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Looking ahead, Boxer and Fiorina tangle on national security and global climate change

June 5, 2010 |  5:24 pm

With three days until the primary election and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in a seemingly comfortable lead against her two opponents, she and Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer continued to tangle about who is stronger on national security.

The sniping began earlier this week when Fiorina aired a new ad mocking Boxer by using an interview clip showing the California Democrat stating that climate change is “one of the very important national security issues we face.”

Cue Fiorina, on camera, sounding disgusted: “Terrorism kills and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather.”

Boxer promptly released a statement defending her work on issues ranging from port security to sanctions on Iran. On Saturday, after touring a new $13.5-million Los Angeles Fire Department Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility at LAX -- funded mostly by federal stimulus money -- Boxer lashed out at Fiorina.

“What Carly Fiorina has done is taken on the entire military and intelligence infrastructure,” said Boxer, citing the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security, which opened in 2009. The center, according to the CIA’s website, examines the “national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts and heightened competition for natural resources.”

Climate change, said Boxer, could be “a major cause of war in the next 20 years.”

“It’s the oldest trick in the book,” Boxer added, “when you are weak on something, attack your opponent. Carly Fiorina is weak on terrorism.”

In an e-mailed response Saturday, Fioriona spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said there is “wide disagreement within the security community and the American people about the role climate change plays in global security. Despite this, Barbara Boxer has chose to fight for cap and trade legislation under the auspices that somehow raising energy prices and costing American jobs will make us safer.”  Fiorina has frequently derided Boxer as a “failed senator.”

Signaling the themes of the general election campaign, Boxer said she relishes the idea of running against Fiorina. “I don’t know who my opponent is going to be, but if it is Carly Fiorina this is the clearest choice in the nation, and I am very excited about it because she is so out of step with California voters,” said Boxer. “She has a horrific record, she hardly ever voted, she laid off 30,000 workers, she shipped their jobs to China, to Europe, to India. People suffered, she got all these perks…and so I really look forward to this race. She wants to criminalize abortion. She wants to drill off our coast, she wants to arm terrorists.”

Boxer also slammed Fiorina for an answer about guns and the government’s “no- fly list” that she gave last month in a debate with her two Republican opponents, former Rep. Tom Campbell and Irvine Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

Fiorina said she would allow people whose names appear on no-fly lists to purchase guns. (DeVore said he would, too, and Campbell said he would not.) “She defers to the rights of suspected terrorists to buy guns,” said Boxer. “I authored a law allowing pilots to carry guns in the cockpit.”

Echoing a charge made by DeVore, Boxer also noted that while Fiorina led Hewlett-Packard, the company sold millions of dollars in printers and printing supplies to Iran, which has been subject to a trade embargo since the Clinton administration. Fiorina has repeatedly referred to the products sold to Iran as “printer ink.” But the company has said it sold printers as well as printing supplies.

“When she was CEO of Hewlett Packard she traded with Iran, in violation of federal law,” said Boxer.

Fiorina has said that during her tenure, from 1999 to 2005, HP complied with every export law. As the Times has reported, HP’s sales to Iran skirted the trade embargo by exploiting a gray area in the law, trade law experts have said. HP’s Dutch subsidiary sold the products to a Dubai-based company, which in turn made the sales to Iran. The Dutch subsidiary was owned by HP, but not controlled by the company’s American operation, allowing HP to assert that the sales were legal. No government charges have been brought against HP in the matter.

However, in early 2009, shortly after the Boston Globe ran a story about the proliferation of HP printer stores in Tehran, the company announced it would no longer allow its products to be sold to the Iranian market. In a 2009 letter to the SEC, which had inquired about the sales in response to the Boston Globe story, HP’s vice president and deputy general counsel Paul T. Porrini said the sales constituted “less than one-quarter of one percent” of the company’s sales.  “While it is possible that some of those products could have been acquired and put to use by the Iranian military,” he wrote, “were that to have occurred, such usage would be for routine office procedures and applications.”

Asked Friday in Palm Desert to address Boxer’s charge that she is “weak on terror,” Fiorina said Boxer’s comments were “interesting” considering that she voted “against body armor for our troops in Iraq” and “against extended family leave for our troops while they were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Having failed to say anything about the growing danger from Iran, having failed to say anything really about North Korea, I think Barbara Boxer’s position on terrorism and national security speaks for itself,” Fiorina said. Fiorina’s aides later said she was referring to Boxer’s vote in 2003 against a bill that would have provided additional funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Boxer voted against the emergency supplemental funding package, calling it “a mixed bag.”

“It does have money for our brave, courageous and extraordinary heroes and, of course, I support all of that,” Boxer said at the time, according to a report in the Congressional Record provided by her campaign. “What I do not support is the fact that many of the provisions have been dropped that would have made a difference in our policy [in Iraq]. We are going down a path that is bringing the American people pain deep within their hearts that one just cannot even measure. “

The senator’s aides also point out that Boxer backed an amendment to the bill that would have enhanced funding for safety equipment for troops. And they refuted Fiorina’s comments on Iran and North Korea, noting that Boxer has been a strong backer of sanctions on Iran, and called on the Bush administration in 2006 to “pay far more attention to the North Korea threat, which it ignored for too long because of its obsession with Iraq.”

"Fiorina has the facts wrong,” Boxer’s campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said. “Sen. Boxer has a strong record of supporting our troops, military families and veterans, and has been a successful advocate for tough measures to keep America safe. Fiorina is the candidate in this race with the most troubling record on Iran.”

-- Robin Abcarian in Los Angeles and Maeve Reston in Palm Desert

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