Whether Liddy, Abby, and Mary Anne — more commonly known as the Huntsman Girls — can do much damage to a campaign that has never left the launch pad is doubtful, but they are certainly a liability in one area: They are not funny. In his classic “schoolmaster” sketch, Rowan Atkinson tells his students that we can tell “Antony and Cleopatra is not a funny play” because “if Shakespeare had meant it to be funny, he would have put a joke in it.” The Huntsman Girls might take note, for theirs is a big stage on which to fail.
The trio represents a wasted opportunity for their father, and for a primary season that could do with some cheering up. The girls are young, beautiful, and charming, and they could quite easily be an asset. Instead, they are repeatedly missing the mark. Even the most charitable of viewers would be hard-pressed to laugh out loud either at their Twitter feed or their two YouTube videos — one a parody of the bizarre Mark Block “smoking” video, the other a reworking of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback,” entitled “Huntsman’s Back,” in which the girls first take shots at the other Republican candidates and then lionize their father. “We’re bringing Huntsman back,” the lyrics run. “The rest of them is one big circus act. We’re right behind the guy who’s right on track.”
Except that, if we’re honest, Jon Huntsman isn’t “right on track,” and the girls aren’t “behind” their father, but instead an orchestrated — and perhaps too prominent — part of his floundering campaign. Sideshows work only when the main attraction is sufficiently adept at pulling focus to render its adjuncts second fiddle. Jon Huntsman is not, and he’s left himself at risk of being overshadowed by his family. The girls’ aim might be to give their father a much-needed boost, but in actuality they are stealing some of the limelight for themselves and doing very little that is constructive with it.
An example: “How does Romney know anything about China?” they tweeted during one debate. “He’s only been there once and that was for the Olympics. Panda Express doesn’t count.” Devoid as it is of humor, this just comes across as smug — not a trait of which the campaign is exactly in dire need. Their father has a similar problem: His jokes don’t quite hit their target, and he is left looking awkward or conceited — or both. Like father, like daughters.
Such similarities are not all that surprising, as, in all likelihood, the lines are coming from the same place. Jon Huntsman is many things, but funny is not one of them, and apples do not fall far from the tree. Even if the Huntsman Girls are not an explicit contrivance of their father’s campaign, although it is eminently possible that they are, it is unlikely that they are given much latitude in deciding what they say, shoot, and tweet. The various reports that campaign aides are becoming jittery about the trio, even that one had accused them of “going rogue,” are thus highly doubtful, but, regardless, prime among the articles of advice given to nervous or rookie public speakers is Don’t Try to Be Funny. It is time for the Huntsman campaign to take note. This is an approach that simply isn’t working.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate for National Review.