There are all those other Republican candidates, whose names are vaguely familiar, but about whom one knows next to nothing. Looking over the news this morning, I noticed omens and portents pertaining to the candidacy of Jon Huntsman, so let’s start with him.
Mark Halperin, for instance, blogging at the New York Times, says that prominent movement conservative C. Boyden Gray has signed on board the Huntsman campaign in an influential role. Halperin draws from Gray’s affiliation the reasonable conclusion that GOP conservatives may be preparing to back Huntsman as the more conservative alternative to “moderate” front-runner Milt Romney.
Less positive from my own perspective, is a basically typical New York Times magazine puff piece by Matt Bai, treating Huntsman surprisingly sympathetically.
So, I turned to Google and spun up the Wikipedia article on Huntsman. Aha! Governor of Utah, that’s who he is.
He’s a Mormon, just like Mitt Romney. (Basically good. Mormons are crazy, of course, for subscribing to a 19th century Sci Fi religion but, hey! Mormons are also rock-ribbed tribal Republicans, gun-owning, capitalism-defending, fiscal conservatives, respectable and hard-working people, typically a lot more clean living than I am.)
He’s from Palo Alto, California. (We can look on the bright side, and recognize that he must therefore be well acquainted with how nice it is to have lots of money, the economic significance of technology, and the left coast dystopian future American needs to make every effort to avoid.)
He speaks Mandarin and became ambassador to China for Barack Obama, whom he (perhaps, in consequence) makes some effort to avoid attacking.
He supports same sex civil unions, but not Gay Marriage.
He has a good record of governing as a fiscal conservative, and he apparently does not demagogue on immigration.
He does, however, believe in Global Warming, and he signed one of those bogus initiatives to curb “greenhouse gases.” (So much for being such a great technocrat. In my view, Global Warming is a litmus test demonstrating both scientific literacy and real conservative principles, or the lack of both. I would not be happy voting for any Republican with a record of support for AGW superstition. This one is a big deal in my book.)
If you believe the Times’ story, he is under the influence of one of John McCain’s less-reliably-Republican advisors, a guy named John Weaver, a political pro and rival to Karl Rove, who has a hankering to move beyond all the tedium of political principles and ideology and on to mass market appeal via “bigness.”
By bigness, Mr. Weaver evidently means something resembling Ronald Reagan’s ability to attract the support of moderates and to occupy an effective leadership position that could get the country as a whole behind him. In my view, Reagan’s success was achieved by explaining what he meant to do, and why, and winning the argument. The alternative view, which the Times likes, means simply dropping all the theory and the principles off the sled and running as a pragmatic technocrat who solves problems. Amazing, isn’t it, the way the establishment intelligentsia always goes running to the shelter of good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism and pragmatism, when it finds that it is losing the theoretical argument?
So, on looking closely at Jon Huntsman, I see that some good people whom I seriously respect are in the process of joining his team. He looks like a decent guy in most respects, but his record features strong support for the leading pseudo-scientific stupidity of our time, indicating that he is either a fool or an opportunist. (On which same basis, we know what Newt Gingrich is, for instance.)
He has hired a political strategist who is the personal embodiment of all the worst features of McCain-ism, a guy so bad that McCain evidently got rid of him during the 2008 campaign.
The stories are contradictory. Mark Halperin suggests that back-room forces of movement conservatism are planning to support Huntsman to prevent the too-moderate Romney becoming the nominee. Yet, we also have evidence that he is planning to run explicitly as the non-conservative in the race for the GOP nomination.
There is a bit more reason, judging by the volume of mainstream media sympathetic coverage, to suspect that the latter theory is the more likely. The strategy of running as a non-conservative will make the New York Times respect him, but I rather doubt myself that it will succeed in delivering the GOP nomination.