Who Is That Dame & Why Is She on TV?

Brooklyn, N.Y. — Part of my Sunday routine is yelling at the television set while reading The New York Times.

The Times part is an American tradition; the yelling is always at David Gregory, hapless replacement for Tim Russert as host of Meet the Press . I suspect weekly that Gregory is a Trojan horse planted at NBC News to faithfully ask questions every Sunday that were scripted Saturday night by Roger Ailes, the brains of Fox News.

You think I'm paranoid? Alright, then explain why she was there again on Meet the Press yesterday (Sunday, February 17)?

She? Yes, Carly Fiorina — former Fox News employee — was back, for at least her fourth visit to Meet the Press . Her role? Political analyst.

Political? I know! Weird, right?

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has a new career as a political analyst.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has a new career as a political analyst.

Although a lifelong businesswoman, Carly gets few gigs anymore as a biz analyst after being fired from Hewlett-Packard, where the company's stock price dropped 50 percent on her watch as she feuded with the board of directors, engineered a catastrophic merger with Compaq, fired 28,000 people in order to meet quarterly targets, and eventually was named Portfolio magazine's “19th worst CEO of all time,” although departing with a golden parachute big enough ($42 million) to float a school of sperm whales safely to earth.

Repeat performances
So, how does La Fiorina rate repeat appearances on the most prestigious Sunday political talk show? What qualifies a woman who once said, “I'm a lifelong registered Republican but I haven't always voted, and I will provide no excuse for it. You know, people die for the right to vote… I didn't. Shame on me.”

Fiorina's entire political curriculum vitae, outside of guest shots on Meet the Press , is her run for US Senate last year, a $25 million campaign that she lost by 10 points to Barbara Boxer.

But maybe I'm quibbling. It's not unusual in America for voters to elect candidates with fairly thin resumés: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, even President Obama.

But the key word here, perhaps, is “elect.” Carly Fiorina, an admitted non-voter who barely paid scant heed to politics until she joined the ranks of the jobless, has just that one lonesome run for public office. And she lost. One feels compelled to insist: Why is this dame on TV?

Perhaps because she represents women in a male-dominated medium? Maybe… except, well, there's Oprah. Besides, Carly doesn't seem to be that much on Oprah's (and most women's) side of things. On issues like equal pay for equal work, abortion rights, offshoring American jobs, tax fairness, and — ironically — unemployment, her positions don't deviate from the largely misogynist GOP party line. She once accused old folks living on pension benefits of being so “rich” that they deny opportunity to needy jobseekers, like her.

Perhaps her Sunday-morning status derives from being “the first-ever civilian Vice Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.” Or did she get this figurehead job because her net worth is $121 million? The importance of this position is perhaps best measured by the fact that on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, it doesn't exist.

OK, one other possibility: Maybe she's on TV because she's witty, articulate, imaginative, vivacious?

Have you heard her talk?

One of my journalistic beefs about David Gregory is that he's, well, a pussycat. He'll look a hardcore political operative in the eye — say, RNC chief Reince Priebus or Democratic pit viper David Plouffe. Then, he'll loft a softball question, yielding a barrage of “talking points” that are on their 12th trip around the talk-TV guitar. The fact that these platitudes are oversimplifications, red herrings, or outright lies makes little impression on Gregory. He simply smirks handsomely and takes a grip on his next softball. No damage. No insight.

Amateur status
This is why Carly Fiorina makes such a lovely guest. She's still a rank political amateur. But, as a boardroom veteran and PowerPoint virtuoso, she's great at memorizing bullet points and sticking to them like a sandbur on a sweatsock. And, of course, as the author of an autobiography on how to succeed brilliantly in business while getting tossed out on your ear, she's a past master at dissembling with a straight face.

Which she did once more on Sunday when she said, “Key fact No. 1, the sequester was created by the Obama administration.” Of course, Gregory made no challenge to this much-challenged claim (see John Boehner, August 1, 2011), and La Fiorina — her party's duty done — rested on her laurels, offering naught but ladylike small talk for the rest of the show.

She'll be back.

2 comments on “Who Is That Dame & Why Is She on TV?

  1. Ford Kanzler
    February 27, 2013

    Best guess is the show had two other guests cancel and they were in a jam.

  2. David Benjamin
    March 2, 2013

    Good guess, and possibly true. However, as I was applying due diligence to my task of trashing Carly, I found at least three “Meet the Press” transcripts featuring La Fiorina. It seems pathetic for “Meet the Press” to regard Carly as its Number One substitute teacher as long as Zbigniew Brzezynski and Pee Wee Herman are out there, desperate for facetime.


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