Sep 032010
Boxer speaking at an ACLU event.

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Did Barbara Boxer do any homework before her senatorial debate with Carly Fiorina on Wednesday? Boxer did hold her own and responded fairly well to most of Fiorina’s truth stretching assertions. But when her opponent is running on her record as a business leader, and that record earned her a place as one of the “20 Worst CEOs of all time,” the door was wide open for Boxer to clearly show what an abysmal leader Fiorina was.

Senator Boxer did take every opportunity to point out Fiorina’s woeful record on jobs, the one where she actually shipped 30,000 overseas. She even mentioned Fiorina’s very personal contribution to the American vernacular, coining the term “right-shoring,” a euphemism for firing Americans in order to send their jobs to a foreign land. Of course, Fiorina was laser focused on the “shoring” part but never really got it “right,” since as also pointed out by Boxer — Hewlett Packard lost more than 50% of its stock price under Fiorina’s control.

But Boxer missed the opportunity to elucidate how well aligned Ms. Fiorina is with the conservative extreme. She has spoken at Tea Party rallies and stated that she agrees with their views. She’s even a member of the tax-cuts-pay-for-themselves voodoo contingent of the Republican Party. Fiorina stated in a CBS interview that, “you don’t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves, if they are targeted, because they create jobs.” Never mind that even conservative economists no longer support such nonsense.

For whatever reason, Boxer also failed to support her own record for voting in favor of the Stimulus, and allowed Fiorina’s statement that it had, “manifestly failed,” to stand. Without doubt one of the easiest assertions to refute, being that the Stimulus has been a huge success by every objective measure, nevertheless Fiorina’s fact-free spin went unchallenged.

Part of the problem was the format for the debate. It allowed for response and rebuttal but provided no means for redress of erroneous claims made during a rebuttal. Fiorina used this to her advantage by using rebuttal time to introduce new points when she had no real argument for the topic at hand.

Fiorina was allowed to characterize her support of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy as good for the middle class. Boxer would have been well served to illuminate the fact that it’s Democrats who have drawn the line in the sand and support the extension for all but the top 2%. Fiorina used a similar tactic when speaking about the estate tax. Of course, she referenced it as the “death tax,” and drew alarm to the 55% rate. But where she really left the truth behind was in associating the tax with the 88,000 family farms in California. Boxer should have made sure that the facts of the matter were voiced, that the experts all agree that there’s not been a single “family farm” hit by the estate tax. She should also have added that the Democratic plan to deal with the expiring cut would lower the top rate to 45% and only apply to estates over $7 million, which would apply to .25 percent of estates.

Boxer also allowed Fiorina to demonize federal employees by associating the increase in their number with the loss of jobs in California. It would have been nice if Boxer had mentioned that the increase is almost entirely related to temporary census positions, which hit its 564,000 job high in May. Although Boxer did take advantage of the opening to hammer on Fiorina’s offshoring record one more time: she introduced Fiorina’s characterization of the recent aid bill to save teacher’s jobs as a “disgrace,” and added that Fiorina was likely opposed because, “we paid for it by stopping some tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas.”

Another well delivered blow by Boxer occurred in her rebuttal to Fiorina’s response to a question regarding the apparent conflict between her accepting a $21 million severance package and yet taking a strong position that teacher jobs should be tied to performance. Fiorina attempted to dodge the question by offering several statistics regarding HP’s growth under her tenure, failing to mention that the growth was the result of a failed merger. But Boxer responded with a body blow, stating that, “I think we are entitled to our opinion but we’re not entitled to our own facts. The facts are there was a $21 million severance check, and my understanding is that it was taken after my opponent was fired.”

But Fiorina scored points on Boxer’s legislative record. Citing the fact that only 4 bills bearing Boxer’s name have been signed into law, she asserted that Boxer was an ineffective legislator. Boxer did rebut by stating that the objective is not to get your name on legislation, and offered Senator Russ Feingold as an example, stating that the campaign finance legislation commonly known as McCain-Feingold does not bear his name. She didn’t mention that Feingold too only passed 4 bills during his tenure, or that the reason his name was missing was that it was the House version that was signed into law. The fact is that Boxer has a well-deserved reputation for carrying liberal causes as well as for working across the aisle. She needs to build a case that she can recite in a succinct manner.

As Boxer stated, Fiorina is the candidate of Big-Oil and Big-Coal. She danced around the topic of global warming, offering possibly the evening’s most twisted stretch of double-talk. According to Fiorina, the solution to global warming, “lies not with a single state taking action on its own, but rather with global action.” So, evidently there’s really no reason for any entity to take a first step until we get everyone in line to make a change. Sounds like a good capitalist position — after all we can’t address the environment and be competitive with polluters like China at the same time.

In the end, it was likely more Fiorina’s exposing herself as a died-in-the-wool capitalist Republican that will sway more votes toward Boxer than anything else. It’s difficult to understand how a politician could think it advantageous to use China as an example of how to create jobs. But of course, it’s all a part of her one-trick-pony approach to all thing economic: cut taxes and regulations and all will be well — it’s the same prescription offered by all of her Republican cronies — a race to the bottom for American workers and the environment be damned.

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