Jon Huntsman: Unlikely Incoming on Foreign Policy

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WASHINGTON – Barack Obama has gone so far right channeling his inner Republican, especially on big presidential decisions like war and military, but including his timidity on economic issues that borrow from the Republican model, that he’s actually set himself up to be challenged from the left by Republicans. It’s got to be confusing to a lot of Democrats and progressives, starting with Rachel Maddow.

It was an unremarkable announcement, except perhaps for the Easter egg dress choreography of the Huntsman family women, which was lovely, and of course, the Statue of Liberty in the background commemorating a Reagan moment. But he had a very good first day fundraising, while getting creamed in the headlines, which run from “Nobody’s Candidate” to The Note’s “Where’s the Beef? Jon Huntman serves up Tofu to GOP” (h/t Memeorandum).

So, it was very interesting to see Ms. Maddow give Jon Huntsman the full slam, complete with pitch perfect beatnik opener.

It all came to a screaching halt when her guest, a Utah reporter, offered up anecdotal evidence that Jon Huntsman is a quirky former governor with a decent record and resume, someone who’s considered a gentleman, and is so nice his Democratic opponent hugged him after having lost a race to him. It caught Ms. Maddow up short coming after her blistering critique of a campaign announcement that committed the crime of boring.

It came on a hot Tuesday afternoon, when nobody was watching Jon Huntsman but the press. That’s the real beef Maddow had. The D.C. press have a new darling, with Obama reelect also a bit worried about the gentleman who’s got a serious resume, including on foreign policy, whose a Republican calling for less inteventionism and he’s not Ron Paul.

When Maddow tried to make the case that Obama announcing a drawdown in Afghanistan today blew one of Jon Huntsman’s campaign positions out of the water she couldn’t have been more wrong. Huntsman has been saying since he went public after leaving the Obama administration, that he believes we need to get out of Afghanistan, but also that he wouldn’t have engaged in Libya as Obama, because it’s “not core to our national security interest,” and that we need to be less involved in Middle East wars.

Coming from Pres. Obama’s former ambassador to China makes these ideas doubly intriguiging.

Obama’s announcement on Afghanistan was expected to come any time in the next few weeks. It’s just they surprised everyone by moving it up. As hard as Maddow was making the case that Obama’s announcement supposedly big-footed one of Huntsman’s main platforms of his presidential campaign, it’s just as easy to say Obama moved the decision up to the day after Huntsman’s announcement to step on his message and take him out of the news.

The motocross ads were causing a lot of buzz, but there are just as many people who think they suck. Joe Scarborough asked if Huntsman was trying to appeal to the “stoner” crowd.

The urgency in Maddow’s dressing down of what she saw as a bad roll out for Huntsman didn’t come close to matching the moment. Amateur mistakes from Huntsman, including the misspelling of his name, are beyond stupid. But nobody cares.

There’s no evidence yet Jon Huntsman can overtake slick Mitt, who’s raising money and keeping a low profile. There’s no evidence the wingnuts that make up the primary Republican voters will let Huntsman survive, which is why he’s betting it all on New Hampshire. Huntman’s moderate stance on civil unions, at least for a Republican, is balanced by his right-wing stance on women’s freedoms and a number of other things typically Republican, including austerity. But Mr. Huntsman has also said he won’t sign Grover Norquist’s tax pledge, while Romney will.

For the first time in decades tax increases could come back on the table. I’m so heady about this possibility I’m fighting the vapors.

Fred Davis’s off beat ad campaign style is a hoot, but the real treat is that Huntsman and other Republicans are actually taking conservative positions on military intervention for a change.

Huntsman’s comments on Obama’s Libya intervention are on target and important for the debate, because it pushes Obama to defend his militarism. With Huntsman’s seasoned foreign policy voice, Republicans have another player pushing Obama from the left on interventionism, while Congress presses Pres. Obama on Libya. It’s enough to make me giddy.

The George W. Bush doctrine of preemptive war is dead and Pres. Obama is looking more militaristic than the Republicans.

David Plouffe said he was a “wee bit queasy” about Jon Huntsman way back in 2009 and it wasn’t because he was a lightweight, but delivering tofu in the Tea Party era might not be the best way to win.

Taylor Marsh is a Washington based political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics, foreign policy, and women in power. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.

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  • casualobserver

    2012 is not the timing for Huntsman and I suspect he knows that. The economy is going to drive more votes than foreign policy and he doesn’t have the resume to match Romney on that score.

    Nonetheless, I think it a good investment for him now to make…..improve the name recognition, lay claim to the prior candidate status and make some acquaintances on fund raising network.

    But, if he can land some blows to The One along the way, icing on the cake.

  • http://taylormarsh.com TAYLOR MARSH, Guest Voice Columnist

    Let’s remember Afghanistan is tied to the economy, as is our military involvement across the globe. When you couple it there’s a very powerful message to people.

    Actually, Romney’s vulture capitalism, along with his lower than national average employment record in Massachusetts, doesn’t match Huntsman’s record in Utah, which is actually better than Romney.

    As I wrote earlier this week about him, Huntsman’s got powerful GOP establishment names going back to Reagan, daddy Bush & George W.

    The reason he’s running now is because a lot of people think he’s needed in the Republican debate, but also because they think he can win.

    People like Huntsman don’t run on a lark, though it’s obvious he doesn’t need the job.

  • casualobserver

    Ok, well argued. I guess we’ll see in a year who’s correct.