Huntsman Jumps In!

June 20th, 2011 at 8:01 am | 27 Comments |

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Jon Huntsman’s presidential candidacy will likely generate increased scrutiny due to both his imminent formal campaign announcement and his surprise second place-finish in the recent Republican Leadership Conference straw poll, generic in which supposed frontrunner Mitt Romney placed fifth despite an outright win last year.

Interestingly, remedy his stint during President Obama’s administration as ambassador to China has emerged as a contentious issue for partisans of both parties. Most of the criticism of Huntsman’s diplomatic service, however, has been shallow political posturing.

When the president tapped him for the ambassadorship in 2009, Huntsman had already been laying the groundwork for a potential national campaign. U.S. News and World Report described

Huntsman as the only possible Republican candidate that made Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, “a wee bit queasy.” As such, when the president appointed Huntsman to the diplomatic post little more than a week after Plouffe’s pronouncement, many saw the move as a cunning political calculation. “Brilliant,” GOP strategist Mark McKinnon remarked at the time, “Keep your friends close and your enemies in China.”

To be sure, Huntsman–  a seasoned diplomat and excellent Mandarin Chinese speaker — was very well-qualified. But as Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter later opined on the reasoning behind the appointment, “Whether Obama wants to admit it or not, when he surveyed the Republican Party for who had talent…and could potentially pose the most threat for him in 2012, believe me, Obama would prefer to run against Romney or Huckabee or Palin than against Jon Huntsman.”

It is therefore somewhat ridiculous that White House officials were supposedly “furious” at what they deemed to be Huntsman’s “audacious betrayal” in stepping down to explore a run, as reported by Politico, considering how the appointment was steeped in political considerations in the first place.

On the other side of the political spectrum, conservative blogger Erik Erickson has essentially echoed the absurd argument that Huntsman was disloyal to the president for even thinking of launching a campaign while serving as ambassador.

The fact is that as Huntsman did not actually coordinate campaign activities, he was well within his rights to muse about his future in public service. Only in a Stalinist regime could we expect public servants to be absolutely loyal to the person of the president, as opposed to their own conscience and the nation as a whole. In America, principled dissent has long been a hallmark of our democracy.

If Huntsman believes he can do a better job as president than the incumbent, then all power to him.

Of course, White House officials and the president himself have been publicly attempting to kill his candidacy with kindness. “I’m sure that him having worked so well with me,” President Obama has remarked, tongue-in-cheek, “will be a great asset in any Republican primary.” Indeed, some partisan Republicans play right into the Obama campaign’s hands and characterize Huntsman as a stooge of the president.

Huntsman, however, also served with distinction in the administrations of three Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, H.W. Bush, and W. Bush – in addition to that of President Obama. Clearly, he takes public service seriously.

“My president asked me to serve in a time of war, in a time of economic difficulty in this country,” Huntsman commented on the subject. “I’m the kind of person, when asked by my president to stand up and serve this country…I do it. And we were honored to serve two years.”

And now that he is formally seeking the honor of serving as president himself, he has already begun to detail key differences with the incumbent on fiscal policy and the management of the war in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, regardless of whether or not either of the extremes is true and Huntsman’s time as ambassador was a case of him being supremely disloyal or slavishly loyal to President Obama, what matters to the nation is the quality of his service.

On that note, Huntsman has earned accolades for his ambassadorial tenure. Although he was “unfailingly urbane and diplomatic in public,” as The Christian Science Monitor put it, he was an aggressive advocate for US interests in China behind closed doors.

Indeed, Huntsman both charmed and unsettled the Chinese government. He was consistent in his defense for human rights, going as far as criticizing the government’s record outright in his last public speech in China as ambassador. And in a private cable to the president, he pushed for a harder stance on North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

Huntsman, for his part, seems unfazed so far by criticism of his record in general. “It’s OK. You [have] got to be who you are and march forward,” he remarked in response to questions about the political wisdom of his policy views. “Some people will like it.” Hopefully, those people see him elected president.

Recent Posts by Clifton Yin

27 Comments so far ↓

  • sinz54

    Obama knows full well that Huntsman would be a weak candidate, because he would not command the enthusiasm of the GOP base. The GOP base might end up voting for him–but they wouldn’t campaign enthusiastically for him. Huntsman would have to spend precious time trying to win back the support of the base.

    In contrast, Obama can count on armies of black activists and liberal college students and professors to work their tails off on his behalf.

    So this is an example of reverse psychology: Obama would love a candidate to get the GOP nomination who would alienate the party’s base.


    And David Frum shouldn’t keep trying to boost Huntsman. The GOP base isn’t listening. The GOP base considers Frum a “RINO” at best, and any favorite of his will be no favorite of theirs.

