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."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.
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."
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.More at the link.
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...
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.The final addenda to this post (Huntsman has dropped out Jan 15). First, from Salon:
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.
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.And from the Telegraph:
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...
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.