So now we know.
Carly Fiorina has been dreaming about the White House since 2002.
Yes, it’s true. And here’s the video to prove it: Thirteen years ago, when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Fiorina spoke at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit about “the first time America was presented with the idea of a woman president.”
Then 47 years old, Fiorina told the audience of some 200 women leaders about Kisses for My President, a 1964 Hollywood comedy starring Polly Bergen as America’s first female president and Fred MacMurray as her hapless spouse. “From the very first moment, her husband is a study in wounded pride,” Fiorina explained to the crowd of women leaders gathered at California’s La Quinta resort. “Sex is interrupted by phone calls from the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. His career takes a back seat.”
Frank Fiorina, who is now supporting his wife’s 2016 presidential bid on the Republican ticket, watched Carly from the sidelines that evening in March of 2002. She went on to detail why this movie-version madame president was doomed from the start. After her husband nearly leaves her for another woman and her kids turn into spoiled brats, Fiorina explained, “the viewer is left with the distinct impression that the first woman president cannot keep her marriage intact and her children in line.”
But the movie ends happily. The president faints; America is told “She’s pregnant!” She resigns the too-strenuous job of running the country to care for her family. “The movie ends,” said Fiorina, “with a smile from Fred MacMurray, who says, ‘It took 40 million women to get you into the White House and one man to get you out.'”
Then Fiorina turned serious. “If you could harness the energy from all the screams that this movie has evoked or should have evoked from women the past 40 years, you’d probably have enough energy to power California the next 40 years,” she said. Then she asked the Fortune audience of senior executives to view themselves not as “women leaders” but rather as “21st century leaders.”
Give Fiorina, who ranked No. 1 on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women in Business list back then, points for consistency. Thirteen years later, as the presidential candidate who ranks No. 2 behind Donald Trump in the GOP polls, she is now preaching the same leadership principle: that men and women should be judged through the same lens.
Watching this video—when Fiorina was in the midst of a seven-month-long, political-style campaign to convince HP investors to support her plan to acquire Compaq for $24 billion (she won, then got fired three years later)—you can also see early signs of the savvy, stalwart, charismatic campaigner that she has become.
As for whether Fiorina used Kisses for My President simply as a prop to show how far America has come in terms of respecting women leaders, or to signal her own deep-rooted political aspirations as well, only she knows. Or maybe Fiorina, back in 2002, had no idea what potential she had inside her.
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