WHEN: Today, Wednesday, September 16
Carly Fiorina brings two distinctions to the 2016 Republican presidential field. She's the only woman and, as former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the only Fortune 500 chieftain in the race. Both have brought her into conflict with current front-runner Donald Trump, the bombastic real-estate mogul. Trump has highlighted her firing from Hewlett-Packard in 2005, mocked her looks, and declared that even the sound of her voice gives him "a massive headache." But now, having gained a spot on the main Republican debate stage Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the 61-year-old Fiorina gets a chance to fire back in person. She sat down to discuss the opportunity with John Harwood at Arnie's Place, a diner in Concord, New Hampshire.
A partial transcript from Speakeasy with John Harwood featuring Carly Fiorina follows. All references must be sourced to CNBC.com:
HARWOOD: Well, first of all congratulations on making the big debate. Are you looking forward to giving Donald Trump a massive headache from hearing your voice?
FIORINA: Well, I think Mr. Trump's gonna be hearing quite a lot from me.
HARWOOD: You said, "I'll stack up my business career against his any day of the week." So stack it up.
FIORINA: Donald Trump and I are in totally different businesses. He's in the entertainment business. In the business I was in we had to report our results publicly and if I misrepresented those results or those projections I could be held criminally liable.
HARWOOD: I think he said in some court case-- everybody does it. In terms of inflating the value of..
FIORINA: Actually, everybody doesn't do it. Cause if I had done it, I could have gone to jail. So those are his standards. I think my standards are what the American people would appreciate.
HARWOOD: One thing that some of my friends who covered you at HP have said, she carried herself like a politician when she was a CEO. Is that how you think of it?
FIORINA: No. I—
HARWOOD: Controlled, on message,
FIORINA: I don't know-- I don't know what they mean by that. But look, as the chief executive of a company, yes, I stayed on message not because I was a politician, but because I believed what I was saying and ultimately we executed what I said we would.
HARWOOD: When you were in that job, did you entertain the idea that eventually you would do that?
FIORINA: No, no. The day my-- firing became public, I got many, many phone calls. One of them came from President George W. Bush who wanted me to come into his administration. And that really wasn't something I was prepared to do. I needed a rest, if nothin' else.
HARWOOD: Many, I think, don't have a fix on-- and-- and that's why this debate will be useful for you on where you come from on some of the policy issues. More tax cuts or more deficit reduction?
FIORINA: You see, I think Republicans have been talking about this in the wrong way forever. I'm not in favor of revenue neutral tax reform. I'm in favor of revenue reducing tax reform. How long have we been talking about entitlement reform? We talk about it every election. We talk about tax reform every election. And guess what? Nothing happens. There are binders full of great conservative ideas on how to reform Social Security and entitlements. And we will never get to it because the political class can't challenge the status quo to ever get to it.
HARWOOD: Do you think privatization is a useful-- structural reform to make? Or would you not do that?
FIORINA: I am not prepared to go the American people and talk to them about how we're gonna reform Social Security and Medicare until I can demonstrate to them that the government can execute with excellence, serve the people who pay for it with excellence.
HARWOOD: Now, that is a dodge worthy of a very good politician.
FIORINA: It's not a dodge. I am deadly serious.
HARWOOD: Why should Republicans and then the country-- turn to someone who has not been elected to anything and has not served in government?
FIORINA: I'm not quite sure when as a nation we got used to the idea that only professional politicians can run for office. There are jobs that take a technical understanding. Flying an airplane is one of them, for example. And a CEO is a job that requires a level of technical mastery built over time. Here are the experience—
HARWOOD: Does that mean it's easier to run the country than to run—
HARWOOD: --a corporation?
FIORINA: No, no. I believe I am the most qualified candidate running in either party to be President of the United States. And I think more and more voters are starting to agree with me which is why, while I still have the lowest name ID in the field, I also am in the top five.
HARWOOD: Good luck in the debate. Good luck on the--
FIORINA: Thank you so much.
HARWOOD: --campaign trail.
FIORINA: Thanks John.
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