Donald Trump made openly racist statements about Mexican immigrants in his campaign kickoff speech -- and he shot to the top of the polls. Ben Carson subsequently made bigoted statements about Muslims -- and he's now solidly in second place, and threatening the front-runner.
Carly Fiorina is in third place in most polls, but she's well behind Trump and Carson. What can she say that's both shockingly taboo and catnip to the GOP base?
She may have found the answer:
Positioning herself as a steely advocate of aggressive counterterrorism programs, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina offered a vigorous defense of CIA waterboarding as a tactic that helped “keep our nation safe” in the aftermath of 9/11.
“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear -- that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina told Yahoo News. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
You might think that she'd have a lot of company, but on this subject,many of her fellow candidates are hedging or opposed (at least nominally):
[Jeb Bush] told a group of Iowa Republicans that he wasn’t sure whether he’d repeal an executive order banning certain interrogation techniques signed by President Obama....
In June, [Senator Lindsey Graham] ... voted against a measure that would categorically ban torture. The hawkish Graham said he opposed torture, of course, but was against publicly telling America’s enemies what they would face if caught....
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ... missed that vote on torture but later said he would have cast his ballot against it. “I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland,” he said in a statement at the time.
And during [the August] debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson won applause for this answer to a question about waterboarding: “You know, what we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn’t necessarily be broadcasting what we’re going to do.”
... Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas both voted for the torture ban earlier this summer. “Torture is wrong, unambiguously,” Cruz said at the time.
So Fiorina wins the ¿Quien es mas macho? contest again, just as she did by forcefully taking on Donald Trump in the CNN debate earlier this month.
I noted last week that 80% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush, and that a plurality of Republicans would vote for him if he could run for a third term, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll. I said that Jeb Bush would move up in the polls if he embraced his brother and the supposed pariahs of W's administration.
Fiorina seems to be grasping that notion. If she really wants the nomination, I think she should do something I recommended for Jeb -- make campaign appearances with Dick Cheney. (According to anEconomist/YouGov poll conducted last year, 58% of Republicans have a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of Cheney.)
Fiorina has an opening here to distinguish herself as the full-service wingnut -- she's already the loudest voice on the Planned Parenthood videos, and with this embrace of Bush-era foreign policy lawlessness she need only add a staggeringly regressive tax plan (I mean more staggeringly regressive than her competitors' plans) to have all the legs of the three-legged stool of wingnuttery.
Oh, and did I also mention that in that Yahoo story Fiorina also boasted of her cooperation with NSA surveillance excesses?
Fiorina’s relationship with the U.S. intelligence community dates back to the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, when she got an urgent phone call from then NSA director Michael Hayden asking her to quickly provide his agency with HP computer servers for expanded surveillance.
While he did not tell Fiorina the details, Hayden confirmed to Yahoo News last week that he needed the HP servers so the NSA could implement “Stellar Wind” -- the controversial warrantless wiretapping program, including the bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records and emails, that had been secretly ordered by the Bush White House. “Carly, I need stuff and I need it now,” Hayden recalled telling Fiorina.
Fiorina acknowledged she complied with Hayden’s request, redirecting trucks of HP computer servers that were on their way to retail stores from a warehouse in Tennessee to the Washington Beltway, where they were escorted by NSA security to the gates of agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.
“I felt it was my duty to help, and so we did,” Fiorina said. “They were ramping up a whole set of programs and needed a lot of data crunching capability to try and monitor a whole set of threats. …What I knew at the time was our nation had been attacked.”
I had my doubts about Fiorina, but she's looking like a stronger and stronger competitor to me. So go for it, Carly. Embrace the Cheney family. Call for a massive ground war in Iraq (or Iran or Syria or...). Say you'll pay for it with billionaire tax cuts. The rubes will just love thepolitical incorrectness of it all.
(Crossposted from No More Mister Nice Blog)