Huntsman v. Romney
There is only one serious candidate for president on the Republican side. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t even know who he is yet.
But they will. His name is Jon Huntsman, Jr. In an interview last night, Gwen Ifill introduced him to the small sliver of still-thinking Americans that follow PBS.
All Americans—Republicans and Democrats—should watch the interview, which is only eight minutes long. What they’ll see is a thoughtful, low-key, articulate, honest and supremely intelligent man.
Ifill didn’t explore Huntsman’s policy positions. She tossed him mostly softball questions on the horse race and his prospects. But she did get him to admit, after some reluctance, that he is a moderate.
Republicans haven’t yet embraced him for precisely that reason. Goaded by Fox and the worst elements of their party, they’ve scattered to the four winds, looking under every stone for a radical conservative alternative to Romney.
They don’t like Romney because, in addition to being a flip-flopper and a jerk, he’s not radical enough for them, either on social or fiscal issues. They want a sincere and honest bomb thrower, not a president.
But here’s the thing. Gridlock in Congress is not going to change next year. Some pundits think Democrats may take the House and Republicans the Senate. Even if Republicans end up with majorities in both Houses, they won’t have a filibuster-proof edge in the Senate. Not even the idlest GOP dreamer thinks they will.
So, even if a Republican takes the White House, congressional gridlock will continue. Senate Democrats will maintain the same obstructionism that Republicans have taught them so well during the last three years.
Consequently, nothing will get done, let alone anything as radical as the program of the Tea Party or Ron Paul. Nothing, that is, in domestic policy.
Foreign policy is another matter. As Dubya showed by getting us into two unnecessary wars, the President has virtually plenary power in foreign and military policy. In those fields, it’s one-man rule.
So if you happen to be a Republican, and if you want someone who can accomplish something in the single field in which a president can act while Congress is in gridlock, Huntsman is your man.
Here’s the score so far:
State Administrative Experience:
- Huntsman: Governor of Utah, one term, re-elected for a second, 2004-2009
- Romney: Governor of Massachusetts, one term, 2004-2008
International Administrative Experience:
- Huntsman: six years, as follows:
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Development, Department of Commerce, 1989
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, Department of Commerce, 1990-1991
- Ambassador (youngest in a century) to Singapore, 1992
- Ambassador to China, 2009-2010
- Romney: None
Foreign Language Skills:
- Huntsman: Fluent in Mandarin Chinese
- Romney: Fluent in French
- Huntsman: Helping build billion-dollar multinational family business, 1983-1989
- Romney: Downsizing other people’s businesses, mostly domestic, in Bain Capital consulting firm, 1984-1994
If Republicans want an alternative to Romney with the best chance to beat President Obama—and the best prospects of doing something in the White House once there—Huntsman is their man.
Will they recognize that fact and exploit this historic opportunity? Probably not. That’s why, in my view, Huntsman is treating this campaign season as practice for a serious run in 2016. Then the President will have retired (with no viable successor now in sight), and the GOP will have kept its suicide pact with extremism and perhaps begun to resurrect itself.