26 September 2011

An open thread on Jon Huntsman

I've been thoroughly disenchanted with the Republican slate of candidates for President.  It is endlessly frustrating for me to be disappointed with Obama, but not to have a reasonablew alternative choice.  I like some of Ron Paul's ideas, but not the total package.  Some of the others I find beneath contempt, but I am pondering Jon Huntsman as a possible candidate.

I first blogged about Huntsman in May of 2009, when Obama chose him as the U.S. Ambassador to China, because I was so surprised/delighted to learn of the selection of an ambassador who is fluent in the language of the country he/she is going to.

After that I lost track of him.   I haven't considered watching televised pseudo-"debates" to be a productive use of time.   I did find what appears to be his campaign website. And here are some excerpts from an article by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:
Jon Huntsman won't win the GOP nomination, or so pundits assure us. But he is getting press attention anyway because he decided to start telling his fellow Republicans truths that they don't want to hear. In quick succession, he trumpeted his belief in evolution, said climate change is caused by humans, and insisted that it was essential to raise the debt ceiling. Says James Fallows, "I'm relieved to see someone in the party trying to pull it back from the abyss." (Me too.) Andrew Sullivan goes even farther. "Huntsman has a prophetic role in this campaign if he chooses to adopt it: the truth-teller," he writes. "His chances are so slim, he loses nothing by speaking this candidly."

In a Vogue spread on the former Utah governor, Jacob Weisberg gives the fullest articulation of why so many journalists are covering a campaign that, by their own estimation, almost certainly won't succeed: "Huntsman looks like a protest candidate -- less a figure of the current Republican Zeitgeist than a canny challenger to his party's orthodoxy. But his lack of traction thus far doesn't feel exactly like failure," he writes. "Running from behind brings a freedom to speak one's mind, which can affect the political conversation for the better. Like Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Bruce Babbitt in 1988, and John McCain in 2000, Huntsman seems already to have become a media darling -- a thinking person's candidate whose candor shines a light on the evasions of his rivals, even if it fails to change the outcome of the race."
More at the link.  I don't have enough insight to offer a personal opinion, but readers of this blog run the gamut from the far right to the far left, and many of you are way more geared toward national politics, so I'd be delighted to hear what some of you guys think.

Addendum: These thoughts from Andrew Sullivan's The Dish in November 2011:
The GOP is a religious and cultural force dominated by evangelicals, and fixated on total rejection of establishment or liberal ideas. Huntsman has acknowledged climate change, alone among the candidates. He has backed civil unions for gays, alone among the candidates. These two positions, in my view, all but dismissed him from the race from the get-go. His radical tax reform ideas are therefore ignored in favor of Herman Cain's. His energy policy is trumped by Perry's desire to turn the entire US into Texas (because Texas is about the only place he barely understands). And he worked for Barack Obama in China and speaks fluent Mandarin (not that I can tell whether he's fluent but he gives a good impression of it on TV). These are all culturally anathema to what the GOP now is.

When you realize this intelligent and capable two-term governor from the rock-ribbed Republican state of Utah, with deep domestic and foreign policy experience, has one tenth of the support of a pizza guy who emerged from motivational speaking and talk radio, and who admits he knows nothing about foreign policy and has never held elective office in his life ... well, you have the core reality of today's Ailes-led, resentment-fueled GOP.

The only hope is for Huntsman to keep at it, place a marker and wait...
More at the link.

Photo cropped from original at The Atlantic.

Second addendum - An excerpt from a January 2012 Time column by Joe Klein:
Huntsman is a conservative. He is pro-life (with no flip-flops), he imposed a flat tax in Utah (and would have a lower, flatter but still progressive federal income tax structure), he favors Paul Ryan-style entitlement reform, he is opposed to Dodd-Frank and other government schemes to over-regulate the business community (but he has a plan to break up the “too big to fail” banks). He knows a lot and communicates it easily. But he’s going nowhere in this primary. Others have suggested that he “offended” the Republican base by acknowledging his belief in evolution and man-made climate change. If so, the Republican base badly needed offending.

