand what it takes to make progress in the near term, is what separates leaders from others. John McCain is running for a political office, but I believe John McCain is a leader.”

She describes McCain as a man of “strong conviction, a man who does understand where this country has to go, a man who also understands what are the things we have to do in the relative short term and medium term to get the country moving in that direction, a man who doesn’t run away from problems but runs to them so that he can solve them.”

In contrast, Fiorina says, “I think Barack Obama has made it very clear what kind of country we’re going to have if he is elected president. He has said we are going to withdraw from Iraq, which means ultimately that we’ll have to go back into Iraq, because we will leave a failed state. We’ve seen this movie before in Afghanistan. When you leave a situation and create a haven for al-Qaida to flourish, we know what happens.”

Folly of Raising Taxes

Obama also has said that he would raise taxes.

“We know what happens when you raise taxes,” Fiorina says. “President Kennedy wisely cut the capital gains tax as a Democrat and that inspired growth. We know what happens when you raise taxes and curtail free trade. In 1929, we were in a recession. We went into a depression because taxes were raised and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was passed.”

Fiorina remembers that when she was putting together the Compaq deal, the conventional wisdom was not only that it was a bad idea, but the AOL Time Warner represented “the greatest merger of all time.”

Back then, “That was the conventional wisdom, just like conventional wisdom was that John McCain would never get the nomination and the Democratic Party would lock theirs up really quickly,” she says. “The reality is that the American people are smart enough to make their own decisions. And that’s why the American people thus far in this election have proven the conventional wisdom wrong every single time.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
e-mail. Go here now.

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As chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company, Carly Fiorina coined the term “perfect enough” to goad the hidebound, overly cautious company to embrace change and innovation more quickly. Now, as the Republican National Committee’s "Victory Chair," Fiorina is pushing John...
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 09:23 AM
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