Carly Fiorina came to Atlanta on Tuesday and, as day follows night, had an outrageous statement by Donald Trump to address.
The two may be the only business executives in the presidential race, but their similarities stop there. So it was not surprising to hear Fiorina dismiss Trump’s Monday call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” which she likened to saying, “I don’t have a plan (to defeat ISIS) so let me talking about violating the Constitution here somehow.”
But Trump’s proposal is as opportunistic as it is wrong-headed. Trump is seizing on the fears of a nation told repeatedly, and against all evidence, by its president that the current strategy against radical Islamists is working. It’s the same playbook the billionaire has used on immigration, trade and any other issue he can demagogue thanks to the failures of Republicans and Democrats alike.
So what I really wanted to hear from Fiorina, and from the other GOP candidates before and during their next debate on Tuesday, is how she perceives this fear and would address it. Here’s what I heard:
“I think Americans — I know I feel this way; that’s why I’m running for president — feel as though we’re losing something important, and we’re missing something.
“I think what people feel like we’re losing is the sense of limitless possibility that’s always defined this nation. We always knew that if something were important to do … we would get it together and do it. And we also knew that if something were hard to do, even better: We would figure out how to do it. Because we’re the most entrepreneurial and innovative and smartest and hardest-working nation in the world. And we just knew that the possibilities for our children and our grandchildren were even greater than the possibilities for ourselves. And yet we don’t know that anymore.
“And I think when the world seems like it’s going crazy, and when it feels like we’re losing something and missing something, what does it feel like we’re missing? Leadership. Common sense. Good judgment. Plain talk.”
I’d give Fiorina a solid “B” for that answer. There’s a good bit of platitude and cliche in there — and don’t judge it by its lack of specific actions, because those came later in the speech — but there are also a couple of very important truths.
It’s been a while since our elected leaders have gotten it together and done what needed to be done. The hallmark law of this president’s tenure, Obamacare, is slowly falling apart. The void we left behind in Iraq threatens to swallow up the Middle East, drag us back into conflict and spark homegrown terrorism in our own communities. Reforming our immigration and tax laws are campaign staples because no one is willing to lead on the issues between campaigns.
Forget the “vision thing” we once sought in a president; what this country needs after the last 15-plus years are leaders with character, decency and basic competence. Until someone with those traits steps forward, we’ll continue to see far too many people settle for someone ready to spin their fears into anger.