In a year where it is hard to keep track of the stupendous volume of political insanity inflicted on and by the American people, let us give the utter shamelessness in self-promotion and desperation that was the Cruz-Fiorina “ticket” its deserved due consideration as a truly historical anomaly in a year full of redefining what that word means.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse May 8/9, 2016
AMMAN — I must confess, in a race full of unprecedented behavior, I was still shocked that a distant second place candidate in the Republican presidential nomination race—one who was mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of delegates from the primary/caucus process, from winning the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention—would name a running-mate for the vice president slot with about one-third of the time still left in the contest and months before the convention, long before anyone else had ever done so during our modern nomination process.
Then again, since the chutzpah of both Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina knows no bounds, I really should not have been surprised that either Cruz named Fiorina as his “running mate” even though he is not even close to being his party’s candidate, and that she, of all people, would accept.
Pride As a Vice
This amazing duo lasted one week—just one week exactly—before Cruz gave up his quest for the presidency. After just seven days of existence, the Cruz-Fiorina ticket was no more, and Fiorina now has the record for the shortest vice presidential candidacy in U.S. history.
It is worth examining this exceptional piece of desperation political theater because it is truly a singularity in terms of its sheer absurdity and inanity.
Short-lived though the ticket was may be, the two are truly perfect for each other: along with Donald Trump, they are by far the most shameless, dishonest self-promoters of this election cycle. In case you might be under the incorrect assumption that they are not the most shameless self-promoters out of over twenty candidates in both parties (apart from Trump), a brief education is in order below.
First up: Ted Cruz.
Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Trump and I view his candidacy as a historically dangerous one for democracy and for Western civilization, but his “Lyin’ Ted” nickname for Cruz he came up with is about as spot-on as you can get when it comes to that man, because he lies constantly and plays dirty and deceitful politics on the campaign trail. Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact has been checking statements by Cruz since 2012, and, as of today, nearly two-thirds (64%) of his statements that it checked were categorized as mostly false (31%) or worse: false (27%), (liar liar) “pants on fire”-false (6%); only 22% were rated positively: true (6%) or mostly true (16%). His record ranks among the worst of all the candidates for this election, with only Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump having a higher portion of mostly-false statements or worse.
This is a man whom the recently-former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner just referred to as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and Boehner noted in same statement that he has “never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in…[his] life.” Reflecting Boehner’s words, it is even a widely understood piece of political insider wisdom that Ted Cruz is the most hated man in the Washington, DC political establishment (especially in the Senate), an establishment he is extremely hostile to but is also, nevertheless, something of a member of since he is one of only 100 sitting U.S. Senators; he turns on friends, he turns on his own Republican Party, he feeds off and uses skillfully delivered and amplified misinformation in the way a Sith Lord feeds off anger, all in a quest for personal power for Ted Cruz, regardless of who or what he damages in pursuit of this power. In fact, it all seems to actually be part of his plan, because he has always worn the hatred of those he deems “The Establishment” as a badge of honor, and has sold this as a badge of honor—even as part of his campaign platform—quite successfully to his supporters.
This is a man who led his followers to believe that he could use a government shutdown he personally orchestrated to (ostensibly) attempt to force a repeal of Obamacare, though this ignored basic constitutional and political realities, of which Senator Cruz is supposedly an expert. No, the real reason he engaged in such a stunt—complete with reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” in the Senate while on the taxpayer’s dime, all while blithely missing the irony in doing so—was for one reason and one reason only: to promote himself. And in this, he wildly succeeded, even as he alienated himself even more so among his Congressional colleagues and caused a damaging government shutdown that risked the United States Government defaulting on its debts, damaged his political party’s brand, cost hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors (about 850,000 people) days to weeks of pay, and caused harmful economic spillover effects to the tune of $24 billion nationally and 0.6% in national GDP growth, economic effects felt especially in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland. Moreover, this shutdown occurred even as, embarrassingly, the Syrian government was able to fully operate in the regions of Syria it controlled in the midst of a full-scale civil war. Yes, all these were acceptable casualties in Cruz’s quest to elevate himself to maximize his exposure and thus his chances for his presidential bid. If there is any doubt as to how calculated all this was, consider that Cruz was the first major candidate in either party to officially announce his candidacy in a field that would swell to over twenty individuals. He had clearly been planning for some time, and he would hardly have been unaware of the fact that the government shutdown is that for which he is most known by the American public; he sure isn’t known for his record as a legislator in the Senate, where he by far makes more noise than actually engaging in the normal tasks of being a U.S. Senator.
This is a man who has engaged in the ultimate deception on one of his signature issues: Cruz constructed what is possibly the most masterful lie in the history of American politics on immigration policy, positioning himself exquisitely carefully to be able to play both sides of the issue depending on which way the political winds blew in what may very well be the most planned (and one of the longest-running) series of political lies in American campaign history. That he did lie many, many times and manipulate over an extended period of time on this issue is not in doubt and has been meticulously documented by William Saletan at Slate.
