Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yearning For Fiorina

"America's Worst CEOS: Where Are They Now?"  is the title of a CBS News MoneyWatch article from April, 2012.  

Author Steve Kobak very likely would not have imagined that one of his seven would now be running for President. Less likely still did he expect that she would be boosted for the position by the first-ever cable news network.

She didn't make the cut for the only debate that really mattered, the one televised at 8:00 p.m. eastern by CNN. So they changed the rules.

Early in the debate, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina engaged in an argument- clearly won by Trump- over their business records, after which Chris Christie complained "The fact is that we don’t want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly" (report from The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, below). Jake Tapper proceeded to give Fiorina- and not Trump- a chance to respond. "The highest calling of leadership," responded one of the worst CEO's in modern American history, "is to unlock the leadership potential in others." Tapper dared not ask her how firing 30,000 people and sending the net worth of the company hurtling downward unlocked leadership potential.

The candidates were asked by Dana Bash about Planned Parenthood, to which candidates Kasich, Cruz, and Christie gave their opinions about, of course, Planned Parenthood. But Fiorina, without either logic or subtlety,  widened the scope of the question by stating "Dana, I would like to link these two issues, both of which are incredibly important, Iran and Planned Parenthood."

Having absorbed the corporate message of promoting one of the two candidates rising in the polls (the other, Ben Carson, they were not about to promote), Bash  neglected to step in and remind the candidate the question was about Planned Parenthood, not Iran.  (In Iran, abortion is strictly prohibited after the 18th week of pregnancy. In Republican plans, it would be the 20th week.)

Most of all, there was the "most predictable question," as Democratic Strategist editor Ed Kilgore recognizes, of the debate, when Fiorina was essentially asked to repeat the audio of her very effective ad of the previous week.  Sharp enough to recognize a set-up, Fiorina responded "You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." It was a response as predictable as the question, and as effective as a question designed to elicit a stirring soundbite.

And if as to confirm that promotion of Carly Fiorina was a prime objective of the network, there was CNN's fact check of the candidate's rant about Planned Parenthood, immediately following her rant about Iran, in which she claimed

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

CNN acknowledges on its fact-checking website

The clip does show what appears to be a fully formed fetus on an operating table with its legs twitching. But the clip Fiorina references is not part of the CMP sting video but was instead taken by another anti-abortion group and was added to the sting video. The Center for Medical Progress, however, doesn't explain where the fetus video was shot, so it's not clear whether it was taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic. For its part, the women's health organization has flatly denied the accusations.

Not only is it unclear the footage was shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic, it almost surely was not. Vox's Sarah Kliff, who has watched every minute of each video, observes

The third Human Capital video has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table — though that footage isn't from inside a Planned Parenthood. The video cites the Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection as the sources for that footage, and never claims to have taped those images themselves.

The Center for Bioethical Reform and the Grantham Collection are both virulent anti-abortion outfits.

CNN notes that former StemExpress procurement technician is seen in the video stating "This is the most gestated fetus and closest thing to a baby I've ever seen. I'm sitting here looking at this fetus and its heart is beating and I don't know what to do." However, Kliff explains

There is no video of the images that O'Donnell describes seeing, nor is there any mention of instructions to "keep it alive so we can harvest its brain," so it's still not the footage Fiorina describes having watched. I've reached out to the Fiorina camp to see if they have a better answer.

But they still are not the scene that Fiorina describes. There's no footage of the moment O'Donnell describes, nor is there proof offered that it occurred — there's no moment to "watch," as Fiorina urged debate viewers.

After Kliff received a (largely irrelevant) reply from the Fiorinistes, she asked for a clarification. She received another video, in which the images "still are not the scene that Fiorina describes. There's no footage of the moment O'Donnell describes, nor is there proof offered that it occurred — there's no moment to 'watch,' as Fiorina urged debate viewers." Additionally,

the footage of the fetus in that video isn't from the Planned Parenthood videos. One image is of a stillborn baby, initially included in the video without the mother's permission. Other footage appears to come from a collection of stock footage of fetuses. "The stock footage was added to the video to dramatize its content," fact-checking website Politifact concluded. "We don’t know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage)."

Politifact rated Fiorina's claim as "mostly false" and the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck concludes "the scene Fiorina 'dares' others to watch is not present in any of the Planned Parenthood videos."

To CNN, however, Fiorina's tale was "true, but misleading."   I myself have seen images of a man bending steel in his bare hands and leaping a 100+ foot building on a single bound.  And on Thursday morning, Fiorina stated "Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night," though she still has not disclosed them..

On Friday, Rush Limbaugh argued "the media" has been looking for months for a candidate to tout as the one to bring Donald Trump down.  There is a grain of truth to that but CNN has done so most visibly. Recognizing in the couple of weeks prior to the debate that the leading contender to Trump was (albeit low-keyed) culture warrior Ben Carson, the network (without a paper trail) keyed in on Carly Fiorina.

Like Trump and Carson, Fiorina had benefited from the first round, but is a more faithful corporate warrior, and had been inserted into the debate when CNN violated its own, initial, guidelines.  She's the kind of conservative Republican whom CNN and its parent company, Time-Warner, Inc., can warm up to.

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