IN CHARACTER

Carly Fiorina has risen from the Kids' Table debate to #2 in the polls behind Trump. It's not surprising that two successful businesspeople would top the list for a party that practically worships business prowess. Well they're two businesspeople, anyway. As the raging Marxists over at Fortune point out, Carly Fiorina was pretty much shit as the CEO of HP and in the decade since her firing nobody in the corporate world has touched her with a ten-foot pole. Trump, as everyone with the ability to read knows, has done literally nothing except inherit a large sum of money from his father and manipulate the U.S. bankruptcy code to his advantage. This raises a pertinent question about the Republican electorate: If they want to vote for businesspeople, can't they at least find one who wasn't a complete failure?

God knows there are plenty of stridently conservative people who have done very well in the business world. As terrible as they were as candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were at least successful at not running businesses they led into the ground. This time around they seem content to gravitate toward candidates who seem more like actors playing – overplaying, actually – the role of Greedy Businessman. The average Republican thinks Trump is a business mogul or Fiorina is some badass CEO star because they act like a really rich corporate titan acts in movies aimed at morons. I suppose if they play the character convincingly enough, old white nativist reactionaries won't look to closely at what they've actually done in the business world. Which, to emphasize, is nothing.

It's scary enough that conservatives now equate success in private industry with overall brilliance; as if making a great deal of money trading stocks or running a trucking company or being born to someone wealthy proves that one can be a good (insert public office here). Now they're willing to overlook the success part and endow anyone who wears the costume and accessories of a Business Type and acts like a sociopath with the skills necessary to lead the country. This should work out well.

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65 Responses to “IN CHARACTER”

  1. Emerson Dameron Says:

    At this point, Fiorina is better known to Californians for getting shellacked by Barbara Boxer in the 2010 Senate race because even Republicans thought she was either despicably smarmy or utterly delusional. I assumed she was running for a cabinet position. This is really embarrassing for the GOP.

  2. Andrew Laurence Says:

    Fiorina also got shellacked by Barbara Boxer because California voters skew strongly Democrat.

  3. FMguru Says:

    The way that no tech company has brought her on board in the decade since she got the boot from HP is really telling (and not just about Silicon Valley sexism).

    Her HP run was a disaster. It was under Fiorina that HP pivoted from making extremely reliable and durable engineer-grade hardware and systems to making consumer-grade plastic junk (spending down HP’s once-sterling brand value in the process). Her HP managed to miss every single new technology trend of the 2000s, skipping over web technologies, mobile computing, portable media players, online media, social networks, and smartphones in order to concentrate its efforts into already-peaked sectors like laptops and printers.

    Even at the time, the Compaq merger seemed less like a shrewd forward-looking strategy and more like Fiorina betting that the board wouldn’t fire her in the middle of a wrenching, complicated merger.

    My favorite Fiorina-related metric is what happened to HP stock on the day she was fired. HP as a company was exactly the same after she was tossed as it was beforehand, except the name in the CEO box on the organization chart changed. This change sent the stock price soaring, to the point where the company’s market cap ended the day something like three billion dollars higher than it was when the day began.

    That’s right: the market carefully weighed Fiorina’s value as a corporate asset and determined that she and everything she brought to the table was worth negative $3 billion. I can’t think of any other example of someone’s fundamental worthlessness being established so clearly and so precisely by the almighty free market.

  4. US in the EU Says:

    Playing the role is essential: Actors, fake bravado, fake military toughness, fake compassion. It seems so obvious but they love that stuff.

  5. quixote Says:

    Yes, the Californians skew Dem, but they're perfectly capable of going for horrible Republicans. It's the state that gave Reagan his platform to launch himself at the entire country. It's the state that elected the Gropinator.

    I live in a purple district. I have Republican neighbors I'm not particularly close to, but close enough to have heard what they thought of Fiorina. Braying jackass about sums it up.

  6. HoosierPoli Says:

    John Mulaney, an old favorite of yours Ed, once pointed out that Donald Trump acts like a hobo's idea of what a rich guy is.

