Put Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China and former governor of Utah, on the shortlist of potentially strong GOP candidates for president or vice president in 2012.
It is time for the Great Mentioner in American politics to mention Huntsman as a major rising star with a great political future. He is the kind of political leader most Americans seek, long on experience and achievement and far removed from the vicious attack politics most voters abhor.
As the president speaks tonight, the state of the union is simple. Americans want more jobs in an economy that lifts all boats. They don’t want a politics of destruction and tribal warfare. President Obama gets it. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich do not.
Cable pundits thrive on incendiary attacks, but smart Democrats hope, and smart Republicans fear, that a divisive GOP nominee could lose in a landslide in 2012. Jon Huntsman offers great appeal to independent voters who wield great power in national elections.
Warren Buffett once said the key to success is the hockey style of the great Wayne Gretzky: Know where the puck is going and get there fast. Huntsman is there. He was a tax-cutting, job-creating, export-promoting governor of a state that was named by the Pew Center as America’s best-managed on his watch.
Huntsman learned national politics as a young White House aide to President Reagan, and is now a highly respected ambassador in one of the most important diplomatic posts in the world. He combines executive experience with strong credentials on business, diplomacy and trade.
Huntsman embodies a politics of civility, integrity and respect that Americans desire in leaders. He views opponents as opponents, not enemies. He knows, as Reagan knew, that governing includes working with opponents and negotiating with skill.
Why does this supporter of the reelection of President Obama speak well of a formidable Republican?
When Huntsman was named ambassador to China I wrote on this page that he is five-star and first-rate. It would be a better world if everyone in politics and political media would occasionally speak well of a member of the other party.
It is not credible or true to suggest that everything about my party is great and everything about the other party is evil. This attitude contributes to a violence in our politics that I pray has ended but suspect has not. I warn again. We live in dangerous times.
If he runs, Huntsman might campaign in the spirit of Ronald Reagan’s uplifting tone, Jack Kemp’s creative conservatism and John McCain’s reform agenda in 2000.
An Obama-Huntsman race could be similar to the kind of campaign that Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater discussed before the tragic event in Dallas: an intelligent clash of ideas as envisioned by Oliver Wendell Holmes, between candidates who respect voters as intelligent citizens making important decisions.
I don’t know if Huntsman will run for the presidency, the Senate or any office in 2012, but he recently bought a new home in Washington.
Huntsman is well-aware of our great tourist attractions. I suspect he plans to someday work in one of them, rather than take the guided tour.