Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mean girls

I was struck by the meanness and pettiness of Carly Fiorina's on-mic comments about Barbara Boxer. The linked film clip is 4:19 long - and also includes cutting remarks about Meg Whitman. The hair comments come after the hamburger homily.

( - Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America)

Why do I care? Why does anyone care about such trivial comments? Why has this caused so much commentary on blogs and editorial pages?

I think the meanness demonstrated is that of a "mean girl". One of our great fears as humans is being cast out, not belonging to our group or tribe. There are the "mean girls" of our early teen years, the even worse "mean girls" of our high school years - and as adults we see social and political cliques and cabals trying to rule many fiefdoms. In spite of these divisive elements, our human nature requires belonging.

As a child I belonged to the most stable and permanent kind of a group: a family with six siblings. These tight bonds shielded and protected us from bullies and mean girls. The feeling of having a real posse - two big brothers, their friends, plus mine and those of my younger siblings - gave me a feeling of invulnerability in any confrontation. It did not occur to me that I could get hurt in a fight before I could call in the cavalry. Just the knowledge that they were all available gave me a probably unwarranted confidence. The sibling bonds are strong ones.

BFF's - "Best Friends Forever" - do not always turn out that way. I wonder if the staged friendship of eMeg and iCarly will withstand the stresses of a campaign season?

There are some interesting facts on the Fiorina Facts website. She cut tens of thousands of US jobs, and shipped others overseas. This mayhem continued in a bitter and stormy environment until Carly Fiorina's job was cut by the HP board.

While Fiorina was CEO, HP sold millions of dollars worth of high tech gear to intermediary shell companies selling to Iran, despite trade sanctions against the country.

As thousands of HP employees lost their jobs and the company's stock value fell, Fiorina was compensated with more than $108 million, including salary, bonuses, stock, and a $21.6 million golden parachute when she was fired. She also acquired two corporate jets that cost $1 million per year to operate.

Politics may be a risky investment for some of those millions of dollars. "The trouble is, by and large, CEOs have turned out to be pretty mediocre politicians." According to the Washington Post:

Even when they manage to get elected, CEOs often are surprised to learn that their skills in the boardroom do not easily translate to the business of governing. Former Goldman Sachs head Jon S. Corzine discovered this when he was ousted as New Jersey governor last year. "You don't have the flexibility you imagined. There's no exact translation," Corzine, a Democrat, later told Newsweek.

I recently returned to my hometown for a high school reunion. My old friends are wonderful people - and were distance not such an impediment, could be great BFF's. They are my "high school heroes" list in facebook land. However, I did hear a few whispers from a "mean girl". All these years later, can it be that such behavior is a character flaw and not a stage of adolescent behavior? This is something voters will decide in spite of millions of dollars of carefully modulated messages. So, this little kerfuffle may have a larger significance.

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