  7. chris y Says:

    Essential reading on Trump.

  8. Jtr Says:

    The Republicans stick to the line that rich people can't be taxed because they're "job creators", while their top representatives are a failed CEO who laid off 30,000 people from a successful company and an inheritance baby whose catchphrase is "you're fired." And last time they ran a capital manager whose signature move was to buy a company, fire everyone, and liquidate the physical assets. It's pretty incredible that anyone still buys the job creator nonsense when the Republicans are constantly promoting such obvious counter examples.

  9. Dave Dell Says:

    My theory is that Republican politicos start, mainly, at the local level. They're almost all involved in real estate in some way and the need to influence zoning decisions, property taxes, and property values is best served by political office. Some, and not necessarily the best and brightest, develop a taste for politics and end up in charge of the local Republican party apparatus, the local Junior Chamber, the local Independent Business Assocaiton, etc. As businessmen and women involved with real estate, they are impressed by the Trump's real estate deals. They find nothing wrong with his bankruptcies since they are successful at using other people's money themselves and see nothing wrong with other people losing their money as long as their assets are safe. I doubt they are as impressed with Gnarly Carly but they have a certainty that what's good for Carly will be good for them.

  10. Katydid Says:

    @Jtr; I'm continually astounded at the superficial thinking that most of the Republican voting base employs. Remember how excited they were about Schwarzenegger–they appeared to believe he was actually a superhero–and how they fought to allow a non-native-born citizen to run for POTUS? Look at the hordes who believed (and some still believe) that the Wasilla Wendigo has anything of value to offer, simply because a team of professional hair and makeup experts and some stylists with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend made her look attractive. Now they're gaga over a man whose greatest achievement is going bankrupt and/or appearing in a reality tv series.

  11. J. Dryden Says:

    Fiorina's greatest strength at this point is one that she can't hold on to: Nobody knows anything about her apart from a brief, brief bio, and an ability to do well in choreographed political spectacle. And if it sounds like I'm describing Sarah Palin, that is intentional.

    As soon as she starts being scrutinized, as soon as people from her past start getting interviewed (holy SHIT can you imagine how many people who worked with her at HP cannot WAIT to tell all about what a goddamned know-nothing nightmare she is), as soon as she stops being a blank onto which the base can project their hopes, she'll be out. Same thing happened with Cain. Same thing will happen here.

  12. Luke Says:

    Dryden nailed it…

  13. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Andrew:
    Quixote beat me to it. CA Republicans are quite tribal and passionate about libertarian "pro-business" issues in particular and get their way more than you'd think. They committed none of that energy to Fiorina's stillborn campaign. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she can still bamboozle the Corn Belt.

  14. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Luke:
    He always does. Fuckin' Dryden. What happened to his blog?

  15. Andrew Laurence Says:

    By Republican standards Arnold was not all that horrible, and Reagan was a long time ago. Come to think of it, compared to today's crop, Reagan, whom I loathed at the time, wasn't that horrible either.

  16. Andrew Laurence Says:

    I'm not an Arnold fan, but I believe the Constitution should be amended to let any US citizen run for any office. I'm not a nativist.

  17. Greg Says:

    Seriously, Dryden. Can't you create some content to keep us entertained? You win the comments here so often it looks easy, but the blog remaind silent. And I would love to hear your take on NE OH goings-on.

  18. Katydid Says:

    @Andrew Laurence; the Repub base went from "Let anyone run! AAAAH-nold's a hero!" to "OMG, Obama's a Kenyan! He's not eligible to run" in a red-hot minute. I personally wouldn't care if the rule was amended to let non-native Americans run, either. However, they screeched for the obviously-not-native-born to run and made up lies about someone provably native-born (Hawaii is part of the USA).

  19. Alex Says:

    They came away from "Wall Street" thinking Gordon Gekko was the good guy, and that's who they're voting for now.

