After being introduced at CPAC Florida, former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman thanked his host with a rapid burst of flawless Chinese. He left the crowd to simmer in silence for a moment, then laughed and said, “Just kidding!”
Kidding about what? Was anyone in need of teasing because of their irrational fear that Huntsman would deliver his entire speech in Chinese?
There’s always something missing with Jon Huntsman. He drops a punch line in Chinese without setting up the joke. He tosses out ideas without discussing what actions they would lead to. He’s so busy boasting of his refusal to “pander” and sign “pledges” that he doesn’t always get around to telling us what he would do.
Huntsman’s been seeing some encouraging poll numbers lately, and doubtless sees an opening after Rick Perry stumbled last night, while Mitt Romney failed to make it a two-man race. He apparently calculated that he needs to display some more warmth and humanity, because once he allowed his audience to enjoy a good laugh about their inability to speak Chinese, he led off with a sweet anecdote about his daughter.
She was abandoned in a vegetable market in China, which led him to “sometimes call her my little bean curd.” (If Huntsman’s Secret Service code name does not become “Big Bean Curd,” then the Service has lost its sense of humor.) Huntsman says that when his daughter is asked who found her in that market, and set her on her journey to joining his family, she simply replies “Jesus.”
Huntsman’s love for his adopted daughters has led him to “thank the good Lord that their mothers chose life, and did not throw it away.” It’s a sweet, heartwarming story… but what does it mean? Does he support the repeal of Roe v. Wade? Will he stop taxpayer funds from going to Planned Parenthood? The story doesn’t go anywhere. In the context of a political speech, it had no punch line.
The political statements Huntsman did make felt incomplete, too. “ObamaCare’s unconstitutional individual mandate must and will be repealed on the first day of my presidency,” he promised. Great! What about the rest of it? The individual mandate provides the financial rationale for the rest of that monstrous, horribly-written bill. Surgically remove it, and ObamaCare becomes a greased slide into medical collapse, at which point President Huntsman’s 2016 opponent will promise to “rescue” the country with single-payer socialized medicine.
“I am one of the only candidates who unequivocally supports the Ryan Plan to cut spending and reform entitlements,” Huntsman declared. That’s good… but it should have been followed up with some demonstration of the reasoning behind the Ryan plan, and its specifics. If Huntsman becomes the nominee, he’s not going to be able to settle a budget question during debates by saying “I support the Ryan Plan.” He won’t be able to summon Paul Ryan to handle the question for him.
“I will submit to Congress a balanced budget amendment,” Huntsman vowed. “It is immoral to squander our nation’s wealth, and it should be unconstitutional as well.” Great line… but a BBA will not, in and of itself, prevent the squandering of wealth. It only means the squandering can’t be done with Uncle Sam’s American Express deficit card. A balanced budget amendment is a mandate for massive tax increases, unless it comes with the rest of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act. What about the Cut and Cap parts?
Huntsman does have a detailed tax reform plan, which he boasted is “the only one endorsed by the Wall Street Journal.” Its centerpiece involves ending almost all deductions, and lowering overall tax rates. He talks about ending corporate welfare, but never gets around to discussing what the end of the mortgage interest deduction would do to the already fragile job market, or how ending the deduction for charitable donations would affect charities. Obama will hit him with stuff like that. Huntsman has already allowed that he’s willing to negotiate over his reform plan, and of course he’s the no-pledge, no-pander candidate… so what assurances can he provide that he’ll really propose ending all deductions and dramatically reducing tax rates?
He advocates bringing almost all troops home from Afghanistan, but says of a nuclear-armed Iran, “If there was ever a reason to use American force, it would be that.” Okay, but what kind of force? What is Strike Force Iran going to do? Try to find missiles before they’re armed, or right before they’re launched?
After listing his policy positions, Huntsman said, “I realize we may disagree on some of this, but in our party, we can disagree on some issues, but still agree on our core issues.” Which is good, and probably a sentiment every other candidate would echo… but one of the boasts Huntsman was quick to make was his abiding believe in “science, including as it relates to evolution and climate change.” If he means anthropogenic global warming, well, there goes the “we can disagree on some issues” stuff, because AGW demands coercive force that nobody is allowed to “disagree” with. That’s why it’s so popular on the Left.
He’s a big believer in having a very big Republican tent, which would cover “the Tea Party and conservative Republicans, but we must also bring into the tent moderate Republicans, independents… and yes, conservative Democrats.” Who are the conservative Democrats? Where does Huntsman think they can be found, and what makes him think the same tent that covers the Tea Party can be stretched to include anyone who still supports the hyper-radicalized Democrat Party?
There’s a lingering suspicion that “I won’t sign pledges” means “I’ll probably do the right thing, but I’d like to keep my options open.” Jon Huntsman has a way to go before dispelling that suspicion.