    • KRH67


      I think you are only half right here. I agree that he won’t command the enthusiasm of the base the same way other candidates would, but I think that matters far more in the primaries than it does in the general election. Because of this, I think Huntsman almost certainly won’t make it out of the primaries.

      But its the possibility that he does that I am sure has Obama worried. The only chance Republicans have in 2012, in my opinion, is nominating a moderate candidate who emphasizes fiscal issues… preferably with a libertarian bent. I know this is extremely anecdotal, but as someone who voted for Obama in 08 the only candidates I see in the current Republican field I might vote for in a general are Gary Johnson, who stands virtually no shot, and Huntsman who has a slightly better chance.

      Obama would absolutely destroy any tea-party darlings, base enthusiasm or not, because once again he would scoop up the moderates. But these same moderates are getting more and more dissatisfied with him, and might be willing to jump ship if a sane Republican is nominated. The hardcore right-wingers would vote for Huntsman anyways, if for no other reason than they HATE Obama.

      I guess I look at it this way: Sarah Palin really riled up the base for Mccain in 08. She also very likely doomed his chances of winning by making every independant run away screaming, and this was just as VP. I bet Obama would love round two of that.

      • PracticalGirl

        KRH67 hits the point:

        Sinz, all your analysis of Obama’s support falls flat if Huntsman can’t make it through the primaries.

        My guess is that the religious right will tank Huntsman but good for being a descendant of David B Haight, one of the LDS Church’s leadership group the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Should Huntsman appear to gain traction with the base, look for this to get nasty-all without any help from those black people and liberals who scare you so much.

      • Cforchange

        Since when is a moderate Republican not pro choice?

        Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes.

        In case you are not aware or choose to ingnore, there were plenty of extreme reasons why abortion was legalized.

        The GOP can not provide a true moderate this cycle because Palin did and continues to whip up the base to the point where the only way out is civil war. Sorry but the real moderate would have to ride into DC on an Independent horse this time.

        • medinnus

          When abortion was illegal in this country:

          * Middle class and the Rich went to Mexico or Cuba for abortions.
          * The poor, including an inordinate amount of minorities, died in pain and terror from the illegal procedures in back alleyways.

          The rich got away with hiding it, and the poor died.

          If it becomes illegal again, this will re-institute itself. The number of abortions is unlikely to be affected in any serious way, but the not-wealthy will start dying again.

          I guess that’s the whole point – punish them for daring to have pre-martial sex.

          If the Religious Reich was really interested, they’d instruct their pet Congresscritters to stop gutting social programs which make it viable for poor and single mothers to raise children, and which promote sexual education and birth control, because only a complete idiot would think that they’re going to stop having sex.

        • Carney

          The number of abortions is unlikely to be affected in any serious way

          This is where your case falls apart.

  • Graychin

    He’s too RINO to be nominated by today’s Republican Party. I’ll start paying attention if he ever cracks 5% in the polls – which is highly unlikely in this cycle.

  • balconesfault

    I still think Huntsman’s working for Obama.

    Why else would he endorse the Ryan Plan?

  • politicalfan

    How many Independents and Libertarians will vote for a social conservative Republican?
    The success of a far right candidate will change. People painted the president as a far left liberal, how did that work out? Extreme on either side is not going to work in 2012. The promise of changing everything the President has done will fail.

    I still think we are a center right country and less socially conservative as an entire country (to some degree). The dark horse is going to be a moderate Republican if you’re hoping to see a Republican in the WH in 2012. Has to appeal to Independents and disappointed Dems who are fiscally or other wise conservative. If the votes during the first 2 years of a Dem Congress were not an eye opener, I don’t know what is. A social conservative will do well to appeal to the R base but (it is going to come to the economy) and the realization that R’s alone will never win the election. They may play the rhetoric of a social conservative to appeal to the conservative right but they will be moderate to appeal to the masses.

    I personally would vote for an “authentic” candidate who would stop flip flopping and making promises that they can not possibly keep! Bring us a real truth teller (fiscal conservative with a heart) and not the normal subjects with a new act!

    • balconesfault

      I still think we are a center right country and less socially conservative as an entire country (to some degree).

      Sure … if you believe the following are “center-right” position:

      abortion should be always or sometimes legal (77%) Gallup Poll. May 5-8, 2011

      same sex marriages should be recognized by law (53%) Gallup Poll. May 5-8, 2011.

      EPA should enforce their recently implemented greenhouse gas limits (71%) CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. April 9-10, 2011

      Government should have MORE regulations on food safety (75%) Gallup Poll. Dec. 3-6, 2010.

      Gun laws should be more strict or kept as they are (84%) CBS News/New York Times Poll. Jan. 15-19, 2011 (More strict had 46%)

      Given a choice between cutting Defense Spending, and cutting Social Security – you’d cut Defense (54%) Fox News Poll, May 15-17, 2011

      You’d trust a Democratic President (44%) over a Republican President (34%) when it came to deficit reduction – Fox News Poll, May 15-17, 2011

      Center right – perhaps. If you’re comparing us to most European Democracies.