  20. drouse Says:

    The thought of Romney not running his business of running other businesses into the ground into the ground amused me.

  21. Alan Christensen Says:

    Both Trump and Fiorina are a dumb guy's idea of a successful businessperson.

    Another thing about Carly, and this comment is NOT about her looks: she's so clueless about women's issues I half wonder if she's a dude.

  22. Katydid Says:

    @Alan; Fiorina is clueless about women's issues because of her unique position. She had a baby; her company built an on-site nursery just for her.

  23. Skippper Says:

    And everyone ignores the fact that government is not a business and should not be run like one.

    Governments should be run for the benefit of all the people. Businesses are run for the benefit of the owners — and nothing else.

    You can't just shut down the Department of Health and Human Services because it didn't make it's profit goal, as you can do with a business. You can't just lay off 30,000 people to bump up the stock price and cash out your options — as Meg Whitman — Carly's feckless successor at HP and rejected candidate for CA governor — is doing.

    Business "leaders" don't give a rodent's derriere about people — only balance sheets and P&L statements. They shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the reins of government.

  24. Hazy Davy Says:

    Just popping in to say J. Dryden often says things I like, I'd like his/her blog (Hey, could be a George Eliot for all I know) to reincarnate. But Skipper's winning the comments for me, at this point (even though it's off on a tangent).

  25. geoff Says:

    Would like to add to Skipper's comment that also, businesses are not democracies. Trump is used to people doing what he tells them to or being replaced. You can't do that with Congress. (Not legally, anyway.)

  26. Andrew Says:

    @Katydid: Yeah, that definitely wasn't cool. Obama is as native an American as I am.

  27. Mo Says:

    A voice from beyond the grave:

    Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.

    If anything is evident about people who manage money, it is that the task attracts a very low level of talent, one that is protected in its highly imperfect profession by the mystery that is thought to enfold the subject of economics in general and of money in particular.

    J.K. Galbraith, of course.

  28. Tim H. Says:

    Wouldn't be a bit surprised if a hypothetical Trump or Fiorina administration was staffed with non-threatening boot licking toadies… but the idea of a White House with picketers saying "Dude! Your hair!" has a certain attraction.

  29. charluckles Says:

    I am a friend who through charisma, luck, and hard work is climbing the ladder at a fortune 500. He is well compensated and on track for the suites so he keeps his mouth shut and is a real asset to the company. However, some of the stories that come out after a few beers are shocking.

    Once you reach a certain level, there is essentially no longer anything you can do to fail. And acts that would have the plebes lead out of the building in handcuffs are regularly handled with a shockingly large severance package, a handshake, and a polite suggestion that the person move on.

    There is a huge part of me that wants to see Trump or Fiorina be the nominee. The more we talk about how you can truly fuck up beyond belief and still walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars the better. These people are not superstar job creators, they are sociopathic schmucks embedded in a system that gives lavish rewards for failure.

  30. Mo Says:

    charluckles –

    Yeah. Inquiring minds want to know:

    Just what is the 21st century equivalent of pitchforks, tar and feathering, riding on a rail, breaking rocks, exile to Devil's Island?

    How to wrest the loot from the pirates who've siphoned off what the rest of us actually worked to earn?

    Instead of electing them to office.

  31. Robert Says:

    For some reason, I used to have the impression that private sector businesses were run with ruthless and clear-eyed efficiency. Admittedly, I'd never worked in the private sector. My husband had a corporate career before becoming a small business owner, and told me enough to completely disabuse me of that illusion. The civil service doesn't look like a bad career choice in retrospect.

  32. JustRuss Says:

    I'm not sure I buy the "Trump is a lousy businessman" meme. Sure, he was born on third base. And some of his holdings have gone bankrupt, but he's still rich, which is the whole point of LLCs and bankruptcy laws. You take some chances and the failures, hopefully, are outweighed by your successes.

