Former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos on Thursday attacked Republican Carly Fiorina for opposing the current unemployment plan in the Senate. The Good Morning America host derided, "And are you running for the wrong job? How do you create jobs in the Senate if you don't pass legislation?"
Stephanopoulos also recycled the California candidate's June 9 joke about Democratic opponent Barbara Boxer's hair. Citing the nearly month-old gaffe, he challenged, "I have to ask you about what everybody saw right after the primary, that hair comment, off-mic. Why not apologize for that?" [Audio available here.]
Each Stephanopoulos question either repeated a Boxer talking point or attempted to force Fiorina onto the defensive. The GOP hopeful asserted, "Since the stimulus bill passed, the unemployment rate in California has gotten worse. It was a little over ten percent when the stimulus bill passed in February of '09. It's now 12.4 percent."
In a surprised tone, Stephanopoulos retorted, "You think that's because of the stimulus?" When Fiorina offered an alternative to the Democratic unemployment bill, the ABC host recited, "But 200,000 Californians right now are going to lose their benefits."
Apparently, it didn't occur to Stephanopoulos to wonder what responsibility the incumbent, Boxer, has for California's problems.
A transcript of the July 1 segment, which aired at 7:08am, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Jon, thanks very much. Let's get more on this, now, with Carly Fiorina, the former chairman of Hewlett-Packard. Now, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in California.
CARLY FIORINA: Great to be with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And let's start with immigration. The President is going to give a speech. Certainly going to take on Arizona's tough, new immigration law. His attorney general calls it unconstitutional. They're going to file suit. You said, it's right for Arizona. But you wouldn't recommend it for California. Isn't that trying to have it both ways?
FIORINA: No. I think, sadly, the people in Arizona have been placed in a terrible position. Border security is the federal government's job. And it should remain the federal government's job. Unfortunately, the federal government isn't doing its job. And we have a situation where portions of the border are virtually lawless, where we have members of drug cartels, Mexican drug cartels well inside the Arizona border, on lookout posts, observing our law enforcement officials. That's an untenable situation. And what's going on on the Mexico/Arizona border is truly dangerous. So, I believe the federal government needs to do its job. Secure the border. I also think the federal government needs to do its job and create a temporary worker program that works. It's very important in California for agriculture, technology. We don't have a temporary worker program that works.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You believe the Arizona law is constitutional?
FIORINA: I do. And I've read the Arizona law. If you read it, 20 pages, it's not difficult to read. It's actually less onerous than federal immigration law. It's certainly less onerous than the immigration laws in Mexico or virtually any other country. I think, sadly, the people of Arizona felt they had no choice but to protect their citizens.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the number one issue in the country, jobs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: California has the third-highest unemployment in the nation. Two million people out of work. And more than 200,000 Californians are going to lose their benefits if Congress doesn't extend the unemployment benefits. That's stalled in Congress right now. If you were in the Senate, would you vote to extend benefits?
FIORINA: Not the way it's put together today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?
FIORINA: Because the problem with this bill has a lot of other things that are appended to it, which add to the deficit, which increases taxes. You know, that's what Congress always does. I think people are tired of professional politicians because they see a lot of political posturing on both sides. But, they don't see problems being solved. First, I think, we need to be focused on job creation. And we haven't been focused on job creation. So, let's give, small businesses, for example, a two-year payroll tax holiday if they would hire unemployed workers. I would far rather have seen us focus on job creation over the last 18 months.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But 200,000 Californians right now are going to lose their benefits.
FIORINA: Absolutely. And, so, why can't we put forward a bill that does nothing but extend unemployment benefits? Why do we put all these other things on top of it? So that we have a deficit-busting, yet another, deficit-busting bill. You know, Californians are worried about two things, whether they're Democrats, independents or Republicans. They're worried about jobs. We have 2.3 unemployed people, as you point out. Third-highest unemployment rate in the nation. But they're also worried about out-of-control spending. Because they don't understand. They're cutting back in their families and businesses. But they see Washington, D.C. Getting bigger and bigger and more expensive.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But- And you've said, passing legislation in the Senate is not the way to create jobs. And are you running for the wrong job? How do you create jobs in the Senate if you don't pass legislation?
FIORINA: Well, what I actually said was that passing stimulus legislation in the Senate is not the way to create jobs. Since the stimulus bill passed, the unemployment rate in California has gotten worse. It was a little over ten percent when the stimulus bill passed in February of '09. It's now 12.4 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think that's because of the stimulus?
FIORINA: I think the stimulus bill has been an utter failure because it's not focused on job creation. We spent over $800 billion of taxpayer money and the unemployment rate has gotten worse, not better. In fact, what we're doing in California is destroying jobs because of high government spending, high taxation, thick regulation and too rich entitlements. I'm running because I think California's a harbinger of what's to come in this nation if we continue down this path, the destruction of jobs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your opponent, Senator Boxer, passed legislation in her committee yesterday, to lift the liability cap on British Petroleum. She says that BP has to pay for all of the pollution. Would you vote to lift that cap?
FIORINA: Well, I think, in essence, it has been lifted. Bp has agreed to a $20 billion fund. I think the President did exactly right to conclude that agreement with BP. I think it's probably unfair to ask BP to pay for the workers that have no longer have work, given the President's ban on offshore drilling, which a federal judge has challenged.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you wouldn't vote to lift the cap?
FIORINA: I wouldn't say that. I said BP should pay for all of the cleanup costs, whatever that turns out to be. And clearly, $20 billion is way above the original cap.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, we're just about out of time. I have to ask you about what everybody saw right after the primary, that hair comment, off-mic. Why not apologize for that?
FIORINA: You know, I regret the comments, because I gave people the opportunity to talk about something superficial and petty. I'm probably insufficiently sensitive about hair. I started this campaign bald, literally, because I went through chemotherapy and battled cancer last year. But, this is an election about serious issues. And those serious issues include how are we going to create jobs? How are we going to get government spending under control? And how are we going to create a more accountable bureaucracy in Washington? You know, people are tired of a level of incompetence in Washington bureaucracies and lack of accountability, that we would not tolerate anywhere else.