Today, Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, US envoy to China, and well-traveled Mormon missionary, will officially declare his candidacy for President after months of “will he, won’t he” speculation stretching from Washington, D.C. to Beijing, China. Long before his announcement today, a possible Huntsman candidacy has gained plenty of traction – and plenty of detractors.
The first talking point against Mr. Huntsman – and it will come, mostly, from the right – is his service as Ambassador to China in the Obama Administration, a position he resigned from in April. Yesterday, The Hill reported John Bolton as the most recent critic on the right.
Mr. Huntsman accepted the China post because he’s a perfect fit. He’s an international business man. He’s an international traveler. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. He’s competent and he’s capable. The Chinese and ex-pats in China looked forward to his appointment and, once in his position, he did an exemplary job of supporting U.S. business in China, propagating the importance of revised policy positions in China (Intellectual Property Rights, Human Rights) and strengthening and developing the kind of cultural, political, and business ties that will prove invaluable as the world’s largest economies continue to adapt in the 21st century. In short, he served his country because he was the best man for the job.
And in case it matters, he also served in the Reagan Administration and both Bush Administration’s (although, I’m sure that may slip under the radar of the ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’ ideologues).
Mr. Huntsman’s defense of the so-called Ryan Budget in the Wall Street Journal was interesting for two reasons. First, he obviously understands the complexity of the federal budget, unsustainable entitlement programs, and the necessity of the next Republican nominee for President to take a hard stand on fiscal issues. Second, he understands the power of symbolism. Notice the title of the piece. It’s an obvious nod to Ronald Reagan’s speech in Los Angeles in 1964. And if you believe that’s just a coincidence, consider this: his announcement today in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty is the same spot Mr. Reagan kicked off his first presidential campaign in 1980. And, like Reagan, the Right of his party does not like some of his positions: he’s a longtime advocate of civil unions, he’s a leader on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and his ideas on health care and health care reform are unsettling to some. There’s no doubt, though, that Mr. Reagan’s “80-20 Rule” applies to Mr. Huntsman.
He’s smart and articulate. He’s ambitious and entrepreneurial. He’s a leader and a statesman. And, most importantly, he’s electable – and he can outspend almost anyone. Jon Huntsman was an extraordinarily popular governor and ambassador. He should be the Republican nominee for 2012.
[Views expressed here are those of the author and are not to be construed as an endorsement of a political candidate by The NW Daily Marker.]