    I'm not saying he is a good businessman, just that the fact that a few of the businesses he's involved with went under may not mean that much. The fact that Solyndra failed doesn't mean that the entire DOE loan program was a boondoggle.

    Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I wish to be, an expert on Trump's business history.

  33. Lawrence Says:

    "Under Cain's leadership, Godfather's closed approximately 200 restaurants and eliminated several thousand jobs, and by doing so returned to profitability." Wiki.
    And Mitt, well, we all know that story.

  34. Deggjr Says:

    "…as soon as she stops being a blank onto which the base can project their hopes, she'll be out."

    Whatever happened to Fred Thompson anyway?

  35. Older Says:

    Justruss: I have read that Mr Trump's wealth would be the same today if he had invested it all in a well-run mutual fund. That doesn't sound like he's good at anything but making others pay for his fun.

  36. Skippper Says:

    @JustRuss

    Yes, Trump may be personally wealthy, but that "success" came from a lot of other people who were devastated by his bad business decisions. He has left a trail of gutted businesses, unemployed people, debt being satisfied by other people who didn't benefit from it, etc. The businesses that he tanked meant an awful lot to the people who are unemployed, creditors who got stiffed, communities that were adversely impacted, etc.

    Isn't it interesting that he can invoke bankruptcy laws and walk away a billionaire, while some poor schmuck who made a bad decision by borrowing money to go to a fly-by-night "college" will never be able to do anything but pay back every single penny he or she borrowed — even if that means garnishing his Social Security check.

  37. Andrew Says:

    @Skippper: Isn't there a law which requires you to pay back a certain percentage of your income for a certain number of years toward your student loans, after which the balance is forgiven? This was not in effect when I borrowed in the mid-1980s, but I borrowed a modest sum at a good rate and paid it back in 11 years without struggling.

  38. Barry Says:

    Two things – first, the amounts you would have borrowed back then would be rather small, even at an 'expensive' college, and they'd have been small compared to then-current wages. Most people don't really realize just how much even 'cheap' colleges cost these days.

    Second, those programs have stern limitations, *and* have to be periodically renewed by Congress (they've been questioning these). Your credit report would still reflect (say) $50K in unsecured debt, so getting a mortgage would be very hard.

    Third, if and when you were 20 years down the road, and the programs still existed, you'd have to pay taxes on that forgiven balance, because that's considered income. This could easily mean a tax bill for a year based on twice your actual income.

    The scamblogs, criticizing law schools, have gone into this in great detail.

  39. Barry Says:

    The biggest thing with Trump is that on four occasions he's walked away with fat pockets, while those who did business with him took the losses.

    I'd rather not have any official with that skill set.

  40. JustRuss Says:

    @ Barry

    You make a good point. That may make him a good business man(for some definitions of "good"), but not a good leader.

  41. Rich Says:

    I decided that I like Trump. Don't get me wrong, he's a buffoon, and not in any way qualified to be president. But, he is bringing the real conservative base to center stage for all the world to see. Anyone who has skimmed through a comment thread on a conservative website knows what hateful, racist, selfish, ignorant assholes they are. (See, for example, the article from Fox "News" about the death of Jake Brewer.) I'm hoping that enough of the country is paying close attention to them as they continue to reveal their true colors. I'm hoping the country then turns the sociopaths who represent them out of office. Maybe this leads to the end of any significant influence of the Tea Party. I have to optimistic about something.

  42. Rich Says:

    Mitt Romney ran quite a few businesses into the ground. Bain's model was to find cash rich businesses, load them up with debt (while extracting the cash) and hoping their new owners could pay off the debt. He never really ran a business is th tardition sense of his father at American Motors.

  43. Xynzee Says:

    @Rich: the problem with your theory is that there are just 2.5 camps.
    The first are those who already look at this and think "Holy Shit!!"
    The second are those who look at this and feel vindicated.
    The half camp are those who encourage it for their own gain.

    Regarding Mittens, hadn't thought about it this way. Wasn't his father the last president of AMC?
    Apple doesn't fall far from the tree? Though I don't think his father was intentional about it.

