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Obama's Biggest Threat Was Huntsman

Comment

Politically astute Republicans, including many social conservatives, see Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate to beat President Obama in November. The former Massachusetts governor may not be their kind of Republican, but any Republican would be better than Obama, in their opinion.

The view that Romney would be Obama's most formidable foe is accurate — but only as of Monday, when former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman dropped out of the race. At a news conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Huntsman threw his support behind Romney, who is currently engaged in a South Carolina primary death match against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

In a general election, the above thinking goes, Romney would appeal to many unaffiliated voters, now 40 percent of the electorate. But Huntsman could have appealed to them also, plus picked up some independent-minded Democrats. Sadly, his kind of moderation and refusal to pander has gone nowhere in the hyper-partisan steam room of Republican caucus and primary politics.

The jig was clearly up for Huntsman after he finished third in the New Hampshire primary, after Romney and Ron Paul. Huntsman had put all his chips on the Granite State. He said the right socially moderate and fiscally conservative things. He respected the local demand for close encounters with candidates. Going from town hall to high-school gym, he practiced retail politics at the mom-and-pop level.

Thus, he might have repeated Sen. John McCain's 2000 New Hampshire victory against George W. Bush. The Arizona Republican's candidacy had shot from the basement to the heavens as he modestly addressed small groups on the crying need for fiscal rectitude and campaign finance reform. But Huntsman was up against Romney, another moderate and from neighboring Massachusetts.

Had a broader national electorate been given the chance to judge, the outcome could have been far different.

Huntsman ran a grown-up campaign. His emphasis was on what would be good for the country, rather than smiting The Enemy, as construed by the right wing. He was even nice to fellow Republicans.

Thus, he had to defend his decision to serve as ambassador to China. In one of Romney's low debating moments, he said to Huntsman, "I'm sorry, governor. You were, the last two years, implementing the policies of this administration in China." Whether anything was wrong with those policies stood entirely beside the point.

"I believe in my country," Huntsman would reply to such accusations, "and he was president of my country." Having been recently re-elected with 80 percent of the vote in conservative Utah, he must have found it strange having to justify his Republican bona fides.

Huntsman refused to indulge Republicans hostile to modern science. "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming," he tweeted. "Call me crazy."

The candidate was asked on ABC to justify that statement from a political horse-race standpoint. He said that the minute Republicans become the anti-science party, "we lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012."

Above all, Huntsman was a class act in a low-class campaign. In withdrawing from the fray, he lamented, "This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation's history." Indeed, the Republicans are trashing one another with a vigor that makes the opposing punditry redundant.

Huntsman wouldn't sign silly pledges. He wouldn't attend Donald Trump debates. He wouldn't question Obama's love of America.

Huntsman may leave the race with few supporters to pass on to Romney, but he departs with his dignity intact. These days, that's saying something.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Comments

7 Comments | Post Comment
"An onslaught of negative personal attacks not worthy of the Americal people?" Just wait. Eventually, the Republican candidates will be finished with forming circular firing squads and turn all their guns on President Obama. If you thought the Swift Boat ads were nasty, be prepared for much worse this year. We will have the biggest onslaught of negativism, twisted half-truths, and outright lies that corporate money can buy.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:34 AM
You got that right. Obama has no good record or accomplishments to run on, so attacks are the only kind of trick he has. This will one one of, if not the most, negative political campaign in human history. And its funny that the billion dollars Obama has for his war machine comes from the very Wall St. fatcats he claims to want to reign in.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:33 AM
So we are suppose to believe a Liberal propagandist, a woman who called the conservative TEA Party “terrorists” about what is best for the Republican party? Why should we think change is moving from one extreme socialist to a more moderate one is progress? You still end up with a freedom killing socialist.
Also beware of propaganda buzz words like Extreme Right Wing – only conservative are called extreme: it is used to make those the Left dislikes as mentally unreasonable therefore making the left seem reasonable; “socially moderate and fiscally conservative:” is an oxymoron because social issues always take precedence over financial ones and it is the social entitlements that has gotten us into trouble; “campaign finance reform” means restricting the voice of corporations, in order to give unions and special interest groups like environmental ones, unrestricted attacks against our liberties.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Exton1
Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:03 PM
I agree with you Froma Harrop. Here was an example of gerrymandering by both parties that produces candidates that must compete for the extreme ends of each party. And it's a perfert example of media as entertainment rather than factual news, that makes each election into a contact sport with emplasis on tactics and gaffs rather than candidates' voting patterns or actions as an officeholder. The one ensures extreme candidates, and the second tries to guess a winner early on, and ignores the rest as talking heads chatter.