But Huntsman’s real sin is deeper than that: his is a vitriol-free candidacy. There is no gratuitous sliming of Barack Obama or his fellow Republican candidates. There is no spurious talk of “socialism.” He pays not the slightest heed to the various licks and chops that Rush Limbaugh has made into stations of the cross for Republican candidates. He is out-of-step with the anger that has overwhelmed his party and puts it at odds with the vast, sensible mainstream of this country. Because he has refused to engage in such carnival tactics–because he hasn’t had any oops! moments, extramarital affairs, lobbying deals with Freddie Mac or flip-flops–the media have largely ignored him. That makes us complicit in a national political calamity. But Republican voters have been complicit, too: a conservative party that doesn’t take Huntsman seriously as a candidate has truly lost its way.
The final addenda to this post (Huntsman has dropped out Jan 15).  First, from Salon:
But let’s not treat Huntsman as some kind of ultra-principled martyr. He’s an ambitious politician whose overall platform was far more conservative and tactically-driven than many realized. His economic program, for instance, was nothing short of radical — massive reductions for the super-wealthy and for corporations — and seemed tailor-made to win approval from the GOP’s supply-side wing. He also provided the most unqualified endorsement of Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as it now exists, was just as insistent as every other candidate that healthcare reform and the Dodd-Frank bank reform law be repealed, and sang the standard conservative tune on abortion, gay marriage, gun control and most other hot-button issues. Occasionally, he’d throw his media and non-Republican fans a bone, but he could be just as quick to reverse himself when he sensed an opportunity to make inroads with the right.

It wasn’t hard to see the strategy that was at work: Ride the “sane” image to a breakthrough showing in finicky, independent-friendly New Hampshire, then be positioned to win over suddenly curious national conservatives by saying, “Have you actually looked at my platform — I’m not the moderate you’ve heard I am.”

There are a couple of reasons why this strategy didn’t work...
And from the Telegraph:
Jon Huntsman’s campaign faced three problems. First, it started too late. Huntsman thought he could sit out the deeply religious Iowa caucus and concentrate his resources on New Hampshire instead. Big mistake. It cost him a lot of media attention...

Second, Huntsman never quite shook off the weirdo factor. He can be a tad Vulcan...

Huntsman’s third problem was the most significant for US politics watchers: he had no constituency. He ran as a moderate. On the one hand he was fiscally conservative, on the other he had some nice things to say about evolution and homosexuality...

There were simply not enough liberal Republicans to give the candidate anymore than 16.8 percent of the vote. Those folks who share his socially moderate instincts have either drifted to the Democrats or sit out the party as registered independents.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I believe he falls under the category as "way too conservative for me but not insane". In the current Republican slate of candidates I believe that makes him unique.

  3. Have you heard of Gary Johnson? I doubt it because the major networks hosting debates won't invite him; probably because he's intelligent and sane unlike the clowns they have on now who bring in ratings... I think you should check him out.


  4. He's the only candidate that doesn't make me ashamed to be a Republican

  5. He is the only Republican whose words I can even comprehend. The others all sound as if they are speaking in code. As Anonymous said, "way too conservative for me but not insane."

  6. Well, as I sit farther left than Obama, I, too am unhappy with the lack of "Change" we've seen so far. So far he's lined the pockets of insurance companies with his health insurance reform (this is NOT healthcare reform) and stood around a lot while republicans blame him for "big government. (Can we all really not remember the last president who created an entirely new federal department named straight out of Orwell: "Homeland Security.") On the other hand, the libertarian-leaning republican Congress has convinced people that macro-economics are the same as your family's budget, and stonewalled anything vaguely resembling a functioning Congress, so I throw my hands up.

    I'd prefer a democratic primary to any republican candidate, and hope that the Republicans manage to nominate a wacko like Bachman so that the middle-right (Obama) stands a chance.

    You have to choose if the policies of your government are in line with your values and whether you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning. I, personally feel that there is a big difference between plutocracy and democracy.