  44. Sam240 Says:

    @Xynzee – " Wasn't his father the last president of AMC?"

    Not at all. AMC was doing very well when George Romney left in 1962. The company itself lasted until 1988, when it was bought by Chrysler.

  45. Xynzee Says:

    @ Sam240: thank you for the correction.

  46. Fiddlin Bill Says:

    "This time around they seem content to gravitate toward candidates who seem more like actors playing – overplaying, actually – the role of Greedy Businessman." The GOP has favored actors since the Gipper.

  47. Rich Says:

    I'm different from the "Rich" who talked about Trump who I think is just an example of the "loophole" economy (much like Uber but with more knowledge of bankruptcy law). Romney Senior kept AMC afloat during the late 50s after the death of George Mason by adapting the company to compact cars and make creative use of old platforms and other manufacturers' components. That's knowing how to actually rebuild a business, as opposed to sucking the cash out of it.

  48. Brian M Says:

    In defense of Cain, when the basic product (cardboard crust pizza with mediocre toppings) is so poor to begin with, then closing stores may be necessary.

    Just like it is a tragedy for the several hundred workers in North Carolina, but should the marketplace otherwise mourn the closure of a Miller brewery? Or the Mitsubishi plant that Ed featured a week or so ago?

  49. Steve in the ATL Says:

    @Katydid:

    While attacking Obama for being born in Hawaii, they completely ignored the fact that McCain was born in Panama….

  50. Andrew Says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Actually, they attacked Obama for allegedly NOT being born in Hawaii. This was false. McCain was indeed born in Panama, but since his parents were US citizens at the time of his birth, he can claim US citizenship by birth under US law. Of course, I'm not a lawyer, nor a nativist, nor a McCain supporter, but McCain would appear eligible.

  51. Katydid Says:

    @Steve, in addition to what Andrew said, McCain's father was in the Navy and stationed in Panama when McCain was born, meaning he likely was born on a military base (that is, US soil for government purposes) and is therefore a natural-born US citizen. I'm no McCain fan, but I believe he's a US citizen by birth.

    @Andrew; one of the more psychotic arguments I heard about Obama was that his mother was only 19 when he was born, and therefore couldn't qualify as "an American citizen of at least four years" because she had only been a legal adult for a year. Of course, this ignores the fact that her own parents were American citizens by birth, as were her grandparents, but there's no reasoning with the insane.

  52. Andrew Says:

    @Katydid: I heard that McCain was NOT born in the Canal Zone, but he may indeed have been born on a US base. But even if not, his parents' US citizenship would confer citizenship on him at birth, so it's a non-issue. As for Obama's mother having been too young, at the time of his birth, to have been a US citizen for four years, this is patently absurd. US citizenship conferred by birthright is conferred AT BIRTH. So the argument might possibly hold water had she been less than four years old, but three-year-olds don't bear children. Even then, I would argue that the four years' requirement only applies to those over that age at the relevant time.

  53. "Rich" Says:

    Hey, man, who you calling "Rich"? How do we know you're not "Rich" while just pretending to be Rich.

  54. Major Kong Says:

    @Robert

    "For some reason, I used to have the impression that private sector businesses were run with ruthless and clear-eyed efficiency. "

    When I was in the military I used to think "The corporate world can't be this screwed up. They have to make a profit!"

    Then I left the military for the corporate world and found that it was the exact same people just wearing different suits.

  55. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Apparently Fiorina is determined to push back hard against anyone who suggests that her tenure at HP was anything but a resounding success. That should turn out well.

  56. Skepticalist Says:

    The first thing a businessman should do if he were to become President, is to forget running the country like a business. Seriously, how many businessmen have become Presidents? Not many.

    The GOP debaters have been so infantile that they make Wayne Lapierre look contemplative. "Oh yeah?" while stomping one's feet is not debate.