I noticed Huntsman, and hoped he'd get some traction. I am not Republican, and am instead an Independent who dislikes both parties. So, I always hope to see candidates run who use facts and reason to decide, and it would have made a better presidential election had Huntsman and Obama debated. We might hear for the first time in decades a campaign of ideas and reason that would educate rather than entertain.
Comment: #4
Posted by: marty martinetto
Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:55 PM
While it is fashionable these days to engage in vitriol and vilification of the political “other side,” I am having a hard time thinking of Willard Mitt Romney as truly evil. Really.

Sure, I cringe when I think about having a private equity guy in the White House. I know enough about that business to realize that it can be creative and helpful or deeply cold-blooded and destructive. Romney's work at Bain Capital apparently included plenty of both kinds of deals. That makes me uncomfortable. But it's a big jump from knowing that to believing that one can divine what's in a man's soul. People are complicated, Romney more so than most.

Along with his shortcomings, Romney has some very good qualities – as a candidate and as a person – that make him by far the best Republican in the presidential field. None of those qualities make me want to vote for him in the fall, for reasons I will explain shortly. But even so, it's worth noting some of them:

-- Romney is no ideologue: Like Ronald Reagan, Romney has a strong pragmatic streak. As governor of Massachusetts, he was willing to pair spending cuts with revenue increases by raising fees and closing loopholes in the state tax code. That does not endear him to Tea Party activists. But a “cuts only” approach to fixing the Massachusetts budget would have been a nonstarter. Mitt chose to get things done.
-- He made health care a priority: “Romneycare,” seen as Romney's biggest vulnerability in the primaries, was actually a ground-breaking achievement. It is not the approach I would have chosen to provide near-universal health care in Massachusetts. But, for the most part, it worked and provided a template for the national Affordable Care Act.
-- He's boring – in a good way: It's commendable that Romney has been married to the same woman for 40-plus years, raised a family and lived a scandal-free personal life. I try my best to be a good family man and it's a trait I admire in others.
-- He's sane: That might seem like a “damning with faint praise” comment, but it's not. In a Republican field that once included Michele Bachmann and still includes Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it's good to have a remaining candidate whom I would easily trust with nuclear launch codes. Now that Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman are out of the race, Mitt is the only GOP contender who, as president, would not make me want to sleep in a bunker.

I could go on here, but I think you get the point. There are many good reasons to think Mitt is not the presidential candidate equivalent of Lex Luthor. In his own out-of-touch sort of way, Mitt really does seem to mean well. I see little indication, however, that Romney understands my interests or would do much to advance them. More importantly, I think a continuation of President Barack Obama's policies would be better for me. So, I won't be voting for Mitt.

The handling of the “managed bankruptcies” and federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler is probably the best example of what troubles me about Romney. In November 2008, he famously called on the government to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” and for the government to stand back and let it happen. In a stunning failure of imagination, Romney was unable to see that a “bailout” (I prefer to say “rescue”) was perfectly compatible with the bold restructuring of both car makers that he called for.

Given Romney's background, I doubt it would have occurred to him to match Chrysler with Fiat. Nor does it seem likely that he would have worked with the United Auto Workers union to preserve U.S. jobs. And that makes perfect sense. From a traditional business perspective, the path of least resistance would have been to let GM and Chrysler go down in flames and take the UAW with them. Afterward, investors could have picked the meat from the carcass of the domestic auto industry and moved ahead into a radically outsourced, union-free, low-wage future. Or, maybe, everything could have just been sold for scrap – whichever was most profitable in the short run.

I am glad the Obama Administration pursued a riskier, bolder path. That is the kind of unorthodox resourcefulness that the United States needs right now. I see similar fresh thinking in Obama's vision of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, investing in education, boosting exports and encouraging the development of new energy sources.

By contrast, Romney's main ideas come down to cutting taxes for corporations (again), a variation on “drill, baby, drill,” attacks on unions and more vague promises of “deregulation.” The only Romney idea that appeals to me very much is his proposal to stamp China as a currency manipulator. But, frankly, I wonder of Mitt really has the guts to do it. That assessment makes Romney's evilness – or lack thereof –irrelevant.

So, sure, I think Romney owes the American people a full accounting about his offshore bank accounts, and his involvement in legal-but-distasteful business practices like dividend recapitalizations while at Bain. I also really look forward to seeing what is in his tax returns. But I honestly doubt that any of those things will prove that Mitt is secretly in league with Lord Voldemort, so I won't bother to try.

The less-glamorous reality is that, instead of being evil, Romney is a guy who has very different values than me and who looks at business ethics through very different prism. His policy proposals reflect that. There certainly is room in my America for people like Mitt and I wish him the best. But I don't want him to be my president – even if he is a first-rate husband and a really good dad.
Comment: #5
Posted by: James Melton
Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:50 AM
While it is fashionable these days to engage in vitriol and vilification of the political “other side,” I am having a hard time thinking of Willard Mitt Romney as truly evil. Really.

