Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's free-range hostility to Republicans was evident in her Friday profile of Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO now on the McCain campaign bus, "Ousted Executive Provides a Feminine Face to the McCain Campaign," emphasizingFiorina's past clashes (evident in that "Ousted..." headline) and "street bully" reputation.
Three years ago, Carleton S. Fiorina was the celebrity C.E.O. who was spectacularly fired by the Hewlett-Packard board. She produced a best-selling memoir, "Tough Choices," but for the most part spent the years after her ouster in relative self-imposed exile from public life.
No longer. Ms. Fiorina, universally known as Carly, is back, this time reincarnated as a telegenic, take-no-prisoners surrogate for Senator John McCain.
On MSNBC on Thursday, Ms. Fiorina praised Mr. McCain's fund-raising prowess with the announcement that he had raised $21.5 million in May. Last month on the ABC program "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," she pushed Mr. McCain's proposal for a gasoline-tax holiday and brushed past the fact that she could not name a credible economist who supported it.
Bumiller squeezed in as many digs at Fiorina as she could, while sneakily attributing them to "a number of Republicans" (all of whom, strangely, remained nameless):
In turn, a number of Republicans say Ms. Fiorina is using the McCain campaign to rebuild her image after her explosive tenure at Hewlett-Packard. They also say it is hard to see why a woman widely criticized for mismanaging one of Silicon Valley's legendary companies is advising and representing a candidate who acknowledged last year that he did not understand the economy as well as he should.
"Well, see, the good news about business is, results count," Ms. Fiorina, 53, responded briskly in a recent interview in her office at Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill. "And the results have been very clear. The results have been crystal clear. From the day I was fired, every quarter, even before they had a new C.E.O., has been record after record. That doesn't happen unless the foundation's been built."
Opinion is still split on whether Ms. Fiorina or her successor as chief executive, Mark V. Hurd, deserve credit for Hewlett's success after Ms. Fiorina drove through the company's $25 billion acquisition of Compaq in 2002. By many accounts, Ms. Fiorina was superb at marketing, mixed on strategy, bad at execution - and extraordinarily successful in unifying the board against what Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management calls her "street bully" leadership style.
"What a blind spot this is in the McCain campaign to have elevated her stature and centrality in this way," said Mr. Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for executive programs at the management school and one of Ms. Fiorina's sharpest critics. "You couldn't pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer."
Bumiller even went after Fiorina's severance package in an aside, to suggest hypocrisy on John McCain's part:
Ms. Fiorina, who is married to a former AT&T executive, Frank J. Fiorina, and has two stepdaughters, now divides her time between a condominium in Washington and a home in Silicon Valley. She received a severance package from Hewlett-Packard worth more than $42 million (Mr. McCain denounced excessive executive pay in an economic speech in Pittsburgh last month) and said in the interview that one of the biggest differences between her new life and her old is that "I'm not deciding."