Then there is the infamous episode I wrote about some time ago, where Cruz was booed off the stage at an even highlighting the plight of Middle Eastern Christians. Most of them are Arab, and Ted Cruz chose to open his remarks by insisting that Middle Eastern Christians first and foremost need to stick up for the Israeli state, even as it illegally occupies millions of Arab Palestinians, Christian and Muslim alike, and denies them basic human rights. Middle Eastern Christians living under forces hostile to Israel—including ISIS—would be risking their very lives speaking out in favor of Israel. This does not mean that Cruz does not have a point in the sense that as a minority in a region that generally treats minorities awfully, Christians there have a plight in common with Jews in a general historical sense, and that many anti-Israeli forces go way too far and veer into anti-Semitism, but this is not the main issue facing Christians in the Middle East at a forum dedicated to their suffering, not that of Israeli Jews and Cruz’s approach was certainly not appropriate, especially leading off with that, at that particular event. Encouraging what he encouraged was not a way to help persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and was, in fact, asking them to needlessly expose themselves to danger, up to and including death.
Ted Cruz is not stupid. Ted Cruz knows this. Ted Cruz didn’t care about Middle Eastern Christians. Ted Cruz knew that much of the Republican evangelical base is fervently pro-Israel to the point of being apologists for Israel’s (self-)destructive and illegal nearly-half-century occupation of Palestinian territory. Ted Cruz knew he was doing this was elevate himself in the eyes of the very people in America whose votes he needed to win in order to win his party’s nomination for the presidency. Ted Cruz was perfectly willing to use Middle Eastern Christians as a prop to help himself.
This is a man who routinely engages in dangerous demagoguery when it comes to issues related to terrorism, Muslims (including Muslims-Americans), and Islam, in a dangerous way that preys on fears and creates more division, suspicion, mistrust, and hostility than is necessary, but this has been largely overlooked to a degree because of the Trump phenomenon. Yet from to ISIS to Palestinians, from San Bernardino to the Iran nuclear deal (which Cruz has outrageously claimed makes “the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism”), Cruz has played a game of risky rhetorical hyperbole that deals in misleading demonization of vulnerable minorities to win political chips in order to elevate himself politically.
The lies and deceptions and destructive, selfish behavior do not begin or end here, but they are major points of a highlight reel.
This is the real Ted Cruz.
Now, to pivot to Mrs. Fiorina. Perhaps you are thinking she is better, but they are actually a match made in heaven (or hell, if you’re in Boehner’s camp).
Out of the political contenders this election cycle, only Dr. Carson, Trump, and Cruz have worse records on PolitiFact than Fiorina. For Fiorina, 55% of her reviewed statements were at least mostly false (23%) or worse: false (23%), (liar liar) “pants on fire”-false (9%); only 28% were rated at least mostly true (14%) or true (14%). Math might have eliminated them from getting a majority of delegates from the voting contests, but it sure makes them close in terms of lying.
In fact, as I have noted before, most of the two pillars that are together the entire premise of her presidential campaign (all of one and part of another) are based on falsehoods.
For one thing, she has the gall to run on her record as a corporate executive at Lucent and as the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company at Hewlett Packard (HP), but she was instrumental in destroying both companies, facts which do not stop her from spinning her record to absurd lengths to shamefully duck from her clear responsibility in both historic business collapses. As I wrote of her time at Lucent, she was either too stupid to know what was going on, which is unforgivable, or complicit in illegal and/or highly risky, highly-irresponsible business practices, which would be highly unethical and immoral. The implosion of a company ensued, costing over 100,000 people their jobs, but Carly managed to use the deceptively ostensibly false posted “success” to land her the top job at HP, leaving just before Lucent came tumbling down. With HP, she was actually in charge and helped to severely weaken the company from the most powerful position within it, for which she was fired after destroying much of the company’s value and shedding thousands of jobs. She has been noted as one of the worst CEOs in modern history repeatedly. And in each case, she made sure that her harmful business activities would be rewarded to the tunes of many millions of dollars, even as the companies she guided lost many millions of dollars in business and value. One thing (perhaps the only thing) she excelled at during her time at both Lucent and HP was self-promotion.
The other pillar of her campaign is that she is a female secretary-to-CEO success story, but this is only partially true: yes, she achieved historic success as a woman, but only worked as a secretary while she was attending college and law school, dropping out of the latter. When she later went to business school and earned her MBA, she began right after graduation at AT&T (later her section became Lucent) on a fast-track executive-level path to senior management. That is a pretty normal narrative—to work while in school in temporary administrative positions to help cover expenses/tuition while after you earn your degree you hardly start at the bottom—and is hardly the direct path from secretary to CEO that she misleadingly makes it out to be.
No wonder when Carly Fiorina ran for a U.S. Senate seat in California on the basis of her deplorable business record that voters there resoundingly rejected her.