Sure, I cringe when I think about having a private equity guy in the White House. I know enough about that business to realize that it can be creative and helpful or deeply cold-blooded and destructive. Romney's work at Bain Capital apparently included plenty of both kinds of deals. That makes me uncomfortable. But it's a big jump from knowing that to believing that one can divine what's in a man's soul. People are complicated, Romney more so than most.

Along with his shortcomings, Romney has some very good qualities – as a candidate and as a person – that make him by far the best Republican in the presidential field. None of those qualities make me want to vote for him in the fall, for reasons I will explain shortly. But even so, it's worth noting some of them:

-- Romney is no ideologue: Like Ronald Reagan, Romney has a strong pragmatic streak. As governor of Massachusetts, he was willing to pair spending cuts with revenue increases by raising fees and closing loopholes in the state tax code. That does not endear him to Tea Party activists. But a “cuts only” approach to fixing the Massachusetts budget would have been a nonstarter. Mitt chose to get things done.
-- He made health care a priority: “Romneycare,” seen as Romney's biggest vulnerability in the primaries, was actually a ground-breaking achievement. It is not the approach I would have chosen to provide near-universal health care in Massachusetts. But, for the most part, it worked and provided a template for the national Affordable Care Act.
-- He's boring – in a good way: It's commendable that Romney has been married to the same woman for 40-plus years, raised a family and lived a scandal-free personal life. I try my best to be a good family man and it's a trait I admire in others.
-- He's sane: That might seem like a “damning with faint praise” comment, but it's not. In a Republican field that once included Michele Bachmann and still includes Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it's good to have a remaining candidate whom I would easily trust with nuclear launch codes. Now that Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman are out of the race, Mitt is the only GOP contender who, as president, would not make me want to sleep in a bunker.

I could go on here, but I think you get the point. There are many good reasons to think Mitt is not the presidential candidate equivalent of Lex Luthor. In his own out-of-touch sort of way, Mitt really does seem to mean well. I see little indication, however, that Romney understands my interests or would do much to advance them. More importantly, I think a continuation of President Barack Obama's policies would be better for me. So, I won't be voting for Mitt.

The handling of the “managed bankruptcies” and federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler is probably the best example of what troubles me about Romney. In November 2008, he famously called on the government to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” and for the government to stand back and let it happen. In a stunning failure of imagination, Romney was unable to see that a “bailout” (I prefer to say “rescue”) was perfectly compatible with the bold restructuring of both car makers that he called for.

Given Romney's background, I doubt it would have occurred to him to match Chrysler with Fiat. Nor does it seem likely that he would have worked with the United Auto Workers union to preserve U.S. jobs. And that makes perfect sense. From a traditional business perspective, the path of least resistance would have been to let GM and Chrysler go down in flames and take the UAW with them. Afterward, investors could have picked the meat from the carcass of the domestic auto industry and moved ahead into a radically outsourced, union-free, low-wage future. Or, maybe, everything could have just been sold for scrap – whichever was most profitable in the short run.

I am glad the Obama Administration pursued a riskier, bolder path. That is the kind of unorthodox resourcefulness that the United States needs right now. I see similar fresh thinking in Obama's vision of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, investing in education, boosting exports and encouraging the development of new energy sources.

By contrast, Romney's main ideas come down to cutting taxes for corporations (again), a variation on “drill, baby, drill,” attacks on unions and more vague promises of “deregulation.” The only Romney idea that appeals to me very much is his proposal to stamp China as a currency manipulator. But, frankly, I wonder of Mitt really has the guts to do it. That assessment makes Romney's evilness – or lack thereof –irrelevant.

So, sure, I think Romney owes the American people a full accounting about his offshore bank accounts, and his involvement in legal-but-distasteful business practices like dividend recapitalizations while at Bain. I also really look forward to seeing what is in his tax returns. But I honestly doubt that any of those things will prove that Mitt is secretly in league with Lord Voldemort, so I won't bother to try.

The less-glamorous reality is that, instead of being evil, Romney is a guy who has very different values than me and who looks at business ethics through very different prism. His policy proposals reflect that. There certainly is room in my America for people like Mitt and I wish him the best. But I don't want him to be my president – even if he is a first-rate husband and a really good dad.
Comment: #6
Posted by: James Melton
Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:50 AM
Huntsman was my choice also, for all the reasons mentioned. What a class act and the only Republican I felt deserving of the opportunity to debate President Obama.
Re: James Melton, I am not a GOP fan, but I read your thoughtful well-written comment with great interest and agreement in some areas. Hopefully others will take the time to read, consider, and reach the same conclusion.
Comment: #7
Posted by: demecra zydeem
Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:43 PM
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