Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is Jon Huntsman too civil to be the GOP nominee?

By Richard K. Barry 

A lot of people are going to weigh in on Jon Huntsman's announcement this week that he will seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. Many of them will say exactly what I'm saying, which is that, at least on the face of things, Huntsman is a very impressive candidate.

The fact that he has absolutely no chance of securing the GOP nomination may say all there is to say about the current state of the Republican Party.

And why does he have no chance of winning the nomination? Is it because he supports civil unions? Is it because he took stimulus money as the governor of Utah? Is it because he thought the stimulus spending bill could have been even bigger? Is it because he took an appointment from President Obama?

Yes, all of those things might well hurt him with the Republican base, but the biggest mark against him has to be his unwillingness to attack the president as un-American, as a socialist, as a person at heart committed to destroying the country.

Huntsman is a conservative, make no mistake. And I have no interest in his politics, but you have to appreciate political talent when you see it. Still, just having him say an apparently benign thing like: "I don't want to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president," makes him toxic to a significant percentage of Republican voters. Worse yet, it seems that a letter exists from Huntsman to Obama, handwritten in August of 2009, while he was Ambassador to China, in which Huntsman calls the President a "remarkable leader" adding that "it has been a great honor getting to know you."

The GOP nomination has become a contest based on who can show the most contempt for the current President of the United States. Judging by early notices, Huntsman seems to have tied his own shoelaces together while standing at the starting line. Makes you wonder why he's bothering at all.

Maybe none of this matters. Maybe he really is just an empty suit with some social skills, but when basic civility is the thing that makes a candidate unelectable, it could be time for the conservative movement as currently constituted in America to fold its tent and start from scratch.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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