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Carly Fiorina’s latest book, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey, was released in May. She’s already written a bestselling autobiography, so this isn’t one. It’s part update and part manifesto — as one would expect from a book tied to a presidential bid. As might be expected, it suffers somewhat from the defects of the genre. Still, it’s short, punchy, and gives you the essence of what a Fiorina presidency would be about: unlocking human potential and, as a part of that, dismantling bureaucracies. Puncturing politics-as-usual balloons. It’s a well-crafted message, delivered with panache and the extreme message discipline she exhibits when addressing The View, CPAC, or Chris Matthews.
There is some biz-speak witchdoctory in her discussions of technology and globalization, although she recognizes that they “are inexorable and unstoppable, in part because, despite all the disruption they cause, they also satisfy the basic human desire for lives of more opportunity and more control.” She conjures up her DMVP Big Idea (Digital, Mobile, Virtual, Personal) or her Leadership Framework. (With diagrams!) But she pulls it together in an appealing way:
America’s decline is neither necessary nor inevitable. Our wounds are all self-inflicted, our problems are all solvable, out potential and possibilities are as vast as they have ever been. We need different politics, different policies, and different leaders.
Politics like hers, policies like hers, and leadership like hers, obviously. That is, after all, the point of the book.
Fiorina writes about bureaucracies in an interesting way:
The people of government are not incompetent. However, a large, ponderous bureaucracy, bound by rules, defined by hierarchy, is necessarily incompetent in the DMVP age. Bureaucracies literally cannot keep pace with the speed of change, the ubiquitous nature of information, or the complexity of the problems they are asked to solve. Bureaucracies were invented to maintain control. The twenty-first century cannot be controlled. It can be leveraged and harnessed, but it cannot be controlled. Only ingenuity, flexibility, and creativity can prevail. And bureaucracies – by their nature – kill all these things.
The final chapter is where she really makes her pitch. It’s clear that she has thought long and hard — and with clarity — about how to get stuff done in Washington.
Would Carly Fiorina make a good President of the United States? I think so. Would she make a good general election candidate? Who can say. As she points out, the mendacious “war on women” rhetoric did significant damage to her senatorial campaign, so being a woman is no defence against that canard. And of course, she’s actually done things in the real world, and is vulnerable because she’s actually made decisions and taken actions that had consequences.
She certainly has an attractive way of communicating and a vision for the transformation of Washington. It would be a great pity to lose those from the public square.