Friday, May 20, 2011

Jon Huntsman--The New and Improved John McCain

This is a great--and very revealing--article in The New Republic on Jon Huntsman, written back when he was still Governor of Utah but was on his way to China as Ambassador.  VERY insightful...a must read.
Jon Huntsman Jr. wants to know if I'm in the mood for Mexican food for lunch. "I know a great place we can go downtown," the Utah governor says as we pile into the back seat of his black, tinted Suburban. (He goes there all the time, three of his aides separately assure me.) We drive south from Capitol Hill, passing the enormous Mormon temple in the center of town. The car finally turns into a Sears parking lot on the other side of the city, across the street from a pornography store that offers to "BUY AND SELL USED ADULT MAGAZINES AND DVDS."

Huntsman, shedding his jacket for a fleece that does little to hide his designer suit, jumps out of the car and runs up to a group of chaps-clad bikers on the side of the lot. "Looks like you got the Fatboy wheels, you got the Fatboy tank, a Dyna Glide engine, and some shotgun pipes on there," the governor says after mounting one. "Wanna hear them?" the owner asks. "Oh, I've heard them before," Huntsman said.

With the bikers left duly impressed, Huntsman makes his way over to the decrepit taco stand in the corner of the parking lot, offering "Hola"s and "Gracias"es to the bewildered patrons. Looking at the buckets full of brown onions and browner tomatoes left out to roast in the sun, I consider promising the governor to write about his "favorite taco stand" if we can actually eat somewhere else--but his aide is already placing an order for us.

We take a seat on the curb and try to eat the over-stuffed tortillas. "The best!" he says, wiping lettuce from his mouth. A middle-aged Hispanic man approaches us with his young son in tow and gestures to his camera phone. "Oh sure, of course, come right over," Huntsman says, plopping his plate on the sidewalk and putting his arm around the boy. The boy looks over at me and whispers in Spanish, "Is he the president?"

That’s what I came to Utah to find out--more precisely, would he be our next president? At the time, it was a reasonable question. A virtual unknown only six months ago, Huntsman had burst onto the national radar based largely on his declaration of support for civil unions in February--a shocking position for the Republican governor of the reddest state in the country. He then started using his new platform to brashly criticize his own party. Politico, which in February dubbed him "the fastest-rising star you have never heard of," by March described him as "an articulate, unapologetic, and unlikely spokesman for a new brand of Republicanism." By May, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was describing Huntsman as "the one person in [the Republican Party] who might be a potential presidential candidate."
Do you know how helpful it would be in both our domestic economic situation and our foreign policy for the President to be able to speak fluent Chinese? Anyway, I thought this paragraph was very insightful about Huntsman in the context of Utah politics.
If Huntsman was planning to run for president, why would he move so brazenly to the left at a time when the GOP seems to be heading rightward? The most obvious reason is that he may actually be a moderate. "I'm not very good at tags," he tells me. "I just try to do my best, and maybe that makes me a pragmatist." He joins a long tradition of moderate Republicans from Utah, despite--or perhaps because of--the fact that the state is the reddest in the country, with the GOP holding every statewide office and more than two-thirds of the state legislature. The GOP lock on Utah politics allows the party to welcome a broader swathe of politicians, and breed leaders who are less combative and ideological than their besieged colleagues in more competitive states. And if Huntsman has learned anything from the failed Mitt Romney campaign, it is that the only thing worse for a Republican than not being a conservative is being a phony conservative.

No comments:

Post a Comment