Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Huntsman Leaving the GOP Matters a Lot to Jeff Greenfield

Or so thinks Jeff Greenfield... Granted, Greenfield is the guy who originated the role of Cable News Political Analyst Who Explains Pie Charts, but what is the point of this piece?

(for the uninitiated, Jon Huntsman is the former Utah Governor and Chinese Ambassador who came in, like, 13th in the Republican primary. He wore pink ties, weirdly referenced grunge music during the debates, wrote a needlessly flowery letter in Comic Sans to Barack Obama announcing his departure as ambassador, and was completely and utterly uninspiring).

It’s an exhilarating, if somewhat mystifying, experience to find yourself a supporting player in a modern media maelstrom.
Again. Jon Huntsman, the guy I needed to spend a paragraph describing so you would even have any idea what I'm talking about. No maelstrom. 
“My first thought was, this is what they do in China on party matters if you talk off script.”

Those words were spoken Sunday night by Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate, 
That sounds like him.  I remember a day when Republican front runners regularly compared their own party to communists. Reagan did it all the time. The GOP has changed, man.

Before dawn, websites were reporting the quote under headlines like “Huntsman compares GOP to Communist Party of China.”
 Totally unfair, the headline should have been "Huntsman discusses his thoughts on scripts."
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Huntsman was painting with a brush so broad as to compare the Republican Party with Communist China. For one thing, Huntsman is not yet under house arrest with his Internet access forbidden.
Which is why the analogy is utterly insane. Also, what is "mystifying" about any of this?

But here’s what the dust-up missed. If you take all of what he said to me over some 90 minutes, it is all but certain that John (sic) Huntsman is not going to be a Republican much longer.
His name is "Jon", not "John". You know you're irrelevant when prominent journalists can't be bothered to learn your name. 
(Huntsman was animated in scorning Republican candidates who called for a hard line on China or protective tariffs--notions that Romney has enthusiastically embraced.)
For the record, this is the only thing Huntsman seems to be animated about, and he's right to be, but it puts him firmly in the right of his party. The man makes no sense.
The real message he is carrying is that both parties--the “duopoly,” as he calls it--are paralyzed by polarization and inertia, and that the Republican Party in particular is pursuing an “unsustainable” course.
How can you be paralyzed by inertia? If you are paralyzed, how can you be on an "unsustainable" trajectory?
His distance from the party whose nomination he sought goes beyond tactics. When he recalled his first appearance on a debate stage with his rivals, he said he remembers thinking two thoughts. First: “The barriers to entry are very low.” Second: “In a nation of 315 million people ... is this the best we can do?”
Pretty much sums up my, and every other Republican's, opinion of you, sir. 
If he was including himself, this is a remarkable example of self-deprecation.
No it isn't. Tom Tancredo said the same thing about himself. If Huntsman wasn't including himself, it is a remarkable example of being utterly tone deaf, which he is, but he is also self-deprecating (hence, I hope, the pink ties). 

His understanding of the Asian-Pacific region surpasses that of any presidential candidate in history.
I seem to recall a relatively unheralded fellow named Richard Nixon running for the office at one point and time. Whatever became of him?

When he talks of his three urgent priorities for change—term limits, campaign finance reform, and congressional redistricting--you can detect a touch of naiveté. 
 And a healthy scoop of irrelevance.

Term limits have been a reality for years in California, where they have fed, not halted, a dysfunctional government.
I think term limits are stupid and frivolous, but saddling the concept with California's dysfunctional government is a wee tad unfair.

The charge of “sour grapes” or “sore loser” will not be far from the lips of many Republicans.
Yes it will. No Republican cares about Jon Huntsman.

Why does this add up to a conviction on my part that Huntsman has one foot out the door of the Republican Party, and is likely placing a bet on his belief that a third party will be increasingly attractive to the electorate, perhaps not this year, but by 2016?  
I dunno, because he keeps bitching about the two-party system, and especially his own party? Are you expecting a Pulitzer for this fit of prescience on your part?    

One reason is how he contrasted Republicans from Teddy Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower to Richard Nixon with the current party orthodoxy. Could Ronald Reagan be nominated today? I asked. “Likely, no,” he said.
We nominated the former governor of Massachusetts over the former governor of Utah... And a representative from Texas, and a former representative from Georgia... And the current governor of Texas... And Michelle Bachmann.

Also, Reagan wouldn't have been caught dead in a pink tie, and he did a movie with a monkey.

“Why do I get the feeling,” I asked him, “that if we have this conversation a couple of years from now, you will not be sitting here as a Republican?”

“Because,” he said with a smile, “you’re a good journalist.”
Huntsman handled that question with all the subtlety of a serial killer.

Flattery aside, the answer couldn’t have been clearer.

Literally. And Republicans knew he was going to pull this act a year ago. It was his campaign's raison d'etre That's why nobody voted for him. Well that, and no Republican really thought he'd be a good candidate. There was that.

Huntsman's great, though.


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