When Carly Fiorina ran for Senate from California back 2010, her campaign was so hapless, that I didn’t even much pay attention to it. She ran against Barbara Boxer — always a bit of a climb for the idiots down in the southern part of the state — in a great year for Republicans, and she still managed to lose by 10 percentage points. The main thing I knew about her was that she had had a terrible career in business. But apparently, in the business world, there is no such thing as failure, so she ran around acting like she was some great hero.
But Friday morning, I was reading Paul Krugman, Fantasies and Fictions at GOP Debate. It’s a good article, but I was shocked by something he wrote in passing, “Oh, and if her life is a story of going from ‘secretary to CEO,’ mine is one of going from mailman to columnist and economist. Sorry, working menial jobs while you’re in school doesn’t make your life a Horatio Alger story.” It shocked me because I had taken that whole story at face value. It’s one of her big selling points: meritocracy and all that — she started at the bottom!
So I turned to Wikipedia. She wasn’t some lower middle class girl who went on to make it big. She wasn’t even an ordinary middle (or upper-middle or upper) class girl who went on to make it big. Her father was Joseph Tyree Sneed III. He was dean of the Duke University School of Law before becoming a justice on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was at least a law professor from the time that Carly was three years old. These are all indicative of the kind of childhood that creates successful people. Freedom from want and exposure to the best that our society offers are what we should strive to provide for all children — but don’t.
Now, I’m not putting down Fiorina for this. It’s great that she had this kind of life growing up. But she’s lying about her career — in a big and calculated way. In 1976, she got her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford — a school her father taught at from 1962 to 1971 — I wonder if that helped her get admitted?! She then got a Master’s degree in business (What else?!) from University of Maryland. From there, she went straight into a management trainee program at AT&T.
So where does all this business about “secretary to CEO” come from? Well, after she got her undergraduate degree, she headed down to UCLA to study law. I guess she was gonna be like her old man. But after one semester, she decided it wasn’t for her. So she got a job as a secretary for a real estate brokerage. She had it for six months — I assume until she could start another academic year. So basically: it was a summer job. I’m sure there are lots of people born rich who could similarly claim that they went from “waiter to CEO.”
What’s so terrible about this is that there have been people who have worked their way up in this way — although I know of none in such a spectacular way as Fiorina implies. And that makes it that much worse. She was never one of those people who started at the bottom. She started on the management track and did what was expected of her.
She really is a vile human being. A great social conservative who lies with aplomb.
Update (21 September 2015 8:46 am)
According to Melinda Henneberger, “She worked only briefly in that real estate office before heading off to Italy for a year with her first husband, Todd Bartlem.” So she didn’t go straight off to the University of Maryland. Instead, like poor Americans everywhere, she took a year off to live in Europe.