Huntsman in 2016?

The former ambassador may be waiting out the crazies in order to have a shot at the next presidential election.

My very astute wife thinks she has Jon Huntsman figured out: He is actually running for the 2016 Republican nomination.

And why might Huntsman be so sure that he can dismiss the 2012 race as merely an opportunity for some name recognition? Because he can’t see any GOP candidate beating Barack Obama in 2012.

Huntsman has to be assuming that many of the most radical and inept of the 2010 Republican extremists (a large pool) won’t be around past 2012, which result should work to send his party a message: The GOP must marginalize its base and move dramatically towards the center. Guess who fits this profile best? Right, Barack Obama’s former ambassador to China, the moderate Utah governor who worked to rid his Mormon-dominated state of many of its silly drinking laws. Huntsman would not be the candidate of today’s radical right — and, if my wife is right, he is betting that this won’t matter.

About the ambassador’s dynamo 2012 opposition?

First, Mitt Romney, a guy whose money-making specialty was laying people off, and who has changed his position on so many issues (health care, abortion, gay marriage) that one hardly knows where to begin to dissect. (Rest assured, the DNC is counting the ways.)

Tim Pawlenty? When he isn’t putting people to sleep, Pawlenty is ruining the Minnesota economy — this assessment from a former Minnesota governor (and a fellow Republican, mind you).

And then we have the woefully ignorant, Christian fundamentalist candidate, Michelle Bachmann.

Here are just two of her many revealing wackoisms: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?” (Welcome back, Joe McCarthy.) Or how about this one: “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.” Now, imagine a person whose mind works this way in the Oval Office, the days and nights before the order was given to the Navy SEALS. Scary thought, isn’t it?

Finally, you have the nonstarters — Newt, Ron, the pizza guy and Rick. I’m old enough to remember the day FDR died, and in all these years I haven’t seen a list of such dismal candidates, from either party.

And in the meantime, our ideologically energized Republican House of Representatives has yet to pass any bill that would actually help the economy or help create jobs. That silly “social values” stuff does take time. Now, unless some adults move in and say enough is enough, these children may well not raise the debt limit, which, as every Nobel-winning economist has warned, will risk international economic chaos.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post recently completed a little study that examined the previously held positions of the more experienced Republicans in the Congress. And guess what? Turns out that many supported numerous policies being urged by Obama. Klein refers to agreements on major issues: global warming, immigration reform, defense spending cuts, comprehensive healthcare reform, even tax reform. Some voted for TARP and supported the Detroit loans.

Then, Obama won the election and everything changed. Since the day after the 2009 inauguration, Republicans have marched in lock step in opposition to everything the president has attempted. And why? Well, it seems that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was serious when, after the 2010 election, he announced that his major goal was to deny Obama a second term. The words of a cynic, yet, alas, this attitude has become the driving force.

I continue to return to health care — Richard Nixon’s proposals back in 1973 were further reaching. Or take taxes: As David Brooks has pointed out, what in the first years of the Reagan administration was a pragmatic response to stagflation (to be followed by six tax increases) has now become, for this bunch of Republicans, a sacred oath, a shibboleth, if you will, the badge of ultimate loyalty — a position supported neither by the facts nor by common sense; but there they are, threatening to default on debts before any will vote for any tax increase, even when in the form of closing tax loopholes.

When asked about the debt ceiling crisis on Nightly News, Republican Sen. John Barraso, R-Wyoming, changed the subject: He wants the Congress to balance its budget, just like all families have to.

Well, I’ve got news for the senator and his budget-hawk colleagues: American families (most, anyway) don’t balance their budgets. Families, like the world, run on credit.

Take home-mortgage loans. There is absolutely no difference between holding a 30-year home-mortgage loan and the government issuing bonds. Today, many of the senator’s most “frugal” constituents, I’d bet, have children who will soon be paying on student loans. And don’t forget the car loan, etc. This double-entry bookkeeping mindset makes about as much governance sense as do many of Michelle Bachmann’s more amazingly ignorant gaffes.

Anyway, you get my wife’s point. Jon Huntsman isn’t of this ilk. He is a serious person who, so far at least, hasn’t taken the bait. If he continues to present himself as a reasonable alternative he likely will get no more than five percent of the primary vote this time around. But in four years, by comparison, he may look very, very good indeed.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
  • or

About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.