Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman formally began his run for the presidency today, with a speech given before the Statue of Liberty. The media has been very excited by the Huntsman proto-candidacy, but none of the big networks seemed interested in carrying his entire announcement speech. Huntsman’s media-savvy campaign operation, in turn, misspelled his name on the press passes they handed out.
Supposedly the entire Democrat Party quakes in fear before the earth-shaking tread of Huntsman, the mighty “moderate” who will save the leaky boat of Big Government without rocking it too much. He famously declared that he would refrain from criticizing Barack Obama by name.
Huntsman began his announcement speech by declaring, “Today Americans are experiencing, through no fault of their own, something that is totally alien to them: a sense that the deck is stacked against them, by forces totally beyond their control.”
Wow, that sounds awful. Who are these alien forces? Who stacked that deck? If you’re looking for a plucky hero with a lightning bolt seared into his forehead that will speak the name of He Who Must Not Be Named, look elsewhere. Jon Huntsman will offer no ill words toward his old boss, Barack Obama, who he described as “a remarkable leader.” Yes, he underlined it.
Huntsman would only say of Obama that “he and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President, not who’s the better American.” That sounds wonderfully high minded, and I suspect most candidates from both parties would say something similar.
“Saddest of all, we have lost faith in ourselves,” Huntsman said. “For the first time in our history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive, and less confident than the one we got. This, ladies and gentleman, is totally unacceptable, and it is totally un-American.” But I thought the guy who did all that is a great American and a remarkable leader! Damn, this candidacy is only two minutes old, and I’m already confused.
“We will not be the first American generation that lets down the next generation,” Huntsman promised. He listed the many advantages we can bring to bear, in order to keep that from happening: “we have our freedom, we have rule of law, the longest surviving Constitution, and our abiding belief in personal responsibility.”
The problem I have with this boutique moderate’s campaign is that all of those things have been under powerful, sustained assault during the past two years. ObamaCare is a direct violation of all four at once. We need a powerful and sustained critique of our insolvent and collapsing system, including the essential rot that set in long before Obama made it to the Senate, never mind the White House. There is nothing “moderate” about such a critique, and it cannot be delivered without assigning blame to individuals who acted knowingly and directly to make us “the first American generation that lets down the next generation.” A campaign premised on the notion that Obama just made a few innocent mistakes plays directly into the Obama 2012 narrative that he just needs four more years to make those trillions of dollars in “investments” pay off.
When I hear a candidate rattle off all the things that make America great, as they generally do, I find myself wondering why we’re circling the drain of a new Depression despite all of those advantages. The candidate really needs to answer that question, and there is no way to answer it politely. That’s why all this talk of “high road” campaigns rings hollow. You can’t tell Americans what their government should do right until you discuss what it has been doing wrong, and why. If Huntsman won’t be doing that as he zips along the high road on his motorcycle, then the high road ends in a cliff.