Monday, May 9, 2011

2012 Contender: Jon Huntsman Jr.

Let’s continue our look at GOP contenders with a look at Jon Huntsman Jr. Huntsman is routinely described as a “moderate” by some and “not as moderate as he sounds” by others. Some of his views are indeed well within the conservative mainstream. But several of his more important views appear to be on the left end of the spectrum. Also, he's got all the wrong friends.

Huntsman is the former two-term governor of Utah. He is also a Mormon and comes from a wealthy family. His estimated worth is around $70 million. He was first elected in 2004 with 57% of the vote and was re-elected in 2008 with 77.7% of the vote. His approval ratings topped 90% at various points. So far so good. But in August 2009, he resigned to become Obama Ambassador to China. In and of itself, this should not be considered a problem, but in this case, combined with his repeated attempts to make himself out as the “moderate” candidate, this may evidence a man more comfortable with the system than political principle.

1. Economics. When it comes to economics, it’s hard to argue that Huntsman is not a conservative. As governor, he pursued a pro-business agenda of tax cuts and employment incentives. Following his term, Utah was named one of the top three states in the country in which to do business. His biggest achievements in this regard were streamlining state government, cutting the sales tax and simplifying the tax code. In 2008, the libertarian CATO Institute praised Huntsman’s tax policies, giving him the highest ranking of all 50 governors. However, CATO also pointed out that he “completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about 10% annually during his tenure.” This may be more consistent with a big business Republican than a conservative.

2. Global Warming. Huntsman believes in global warming and in 2007 signed a Western states pact with Arnold Schwarzenegger to regulate emissions in Utah. He has yet to backtrack on this stupidity.

3. Foreign Policy. It’s not clear what Huntsman’s position is on foreign policy, except that he’s known to believe in the power of diplomacy and he happily accepted the role of Obama’s ambassador to China, a job that essentially involved kowtowing to the Chinese. He praised Obama’s handling of the Osama bin Laden killing, but has yet to take a stand on other issues.

5. Social Issues.

A. Abortion. Huntsman is opposed to abortion and has signed and supported various laws to limit abortion or impose restrictions on abortion. One of these laws requires doctors to describe the pain the fetus is likely to feel to the mothers before they can get an abortion. He also helped establish a fund to defend Utah in court, should Utah ever ban abortion entirely.

B. Gays. Huntsman has riled many conservatives with his support of civil unions. He does not appear to support gay marriage per se.

C. Guns. Huntsman is opposed to gun control and actually supported unpopular bills in Utah to expand gun rights by allowing drivers to carry loaded weapons in their cars without a permit.

D. Immigration. Huntsman described himself as “moderate” on the issue of illegal immigration and has been careful to avoid getting specific. He talks vaguely of wanting “comprehensive reform,” which is generally code for amnesty. While governor, he helped introduce a “driving privilege card system,” which sounds suspiciously like drivers licenses for illegal aliens, he fought to protect in-state discounts for illegal immigrants at Utah colleges, and he worked with Janet Napolitano to expand the guest worker system.
6. The Fuzzy Stuff. Much of the “fuzzy stuff” is troubling with Huntsman. For example, he happily embraces the “moderate” label. That’s not a good sign. Also, he has sought out Bush and McCain advisors for his inner circle, people who have demonstrated they lack political instincts, an understanding of policy, and a set of principles. That’s a huge problem. He’s also the one candidate that many on the left claim is someone they could love. Jimmy Carter and Huffington Post both have high praise for him. That’s truly disturbing. Finally, most of the big players in Utah, even people like the current governor who was hand-picked by Huntsman, have all said they will support Romney over Huntsman. Again, that's not a good sign when the people who know you (and owe you) won't support you.

All told, this seems to add up to a man who favors big business and democratic policies, except in a few isolated instances like abortion and guns, and who is very comfortable within “the system” and would fit in well at the country club.

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