      By the parlance of most in the GOP today, the majority of Americans are raging socialists.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    I think Huntsman is setting up for 2016 and his main goal is to prevent Romney from getting the nomination by splitting the Mormon votes out west (where Huntsman is very well known) in order to be sure a teabagger wins and gets walloped in the General. Romney will then be finished and so will the teabaggers. That leaves 2016 open for moderates like him.

    • politicalfan

      Frumples- VP???

      • LFC

        Two Mormons on the same ticket? The religious right’s collective head would explode.

    • Cforchange

      Since when is a moderate Republican not pro choice?

      Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes.

      In case you are not aware or choose to ingnore, there were plenty of extreme reasons why abortion was legalized.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    politicalfan: I still think we are a center right country

    I don’t know what the means outside of it being something that Republicans love to tell themselves. Center right as compared to what? Europe? Sure. America in the time of Ronald Reagan? Hell no. Gays can now serve openly in the military, they are also able to marry in more and more states. Bush added a new entitlement. We have a Black man with a Muslim sounding name as President. America is becoming more and more a minority majority country and Republicans are doing their utmost to alienate minorities with their policies.
    It has taken Americans own impatience with the lack of Obama miraculously turning the economy around in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the depression to bring the Republicans back to life.
    I daresay America is center left, with respect to abortion, gays, climate change, minority rights, medicare, social security, etc. If young people voted at the rates that the elderly did America would be far different right now.

    • balconesfault

      ^^ Frumple and I were on the same track. Just took me a bit more time to compile some recent data ;)

      • PracticalGirl

        And a +1 for you both.

        The right get’s their “center right” logic from broad (and sometimes push, depending on whether Rasmussen is involved)polls where people, given an option, describe themselves as such. But then you get down to what Americans actually believe (balconesfault’s post above) and you see that their positions belie their professions.

        It’s the exact same thing with church attendance. A large percentage of Americans say they go to church when polled. When the specifics come out (how often), though, you see that less than 1/3 of Americans actually regularly attend church.

        The devil’s in the details, and I appreciate when posters bring them into the discussion

        • balconesfault

          well, let’s face it – over the last 40 years conservatives have successfully been able to brand liberalism so that most people hear “liberal” and think “dedicated to using my tax dollars to support young black thugs who don’t want to work and just hand out on the street corners harassing white women” .

          So even a lot of people who hold openly liberal ideals are afraid of admitting in public that they’re a liberal.

        • PracticalGirl

          Sucks, doesn’t it, but I openly admire the machine for its PR/marketing prowess and wish Democrats and liberals would learn how to sell it better.

  • LFC

    Sinz said… “So this is an example of reverse psychology: Obama would love a candidate to get the GOP nomination who would alienate the party’s base.”

    I don’t buy this either. If he was given the choice to run against Huntsman or Bachmann, I’m sure he’d jump at the chance to run against the latter.

  • gmckee1985

    Interested to see Huntsman’s take on the issues. I don’t expect him to win, but at the very least he seems to have traditional Republican foreign policy views, before Bush/McCain wrecked them, so hopefully he can push the party in that direction, as some of the other candidates seem to be moving back to sane foreign policies as well.

  • Carney

    in which supposed frontrunner Mitt Romney placed fifth despite an outright win last year.

    Deeply misleading. Romney competed at that event then, but has decided not to compete in straw polls from now on.

  • Huntsman Polishes his Magic Mirror to Show GOP Voters Whatever They’re Looking For – Huffington Post (blog) | Conservatives for America

    [...] Review-JournalBenjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for NewsweekNewsweekThe State Column -FrumForum -The Moderate Voiceall 233 news [...]

  • Clifton Yin

    “Carney // Jun 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    in which supposed frontrunner Mitt Romney placed fifth despite an outright win last year.

    Deeply misleading. Romney competed at that event then, but has decided not to compete in straw polls from now on.”

    Carney – you have a point, but one would think that Romney would be able to place better than fifth – even without investing resources – given his status as the frontrunner. I think it goes to show that his pool of support at this point is wide but shallow. Thanks for reading.

  • nhthinker

    Tickets for the event had $199 and $219 prices on them for average Joes to vote in the straw poll.
    Last year there were $119 strawpoll tickets.

    Rumor has it that Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman bought bulk tickets this year.
    Online ronpaul websites said they had free tickets for any Paul supporters.

    Last year over 3000 were registered but only about 1800 voted. I don’t know which candidates bought tickets for their supporters last year.

    Clifton– Why not try to find out how many people bought their own tickets and how many were purchased by Paul and Huntsman?

    Until you do, your assertion that Romney’s support is shallow is exactly that: shallow.