A scrapper with true grit, Carly Fiorina took the stage at the Reagan Presidential Library for the second GOP debate and drew her sword. Brit Hume and a whole host of male pundits criticized Fiorina’s failure to smile noting that she came across as too aggressive and lacking humor.
Geez boys. I find nothing humorous about mutilating babies to harvest their organs, the national debt, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Putin’s incursions into Syria, the growing Islamic Caliphate, drug addiction and the culture of corruption in politics. How about coming to terms with the fact that she had to show her toughness on stage?
On six morning talk shows today Fiorina said, “This is going to be a fight. If you can’t fight on a debate stage, you can’t stand up and fight for the American people.” She went on to say, “It’s only a woman whose appearance would be talked about when running for president—never a man.” She added, “The point is, women are half this nation. Women are half the potential of this nation. Still somehow we spend a lot of time talking about women’s appearance instead of their qualifications.” [Damn right.]
John Podhoretz praised her performance noting, “At almost any moment that she managed to seize time to speak—and she was compelled by the structure of the debate to interrupt repeatedly to get that time—she knocked it out of the park.”
One über-liberal pundit wrote, "If you right wingers get your act together and nominate Carly, you win."
Byron York, writing for The Washington Examiner felt Carly had four “big moments” in the debate.
The first came when Fiorina turned a meandering conversation about Vladimir Putin into a crisp recitation of what a new commander in chief should do about Russian aggression:
"What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States. I'd probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message. By the way, the reason it is so critically important that every one of us know General Soleimani's name is because Russia is in Syria right now, because the head of the Quds force traveled to Russia and talked Vladimir Putin into aligning themselves with Iran and Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad."
"We could rebuild the Sixth Fleet. I will. We haven't. We could rebuild the missile defense program. We haven't. I will. We could also, to Senator Rubio's point, give the Egyptians what they've asked for, which is intelligence. We could give the Jordanians what they've asked for, bombs and materiel. We have not supplied it. I will. We could arm the Kurds. They've been asking us for three years. All of this is within our control."
Fiorina had packed more policy prescriptions into one brief statement—all while throwing in a dig at Donald Trump with the reference to knowing "General Soleimani's name"—than any other candidate onstage could muster.
Any other campaign might have dispatched spinners to celebrate the moment. But Fiorina was just getting started. Next came an epic and out-of-the-blue connection of two of the issues about which there is a lot of agreement among Republicans—Iran's nuclear ambitions and the scandal over Planned Parenthood's sale of body parts. How to put those two together?
"I would like to link these two issues. One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation. You have not heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here, here is my plan. On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel."
"The second, to the supreme leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system."
"We can do that; we don't need anyone's cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States in America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies."
"As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us."
The power of Fiorina's presentation simply knocked out a lot of viewers. Conservative writer Mollie Hemingway, who has been pressing the media to pay more attention to the Planned Parenthood videos, was left nearly speechless, tweeting "THANK YOU CARLY. THANK YOU CARLY. THANK YOU CARLY."
But Fiorina's most intense big moment was still to come—and it was by far the briefest. Everyone knew that Donald Trump's insults about Fiorina's looks—the "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?" quote from Trump in a recent Rolling Stone article—would come up in the debate. It did, when moderator Jake Tapper read it to Fiorina and noted Trump's explanation that he was not talking about Fiorina's actual face but rather her "persona."
"Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona," Tapper said to Fiorina. Referring to an earlier spat between Trump and Jeb Bush over a Bush statement about women's health, Fiorina answered:
"You know, it's interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."
Fiorina's answer took just a few seconds, but it knocked Trump flat—something that has not happened in any debate, or any other campaign event, so far. Trump, who has made it a habit not to apologize for attacks and to double down when challenged, surrendered completely. But he managed to do it in a way that did him no good at all. "I think she's got a beautiful face," Trump said, "and I think she's a beautiful woman." Did anyone believe that? And wasn't he still saying her appearance is an issue?
Finally, Fiorina lapped the field when Tapper asked the candidates to suggest a woman to put on the $10 bill. Most of the men onstage were unprepared for the question. When the question came to the only woman on the stage, Fiorina rejected its premise.
Four big moments in one debate. No other candidate had that.
Carly Fiorina Slams Hillary Clinton
According to Fiorina’s 2015 memoir, her stepdaughter, Lori, died in 2009 after struggling with alcohol, prescription pills and bulimia. She was just 35.