  57. Beleck Says:

    for anyone to say anything good about St. Reagan is beyond any humane concept. the destruction St. Reagan accomplished is on a par with Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. any mass murderer, more or less. the destruction of this country, selling it off to business and going down the path of Neo Liberalism/Austerity, screwing the Poor to reward the Rich, The Greed is Good aphorism, well. there is a place called Somalia for all those who think St. Reagan had any good qualities, much less remained a "human' person.St. Reagan symbolizes the destruction of The American Society. the cabal who pushed St. Reagan on the world are still ruining the world. lest anyone forget.

    such mindless, antisocial, psychopathic entities, of which St. Reagan is the "role model: for one or any of the latest Republican versions, boggles the mind. Evil like St. Reagan proves there is no God. God, to allow such comments to go unchallenged, is beyond belief. Geez, what mindlessness. St. Reagan is proof ignorance is not to bliss. mere mortals could not abide the evil St. Reagan unleashed upon the Nation and the World. Gosh, the mind recoils just at the thought of anything good coming from the Right Wing Crazies unleashed by St. Reagan's reign of terror. Even Goldwater warned us about the Religious Right St. Reagan fostered upon all of us in his destruction of American values, for the price of greed. where everything is for sale and nothing has any value.

    Such a concept.!!!! St. Reagan being anything other than evil incarnate.

    talk about being worse than the Taliban, Al Queda, ISIS, and Al Nusra and all the rest of the so called "evil" unleashed throughout history. St. Reagan was the "Great Communicator" who sold America and the World to the Antisocial Psychopaths running the world today. planting the seeds of destruction that all will succumb to, as we 40 years later. Blame it all on St. Reagan for selling to the stupid, ignorant white Americans. Few deserve such blasphemy as St. Reagan does.

    Sow the wind and Reap the whirlwind.

  58. Lori Says:

    Deggjr Says:

    Whatever happened to Fred Thompson anyway?

    Fred is slinging what they call "reverse mortgages" on the channels between the channels that they have on non-cable TV now.

  59. Michael Says:

    I have become convinced that the GOP base honestly just hates America and wants it to suffer terribly. The combination of charisma and obvious malice Trump displays sells well, and Fiorina is a fine second-best token.

  60. Andrew Says:

    I thought attacking your political opponents' patriotism was a right-wing tactic.

  61. Brian M Says:

    Nah. It's universal. Particularly when you political opponents latch onto neoConfederate nonsense and other crap which make their patriotism worthy of being questioned.

  62. Andrew Says:

    I'd prefer a level of discourse in which it was assumed that everyone loves their country and wants what's best for it but differs on how to measure this and, once measured, how best to achieve it. Of course, there really is no single policy that is "best for America," because America consists of disparate socioeconomic groups with differing interests. I'm mainly a worker, but each paycheck I put some money away and thus am becoming an owner, and by the time I retire in 17 years, I will be a retiree and an owner and not a worker at all. Even if I could be sure which policies were best for each of these three groups, which I can't, I belong (or will belong) to all of them, so how to choose a policy?

    Accusing your opponent of hating America is like racism. It's easy, it stings,and your opponent can't really disprove it, but it doesn't really accomplish anything.

  63. Benny Lava Says:

    It's time for me to remind everyone that the last two businessmen presidents America elected were george w bush and Herbert Hoover. You know, the guys who brought you the Great Depression and the Great Recession. All the greats. Thanks business guy presidents. If only there were more of them.

  64. Robert Says:

    Benny Lava – to be fair here, given what Hoover walked into he would have had to have been both more competent and less blinkered by ideology to have done much better. And he was damn competent. I'm just grateful that Al Smith lost that election, or the Democratic Party (and American Catholics) would have been blamed for the Crash.

    Shrub, of course, had the Reverse Midas Touch, and was as good a President as he had been a businessman.

  65. Syrbal/Labrys Says:

    That horrid little hedge fund manager now managing a pharmaceutical company who raised prices from $13-$750 per pill would, by this unfortunate logic, be the perfect presidential candidate next time around!