National Opinions

Jennifer Rubin: Fiorina, an outsider who does her homework

Jennifer Rubin
Jennifer Rubin

By Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post

If the GOP insists on an backing an outsider, it's more obvious each day that non-politician Carly Fiorina is the party's best bet. This is not meant to be damning with faint praise. Certainly, Donald Trump (filled with bombast but little else) and Dr. Ben Carson (a decent fellow who'd be an excellent Surgeon General) are not going to prove acceptable to the general electorate, let alone many moderates on the GOP side.

But for those looking for a serious candidate who captures the outsider Zeitgeist in the party and is acceptable across the ideological spectrum, Fiorina may be their best bet. She sounds sensible when the controversial issues hit (take down the Confederate flag, obey the Supreme Court on gay marriage, government employees should carry out the law they are paid to enforce). She also, unlike Trump, takes the time to study foreign-policy issues. On Face the Nation she explained: "I think it is very difficult to lead if you don't have the requisite knowledge. And I think it's perfectly acceptable that you don't know the name of every terrorist leader. I don't always either. I do think it's important to know who our enemies are. I think it's important to know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah and to know as well that both of them, for example, are proxies of Iran. I do think we have come to a place, though, where people realize that running for political office all your life isn't necessarily the most qualifying set of experiences either."

It's hard to argue with that. She also has correctly diagnosed the Syria debacle. She explained: "And, unfortunately, we have known this crisis was coming for a very long time. This is an example of what happens when the United States fails to lead. President Obama had options in Syria three years ago. And he failed to exercise any of those options."

She is right about that, and appropriately empathetic but cautious on the refugee issue. "We now have somewhere between 43 million and 60 million refugees on the move around the world because they are trying to escape conflict zones like Syria," she said. "The United States, I believe, has done its fair share in terms of humanitarian aid. Certainly, the United States has not led, as I indicated earlier. I think the United States, honestly, sadly, cannot relax our entrance criteria. We are having to be very careful about who we let enter this country from these war-torn regions to ensure that terrorists are not coming here." She reiterated that "sadly, this is a crisis that everyone should have known was coming for at least three years now." (She might have also mentioned the implicit racism of the news and political leaders who have said very little about refugees pouring into Muslim countries. Until Europe was affected, few bothered to talk about it.)

Interestingly, her take was much the same as that of former VP Dick Cheney, who appeared on Fox News Sunday. "I think what's happened is, he's created a huge vacuum. He's made it very clear, he's not going to use military force to any extent," Cheney said. " The vacuum that was created once the caliphate was formed . . . So there is enormous violence that's gone forward in Syria has contributed directly to the refugee crisis."

Like Fiorina he argues, " I think when the U.S. played a major role in the region when we were there on a significant basis, it would have been much easier to manage this kind of situation. Today what you have is a crisis of major proportions in Syria supported primarily by the Iranians and that's driven hundreds of thousands of people to look for refuge someplace else. They've all headed for Europe. And it's a terrible tragedy."

Fiorina still must prove her readiness to lead, satisfy voters she has the skills to lead in the political arena, and put together an adequate fund-raising and ground game. But if she does and the GOP decides Trump and Carson simply are not presidential material, she would be ideally suited to assume the anti-establishment slot in the race. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — whose executive experience is limited and has accomplished nothing in the Senate — might challenge her, but smart money would be on the more sensible and electable Fiorina. She is not the most conventional nominee, but nothing about this race has been conventional. She surely has as good — if not better — a shot as the others.