Carly Fiorina and the History of the $10 Bill

Carly FiorinaI didn’t pay as close attention as I should to of last night’s debate. Who am I kidding? I shouldn’t have paid any attention to it. Other than Trump who was hilarious — and I mean that mostly in a good way — it was really aggravating. But probably the worst of the night was Carly Fiorina. At first she seemed really prepared — very corporate. I could see how she did well in that world. But she quickly slipped on that account. And the content of what she said was just ignorant and crazy. I’m talking Ted Cruz’s dad level of ignorant and crazy.

She said something that blew me away. She mentioned that in the Planned Parenthood “sting” video was “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.” I literally couldn’t believe my ears. I figured that I had to have misheard it. Certainly, I would have known about such a thing. And she wouldn’t say something that was utterly wrong. It was only much letter when I asked someone on Twitter and was referred to a Sarah Kliff article that was written in response, Carly Fiorina Is Wrong About the Planned Parenthood Tapes. I Know Because I Watched Them.

This is the right wing echo chamber in action. Fiorina made a point of mentioning that President Obama should watch all 12 hours of the video. This seems calculated to me. She’s sending out that the message that what people have seen isn’t nearly as bad as it gets. It’s really bad in those 12 hours. But she knows that almost no one is going to watch the videos. And certainly, there isn’t a Sarah Kliff at Fox News putting out an article telling conservatives that actually this isn’t true. That would make the ridiculous amount of time and demagoguery spent on the Planned Parenthood issue seem stupid.

Hamilton is a fairly recent addition to the $10 bill.

There was another Fiorina moment that really struck me. That was when the candidates were asked what woman they would like to see on the $10 bill. Just as Ben Carson can say things that the white Republicans have a hard time with, Fiorina can say things that the men have a hard time with. So she said, “I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or the $20 bill. I think honestly it’s a gesture. Don’t think it helps to change our history.” Of course, this makes no sense at all.

First, history is continuing on. Just because Hamilton isn’t going to be on the $10 bill, doesn’t mean we are erasing him for history. If the United States exists for the next 10,000 years (which I’m sure most conservatives believe), maybe Ronald Reagan would be seen as the father of our country. There wouldn’t be much difference in time from that vantage point between Washington and Reagan. So to equate changing who’s on our money with changing history is just stupid.

But more than that, Hamilton is a fairly recent addition to the $10 bill. Now, it can get confusing to talk about paper currency. There are Demand Notes and Treasury Notes and silver certificates — to name but a few. But taken all together, there have been over a dozen people featured on the $10 bill — including Pocahontas and Lewis and Clark. Currency changes over time.

This is one thing that really bugs me. People are so ignorant of history. It isn’t even the point of not knowing what has happened before. That is somewhat forgivable, given that so much happened before. But most people I run into have no idea that anything has ever changed. Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 bill now so he must always have been on it. It’s nonsense. But when public figures — people who want to be president — show this same ignorance, it’s stunning. Fiorina should have been laughed off the stage. But instead, I’ll bet that most conservatives were cheering, “Right on! Screw those PC people who were changing the $10 bill every couple of years in the 1860s!”

The initial reaction seems to be that Fiorina “won” the debate. But I think she showed herself to be at least as bad as Donald Trump. In the Republican field, however, they are two of a kind: ignorant but forceful. And that’s what passes for knowledge in the Republican Party.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

11 thoughts on “Carly Fiorina and the History of the $10 Bill

  1. I have read about the history of the Secret Service which had a section on the development of American currency. Fun fact: we once had about 1,500 different types of paper money before the utterly ridiculous Knox v Lee decision that allowed greenbacks to be circulated. But I rarely expect most Americans to have read much history, very few historians are entertaining writers and American is a forward looking country.

