The Campaign Spot

How Jon Huntsman Could Debut With a Bang

In the Morning Jolt, you’ll see some conservative bloggers expressing great skepticism about the potential presidential bid of Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and soon to depart as ambassador to China. Scoff if you want, but there’s at least one way for a Huntsman bid to quickly generate a lot of buzz.

Picture it: It’s early summer 2011. Huntsman has launched his campaign to a generally “meh” reception, and now, in his first major policy address, he goes to Washington, D.C. He gives a lunch speech at the Brookings Institution or some other centrist, non-conservative foreign policy think tank — his natural base of support, really.

With the campaign correspondents in the back and all of Washington’s foreign-policy cognoscenti sitting in front of him, Huntsman begins by hitting predictable notes: He joined the Obama administration with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes, a desire to prove that politics stops at the water’s edge and that when dealing with a challenging, threatening world, America’s political leaders act in unity. He admits he knew he had some disagreements with Obama, but he felt that he could steer foreign policies in the right direction by having a seat at the table.

And then, in detail, Huntsman paints a picture of an administration that is flailing, frozen with indecision, short-sighted, often at war with itself, disorganized, and ultimately lacking any sense of what it wanted to do after Obama had finished his apology tour.

He says things like, “The charm offensive wasn’t just this president’s first foreign-policy tool; it was his only one. And when it failed to achieve significant concessions from either our allies or our foes, the president and the team around him had no plan B.”

He points out that Obama and Hillary’s constant invocation of a “reset” button reflects an immature yearning to go back to some earlier, simpler time, out of a misplaced nostalgic belief that foreign-policy challenges were easier to solve in past years, and a tacit admission that they cannot make progress in current circumstances. “We have to deal with the world as it is; yelling ‘do-over’ doesn’t even work in the schoolyard.”

Huntsman sets a record for talking out of school, sharing a series of anecdotes that make Joe Biden look cloddish, Hillary Clinton frustrated, dismissed, and quick to lash out, David Axelrod meddling in areas he doesn’t understand, and the man at the top so far out of his league he terrifies Huntsman.

Huntsman shares frustrating tales of trying to be the voice of reason while the president tried to tailor his foreign policies to the whims of congressional Democrats. He laments that Obama’s Middle East vision begins and ends with Israeli settlements, that he effectively sold out Iranian democracy protesters in pursuit of a Quixotic dream of a summit with Tehran, and that in two short years he has snubbed India and insulted almost every major ally. He laments that the administration was caught flat-footed time and again: cartel violence in Mexico spilling over the border, North Korean shelling, WikiLeaks, the uprising in Egypt and beyond.

He ends his litany, “And I told him the president of the United States isn’t supposed to bow.”

Huntsman closes his speech, now generating furious reaction from the administration, “It was only when I saw how poorly this administration was serving America that I felt the need to leave, and to take steps to help steer us back on the right course . . .”

Would a dramatic whistle-blower-like series of revelations like this win Huntsman the nomination? Probably not. But it would definitely get a chunk of the ‘he’s a RINO’ crowd to take a second look. And it would probably inflict serious damage on Obama and leave the eventual nominee grateful . . ..


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