But if having her campaign’s premises be less than truthful isn’t enough for you to put her in league with Cruz, like Cruz, she has had some of the most spectacular lies of this campaign season and has refused to back down from them despite being repeatedly confronted with overwhelming evidence that he claims have been false. I am talking especially about her despicable falsehoods she has repeatedly perpetuated regarding the women’s healthcare advocate and provider Planned Parenthood, whereby Fiorina claimed that Planned Parenthood was, in her words, utilizing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain” in video she had seen with her own eyes (so she claimed), that Planned Parenthood sells dead baby organs for profit to some kind of baby organ trafficking network. In reality, no such video exists actually linking Planned Parenthood to any such activity, she grossly mischaracterizes the video in question that according to all expert review does not seem to either be of an abortion or at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and there is zero evidence Planned Parenthood engages in the trade of fetal organs/tissue; in fact, a grand jury convened to consider charges against Planned Parenthood for illegal activity only found the activists targeting Planned Parenthood worthy of criminal investigations, not Planned Parenthood itself).
She has also levied vicious, quite mean-spirited, and grossly unfair attacks against Hillary Clinton, perhaps thinking that because she is a woman she could get away with such abuse more easily than if she were a man. In fact, apart from spinning her own business record and lying about Planned Parenthood, aside from a few debates where she “shone” by delivering one-liners with a degree of competence, and other than mixing it up with Donald Trump, hyperbolically attacking Clinton is what most characterized her short-lived presidential campaign.
This campaign did not last more than the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she finished in 7th place in both states with less than 2% and a little over 4% of the of the vote, respectively.
This is just a brief taste of the major highlights of the real Fiorina, but one that still gives you the real flavor.
Perfect for Each Other, Perfectly Unfit for Office
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
So, when you thinks about it, if Ted Cruz, who was just mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of delegates from voting contests, still fully intended to find a way to get party elites to hand him the nomination in a sheer disregard for the will of the primary/caucus participants, the idea that he would pick someone who came in 7th in two contests and then dropped out actually makes sense in Ted’s World. And if Carly Fiorina was going be willing to try to use her historically bad record as a top business executive as a reason for voters to consider her to be a U.S. Senator or the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency, then why not use her historically bad record as a political candidate for the Senate and the presidency as a reason for voters to consider her to be the Republican nominee for vice president on a ticket that would be inherently undemocratic in nature and a longshot (even at a contested convention, as I wrote earlier)?
As with his behavior concerning the shutdown, Cruz was thinking about what was good for Ted Cruz, first and foremost; and it is telling that another person who thinks like he does—primarily about herself—would accept the offer to be the vice presidential nominee on an almost certainly doomed ticket, months before any ticket had ever been formed since the modern primary/caucus system was instituted. The last time a move even remotely like this happened? Reagan’s failed, desperate attempt to edge out Gerald Ford in 1976 when he named a running mate at the end of July, three weeks before 1976 Republican convention (and three months later than Cruz, who made his move three months before this year’s convention!). Reagan, though, unlike Cruz, was not mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of delegates from voting contests when he made his announcement. Still, Reagan’s selfish gamble against an incumbent president when Ford was heavily favored helped to weaken Ford and hand the presidency over to Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party.
Gary Settle/The New York Times
We don’t know who will win the White House in November, but we do know that both Cruz and Fiorina have developed a megalomaniacal, delusional sense of self-importance and a massively inflated views of their own records that, time and time again, has allowed them in their minds to put themselves ahead of the organizations for which they are ostensibly fighting. If not mathematically, we must hope that morally and ethically this eliminates them forever from consideration for high national office, especially, but not limited to, the presidency.
Again, I am not at all a fan of Trump, but at least Trump has a record of a moderately successful businessman (if hardly a perfect one) and of getting deals done and earning the respect of many of his colleagues; Cruz is hated in the Senate (fellow Republican Senator and former presidential aspirant Lindsey Graham said that “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” and only 4 out of 53 fellow Republican senators have endorsed Cruz, 2 of them doing so very unenthusiastically), and Fiorina was fired as CEO of HP, with both Cruz and Fiorina having terrible records in their highest professional capacities as noted earlier.
Having seemingly settled on Trump, the Republican Party and its voters deserve little credit for anything these days, and yet, at least in picking Trump, they can arguably said to not have picked the very worst out of seventeen candidates (even if he is still pretty awful); at least they had the sense to pick neither Cruz nor Fiorina, who have the dubious distinctions of being two of the only candidates that can be said to be worse than Donald Trump.
Goodbye Ted and Carly (For Now)
Unfortunately, the shamelessness and egomaniacal delusion displayed by both Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina means we would only be unbelievably fortunate for this failed ticket to be their political obituaries; no, their incredible narcissism that flies in the face of their terrible records is a strong indicator that we have, unfortunately, not seen the curtain call of their political theatrics in pursuit of offices for which they are most assuredly unfit. And at least in that regard, they are in good company with many of their Republican colleagues, Trump included.
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