    What my problem with what she said is that “it does not change our history.” Actually it changes a lot. It means that little girls get to see that women are equally respected. That we have a place in public life. And that one day, we can be honored as much as men are. Which means there will be more women who are more engaged with the public process and run for office themselves, work towards being major company CEOs and so on. It seems like a minor change but little things like that can have a major impact.

    • There isn’t enough info on Wikipedia for me to really understand Knox v Lee. But it seems to me that Hepburn v Griswold was part of the long history of the Supreme Court getting in the way of anything getting done. But I really don’t much understand any of it. It makes my brain hurt.

      I think what Fiorina was implying with that comment was that changing the person on the $10 bill would be like telling a lie about our past. But it goes back to this idea that conservatives have that history is this thing that exists. I don’t much like the idea of actual people on the money at all. I’m not immune to hero worship (I’m very fond of Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft — two of the great exponents of flaming rhetoric.) but we do far too much of it in this nation. I did like the suggest (Was it by Ted Cruz?!) that we leave Hamilton and get rid of Jackson. As for who would go on the bill itself, I’m terrible at making decisions. But I would prefer to get rid all the guys on the bills and have some rendering of important events and movements: women’s suffrage movement, Civil Rights movement, American Indian Movement, Signing of the Constitution, the adoption of the 14th Amendment.

      • It’s like James Loewen said — there’s a ton of heritage for white Southerners to be hugely proud of. People who risked their lives and sometimes died opposing slavery/segregation; they came from the South, they were part of the South, they embodied everything the South should celebrate. Condemning the Confederate flag doesn’t mean condemning oneself as a southern Caucasian; you can choose to identify with the bravest opponents of white privilege.

        We could do the same with American pride; we’ve had some great Americans. It’s a shame that people cling to some of the lousiest.

        • You are quite right. But I know there is a reason that people can’t accept that. I think it has to do with what the institution was doing. There were a lot of people from the south who were involved in the underground railroad, for example. But looking at it from a national perspective, it is interesting that we use “my country wrong or right” to constantly justify wrong. Of course, as I’ve talked about a lot, the quote specifically refers to the liberal aspirations model of patriotism: if it is wrong, to set it right. But I don’t know; people just want to pretend that we’ve never done anything wrong.

          • I don’t know. It’s hard to fathom why we can’t be proud of the good things instead of the rotten ones. It has something to do with the LBJ quote about telling people they’re better than someone else and they won’t notice you stealing from them. Because I’ve never felt accepted or part of any group, I’ve never understood this. And I don’t see members of privileged groups loving each other very much, so it’s hard to grasp the appeal. Maybe rich people who constantly compete for status at least confirm each others’ biases that they’re better than poor people? It seems a miserable way of making oneself happy.

            Oh well. I’ve been fighting with health insurance issues today. (Yes, I’m covered, no, that means nothing, and it’s not life-threatening, just bad teeth.) I probably need to crank up some Lee Greenwood and get with the program.

            • Yes, be proud to be an American dying of an abscessed tooth! I think I’m going to have to take a trip down to Mexico to afford all the dental work I need. Good luck with that.

      • I teach a class on Sovereign Citizens. And even I just use some dude’s explanation of Knox v Lee because it is a masterpiece of gobblygook created to justify something that was needed but was technically illegal. One of the rare times that SCOTUS was not standing in the way.

        I want a woman on the bill because I want us ladies’ contributions to this nation recognized on something that will be used by regular people. But I understand not having someone on the bill.

        • Well, we could do another couple of hundred years with just women and then switch to my scheme. I want to be fair.

          Have you read Ian Millhiser’s Injustices? It doubtless wouldn’t be that educational to you, but all the stuff about the Court against labor unions was really enlightening to me.

          • No but I will toss it on the list. My favorite era was the Earl Warren era. If there was ever someone who wanted to make up for his mistakes of the past, he was it.

            • Yeah, he deals with that brief period that a lot of us grew up during where we thought the Court was a force for good. Silly us. BTW: Millhiser is also just an excellent writer. If he wrote a novel, I would read it.

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