But sometimes, the power goes to Boxer's head. Under her leadership in 2008, the Senate Ethics Committee went after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for "a serious violation of Senate rules." His misdeed? Also an obstetrician, Coburn was delivering babies back home for free. Then there's the infamous episode in which she scolded a brigadier general for calling her "ma'am," instead of senator.
I got a close view of that Boxer in August when she came to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. I asked Boxer about an infamous confrontation she had with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2007, when Boxer told Rice that she would not pay a "personal price" for sending U.S. troops to war.
At the time, Boxer crowed that she was "speaking truth to power." But at the meeting, she told me that she mentioned the lack of personal price -- which they both shared because Rice didn't have children and Boxer's were too old to serve -- "to bring us together." Huh? Worse, Boxer claimed that she was angry because she had asked Rice how many U.S. troops had died in Iraq, but Rice didn't know.
Only problem is: It wasn't true. Boxer never asked Rice how many U.S. troops had died in Iraq. Politifact investigated and found Boxer's "revisionist account" to be a "pants on fire" distortion.
It wasn't Boxer's first foray in fiction, and no contrast seems sharper than the gulf between the candidates' books. Boxer co-wrote two novels about a too-good-to-be-true spunky liberal California senator from California. At one point, the fictional Democratic leader tells Boxer's alter ego, "You've personally raised the integrity bar. People are asking themselves, if they can't trust you, then who can they trust?"
Fiorina's New York Times best-seller memoir, "Tough Choices," presents an executive who makes mistakes and enemies, but moves forward. At HP, she pushed for a "hard-nosed focus on merit, excellence, and performance." Her goal was to take a softened corporate giant and return it "step by step" into a "meritocracy."
You don't hear politicians in Washington talk about "meritocracy" anymore. You don't hear them demand excellence. As for Boxer, the sound you hear loudest from her corner is the sound of a senator patting herself on the back.