    I think that taxing those with more money in order to pay for fundamentals like health care and fire departments and roads is a good thing. When you get the bill from your privatized fire department after your house burns down, let me know how that libertarian thing is working out for you.


  7. I think it's a moot point. There's still enough anti-bush sentiment out there (edsel, I think you represent much more of the population than I'd like to admit) for Obama to coast by in an easy victory, regardless of who he runs against. In light of this, I plan on casting my R primary vote for Ron Paul. He'd never win any election outright, but since we don't stand a chance in this one anyway, I will vote for him in an effort ot send a message to the R party in general; about the need to become more conservative fiscally, and less so socially. If he got enough support, perhaps 2016's R candidates might just be a little closer to my personal belief system.

  8. Obama is a liberal, liberals just don't understand his politics, which is moderation and pragmatism to get your way - which interestingly may get him voted out of office.

    With Obama you have financial reform away from the GOP-era of nonregulation, health care reform (did you notice something was actually passed and now will always be here to shape - the idea was to get anything passed), end of DADT, a slow but steady move to end the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a reasonable foreign policy, etc., etc.

    But that's not enough for liberals - their ideology gets in the way the same way it does for the far right. They must have it exactly their way, and done so in the way they see fit. God forbid change come with pragmatism and common sense.

  9. Very few comments about Huntsman. I guess that's telling of his chances. He doesn't seem to excite anyone on the left (too conservative) or the right (too sane?). I would like to see more of his ideas, even if he's probably too conservative for my taste.

  10. I used to be a Republican. Really. But when the party started moving towards theocracy, I left. Over the years, I have become very liberal. I do understand Obama's pragmatism, and haven't abandoned him.

    If the Republicans were smart, they would nominate Huntsman. He's probably the only one of the bunch who could attract independents. But they're definitely not smart. They merely pander to the Tea Party.

    If I believed in such things, I would believe that our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves over the travesty the Republicans are trying to foist on the country.

  11. I'm about as negative as a liberal can be about Obama, but I wouldn't consider voting for Huntsman. Among other things, in the first (I think) Republican debate, when the candidates were asked to pledge support for a budget that required $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in increased revenue, he stuck his hand up along with everyone else. That's just unacceptable; it's guaranteed disaster.

    Tell you what, 'Stan, if you can watch Huntsman's speech at the last Republican Convention nominating Sarah Palin for vice-president without feeling nauseated, maybe he's your man:


    (He had almost lost his voice at that point, as it happens, but just try to ignore that. Think about whether you want someone who could say what he said, the way he said it, as president.)

    --Swift Loris

  12. I think the USA's inevitable decline into depression is now in full swing and we all have front row seats. The denial stage is always the worst... It's going to be a looooong and bumpy ride to 'acceptance'.

  13. Here is how much chance Huntsman has. He is NOT a conservative.

    By the way, Barbwire, there is a difference between a theocracy and a republic that is influenced by biblical principles. Since America's founding, we have had the latter. There may be a few extremists who want a theocracy, but I think most Christians are not looking for a theocracy.

  14. I'm fascinated by the different assumptions about what makes a Republican electable rather than a Democrat. The presumption is that Republicans have to move as far Right as possible to be elected, (see Timothy's remark that Huntsman isn't conservative enough for election) but Democrats need to move *AWAY* from their liberal base.

    Also, Anonymous' critique of liberals ("liberals just don't understand his politics, which is moderation and pragmatism to get your way") is, I think, misguided.

    I think the problem isn't that Obama is pragmatic and liberals want things done their way or they wont cooperate (that sounds much more like the hostage-taking Republican strategy). The problem is that Obama ran as an idealist, selling the idea of Hope, of Change - the idea that politics didn't need to be the end all of work in Washington, that instead we could all come together to work towards our values.

    Then Obama picked Rahm Emmanuel as chief of staff, and made his entire strategy about politics, rather than about leading the country. His small successes aren't pragmatic wins moving us slowly in the right direction, they're chance consequences of political posturing. And because they're so compromised, they're all that much easier to criticize from the right and to dismantle without the public noticing the change.

