Carly Fiorina’s speeches fall into one of two categories: personal anecdotes and discussions of leadership, or red meat and jabs at Hillary Clinton. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard combined both Saturday afternoon at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., aimed at conservative women.
The luncheon was part of the Unlocking Potential conference, a weekend of speeches and panel discussions hosted by her political action committee of the same name. Fiorina, the only likely female 2016 contender on the Republican side, began her speech in her usual way, with her favorite quote, “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you make of yourself is your gift to God.”
Fiorina often uses this quote, as she did Saturday, as a way into explaining her guiding philosophy that true leadership is “unlocking the potential in others.” But at the Unlocking Potential conference, Fiorina espoused some more specific ideas of presidential leadership, namely abroad.
“President Obama and Secretary Clinton always put a false choice in front of us,” Fiorina said. “They always say unless we go to war there’s nothing we can do. There’s plenty we can do.”
She listed a few examples, including ending nuclear negotiations with Iran and providing arms to Ukraine, as well as taking a more confrontational stance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I have sat across the table from Vladimir Putin,” Fiorina said. “He is a formidable man. Intelligent, charming, highly educated, very good English, and this is a man who seeks power of all kinds. … He will not stop his aggression unless he faces a leader of strength and courage and resolve.”
But along with laying out some foreign policy ideas, Fiorina’s chief objective of the weekend was to court the conservative female vote. She referenced her knock on Hillary Clinton at the Conservative Political Action Conference (“Mrs. Clinton, name an accomplishment”) to loud cheers from the crowd.
“A lot of the media said to me, ‘Can you say that because she’s a woman and you’re a woman?’ And I said well maybe, but maybe the reason I can say that is because I come from a world where position and title aren’t enough. Where whatever your title is lasts about five seconds and then people say, well what are you doing with it?”
Fiorina ended her speech talking about not the Founding Fathers, but what she called the founding women: Lady Justice and Lady Liberty. Her speech received a standing ovation.
“As a Republican woman, I’m excited,” said Caroline Casagrande, a New Jersey state legislator. But what does she, a politician herself, think of Fiorina’s lack of political experience?
“She can govern. She governed a business,” Casagrande said. Then she joked, “But it’s not always translatable because business has a chance to be fair, and politics never is.”