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23 July 2012

Too sane to be President

Huntsman JohnSome politicians are too young to get the top job in a democracy, while others are too old. Alternatively, they might be thought too boring or – just as likely – too interesting. Certainly, one needs to look the part: so if you’re too short, too fat, too bald or too weird, then forget it.

However, none of these drawbacks apply to Jon Huntsman – the former Governor of Utah, former US ambassador to China and former Republican candidate for the 2012 Presidential nomination. No, his problem is that he is too sane.

Before they unenthusiastically settled upon Mitt Romney, the Republican base had one fling after another with a series of unlikely alternatives. At various points in the race for the nomination, the following characters enjoyed frontrunner status: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachman and, ahem, Herman Cain. Unbelievably, every one of these was, at some juncture, genuinely considered to be the best placed Republican candidate. For President. Of the United States. Of America.

Not Jon Huntsman, though – no surge of enthusiasm for him. Given the evident irrationality of the electorate, this should be considered a great achievement.

Still, it’s a shame, because judging from his opinion piece for the Financial Times, America – indeed the free world – is in desperate need of what Huntsman stands for: 

  • "The founding fathers’ vision of limited government, one that empowers free markets and creates a level playing field for all citizens, is being replaced by a form of crony capitalism where powerful economic interests blur the distinction between regulators and regulated. Campaign finance super-political action committees are but the latest manifestation of this phenomenon." 

Unlike his absurdly partisan Republican colleagues (not to mention his absurdly partisan Democratic opponents), Huntsman understands that the rot afflicts the entire American political system: 

  • "This cancer has spread across both parties and reduces the prospects of finding solutions to the deepening public policy problems facing the US. Meanwhile, precious time slips away that should be used to bolster the prospects of the next generation. Republicans are better than this!" 

Further conservative common sense on the economy: 

  • "The Republicans should begin by eliminating the tax code’s labyrinth of subsidies, loopholes and corporate welfare in favour of lower, flatter individual rates. For the party of Ronald Reagan, national debt should be seen as an enemy and framed as a national security issue." 

And on education: 

  • "Education reform starts with recognising the need for an expanded marketplace. This, along with tighter federal-local co-ordination of vocational skills training, will be necessary to win back our manufacturing base." 

And on foreign and defence policy: 

  • "US foreign policy and defence budgets ought to be driven by long-term threats and vulnerabilities, not by meaningless procurement patterns developed two decades ago and reinforced today by armies of lobbyists, political consultants and campaign bundlers." 

Huntsman is also clear about what he stands against: 

  • "At the heart of the problem is the "revolving door" through which the overseers and the overseen morph into one another. Wall Street and government have become almost interchangeable. Weapons producers and the Pentagon have become look alikes. Congressional tax committees start to resemble the "Gucci Gulch" of K Street in Washington." 

Despite the messianic imagery, President Obama has done little to drive the money-changers from the temple of American democracy. If he is re-elected in November, the Republicans will only have themselves to blame.

> Yesterday on International: Strong government, 'the little guy', long-termism and honesty suggested as four themes for future of US conservatism


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