    Meanwhile the Republicans, who aren't acting "pragmatically" are making huge sweeping changes, bringing the country to ruin, when they only control one of three branches of government. If only we had someone who would fight for the values of fairness, social justice, education, health care, workers rights, etc., with the same zeal that the Republicans have for repealing the health care act, keeping gays unmarried, preventing women from having abortions, and protecting our borders...

  15. You can vote between the two viable candidates:

    Goldman Sachs (D)
    Goldman Sachs (R)

  16. Huntsman is an authoritarian moderate. That is to say he's a moderate because he borrows ideas from both sides of the aisle but, ultimately, he's an authoritarian because he doesn't believe in a limited government subordinate to it's citizens.

    As a result, I can't support him. Gary Johnson is my man. Unfortunately, he's only slightly more "presidential looking" than Ron Paul so he'll get very little media attention. The dog poop joke seems to have put him on the map however.

  17. I supported Obama in 08- gave a little, helped a little in NH.

    Ain't doing bupkis for him this time.

    I wouldn't vote for Huntsman, but I wouldn't really mind if he ended up in the oval office. It would energize the democrats- and I'm convinced that the makeup of congress/senate is much more important than the office of president.

  18. I am a very liberal Utah Democrat and Huntsman is the only Republican I have ever voted for and I never regretted my vote. I loved that he was willing to try new things, speak to basic human decencies, and that the state legislature disliked him so much.

  19. I'm an independent that looks for moderates in either party. If (which is not likely) Huntsman got nominated, I would seriously consider voting for him. Yes, he has positions I don't agree with, but that's true of pretty much every candidate I vote for.

  20. If only...we could have some cross-fertilization between Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul we would have a viable candidate.

    Ms Huntsman would be a spectacular First Lady,too.

  21. That photo is a bit creepy, isn't it? Adoring young women flanking him and trailing along behind - an ad-man's (damp) dream I guess.

  22. For those who think Obama has not done anything:


    What he has not done is taut his victories.

  23. Re: Huntsman, he is one of the 3 candidates who believes what he says. (The other two are Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann. Unfortunately nearly all of their policies I find abhorrent...)

    I can tell Huntsman believe what's he's saying because it's massively unpopular to his base, and he says it anyway. Good for him.

    Re: Obama, I supported him in the past and now I don't. It's not his pragmatism that turned me off. He lost me at "Look forward not backward: don't prosecute war criminals! What? Whistleblowers? The ones that worked to expose those war criminals? Arrest them and torture them!"

    *THAT* vile hypocrisy is what makes him unsupportable imo.

  24. I, like Brooke, voted for Huntsman during his race for Governor. I have voted straight Democrat since coming of voting age, his race was my one aberration. Although, I have to admit that in the case of Huntsman, it had a lot to do with the fact that I know him and his family. I used to babysit for them when I was a lot younger (yes, those girls in the picture are his adopted daughters). I know emotion is supposed to be detached from the voting process, but how many of us really do that? Well, I know that having worked with him influenced me in that situation. When it comes to voting for the POTUS... I don't think it will, but I do feel that of the lot available for the Republican party, I would certainly lean towards him more than any other candidate.

  25. A few republicans such as Huntsman and Indiana's own Lugar (who is under attack from the right this primary) remind me of this very fine blog post by Kung Fu Monkey:

    I Miss Republicans.

    No, seriously. Remember Republicans? Sober men in suits, pipes, who'd nod thoughtfully over their latest tract on market-driven fiscal conservatism while grinding out the numbers on rocket science. Remember those serious-looking 1950's-1960's science guys in the movies -- Republican to a one.

    They were the grown-ups. They were the realists. Sure they were a bummer, maaaaan, but on the way to La Revolution you need somebody to remember where you parked the car. I was never one (nor a Democrat, really, more an agnostic libertarian big on the social contract, but we don't have a party ...), but I genuinely liked them.

    How did they become the party of fairy dust and make believe? How did they become the anti-science guys? The anti-fact guys? The anti-logic guys?

    [... More at the link above ...]

  26. Agreed. (I'm old enough to remember Dwight Eisenhower.)


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