Huntsman: 'We've Forgotten to Put Country First'

UPDATED: Saturday, May 5, 2012 12:51
PAGE 1 of 1

Saturday, May 5, 2012 4:36 AM


Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...

As I've said before, I may not agree with the man, but I respect him for his honesty and for not playing games like the others:

According to Jon Huntsman, Jr., former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate, "partisanship has seeped into campaigning [so much] that breaking through with a message that is beyond party politics ... is a very challenging thing to do." Yet in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, he spoke about the importance of public service, as well as the need for fundamental tax and energy reform, the outlook for China in the coming decade, the role of the media in covering elections, his respect for Ronald Reagan and what he plans to do in the coming months. An edited version of the conversation:

Knowledge@Wharton (K@W): You had a unique experience, running for president of the United States. What [have] you learned from our process of electing a president, and what would you change?

Jon Huntsman, Jr. (JHJ): What I learned is how divided it has become from a partisan standpoint. We've forgotten what it means to put country first. We've forgotten what it means to come together as Americans to solve problems that confront all of us. We have a tendency to park ourselves in our individual alleyways of life, as opposed to putting the car in reverse, backing out and reintroducing ourselves to somebody across the street like we used to, [someone who] might be of a different background, a different party affiliation, a different religion. The partisanship has seeped into campaigning such that breaking through with a message that is beyond party politics and beyond a red meat discussion, at least in the early stages of campaigning, is a very challenging thing to do.

K@W: Knowing what you know now, would you [still have] run?

JHJ: Absolutely. The positive part was the honor and privilege of being able to run for the highest office in the land, to add to, and broaden the debate on, the issues facing our country. But also being reminded that there are a whole lot of people in these small communities and towns in the early primary states that still care deeply about their future, enough so that they turn out at events, they organize, they volunteer, all the things that Alexis de Tocqueville talked about in the 1830s. It's heartwarming to see that this is still alive and well in America. So you've got that fundamental foundation. Then you find that sense of divided partisanship which tends to make it impossible to punch through on the issues that really matter.

@W: You feel the Republican party in its current state is, "unsustainable." You've also said that the fastest growing party in this country is the unaffiliated party. So given these two statements, would you consider running as a third party candidate?

JHJ: I'm not considering any run at all. After you go through this once, there's a cooling off period. You don't want to think about anything beyond the here and now, and that's readjusting your private life. But the point being, because of the mood of the electorate, the American people and the advent of communication and networking technology, a third party movement is going to be very viable at some point. The means by which you can disseminate a message, you can organize and fundraise, is there. It just hasn't been harnessed around politics yet. It's still a little bit premature. So you've got the duopoly that continues. And for a duopoly to stay in business, a duopoly of any kind, it must be relevant, it must be at the cutting edge in terms of providing vision and ideas, certainly in politics. If you're not there with a big tent approach that brings in people as opposed to move them out, you have a hard time surviving longer term.

K@W: If Romney is elected, would you consider any role in his administration, such as secretary of state?

JHJ: It's unlikely. It's all hypothetical. But I've always made it a point to put country first. If there is an area of public service where you can get in and help your country in a unique way, I've always felt it was important and good to step up and do that. I'll always have that outlook.

K@W: I mentioned secretary of state because of your experience as ambassador to China, ambassador to Singapore. You were the deputy U.S. trade rep among other credentials. Despite a few recent hiccups that we've all noticed, do you feel it's still the engine of growth for the 21st century?

JHJ: As the second largest economy in the world and with purchasing power that is on the rise because of the expansion of its consumer class, it will be a formidable economy. It remains really one of the few engines of growth today, although that engine is going to run out of a little bit of steam. And as it does, we have an opportunity to win back some of our manufacturing ability, because manufacturing will continue. They'll want to be in some safe harbor market where they can invest and do their thing. But China will remain an engine of growth.

K@W: What about our economy? Republicans are focused on cutting taxes, cutting the deficit, cutting regulations, though some people feel that lax regulations are what led to the financial crisis. What's your plan for the economy?

JHJ: The first thing you have to do is send a message of confidence and believability to the investors and to the creative class, the entrepreneurs. We haven't done that yet. I think the first step in at least beginning to telegraph that message is fundamental tax reform. You've got to take this outdated, dilapidated, anachronistic tax code and you've got to update it. You've got to clear out the $1 trillion, $100 billion in loop holes that have so weighted it down for special interest groups, primarily. That has become a drag on our economy's performance. That would be the first step. The second step would be to look at an energy policy that would A) bring out our ability to become energy independent, which we all know we can do, and B) begin working more with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, forging a regional energy independence policy. And C), we need to identify natural gas as probably the best bridge product we have until such time as we can draw more from the sun and wind, which will happen eventually. We're just not there yet from a technology standpoint.

K@W: How about jobs? [How do we] help create more jobs for especially the young people in this country?

JHJ: The natural gas revolution has already created some say upwards of a million jobs. I think that's just the beginning. So you have to look at job creation coming from a sense of confidence, where investors get the signal. They get the telegraphed message that we're on the move; we are beginning to improve our fundamentals, which gives the confidence they need to go into the marketplace and begin to hire. So that package, I think, would be sufficient to at least get companies to begin the hiring process.

K@W: You and others have mentioned we're experiencing a manufacturing renaissance in this country. In fact, the latest first quarter results show higher profits for 3M, Caterpillar, United Technologies and others. If so, what can be done to encourage and sustain this renaissance?

JHJ: First of all, we have to recognize that we have an historic opening. This doesn't happen all the time. It's because of the macro economic overlay that we've been given a gift. We either recognize the opening we've got as a country, or not. If we recognize it, then you say, "We've got to figure out how we can telegraph to the market that we're open for investment." So how do you attract capital? Because capital is a coward and it will flee wherever it perceives there to be risk in the market and find a safe haven somewhere. We need to become the safe haven.

As I tried to do as governor of Utah, I wanted to make our state a safe haven for the attraction of capital. That's going to take tax reform. It's going to take a look at our regulatory regime. It's going to take a look at the repatriation of overseas profits, giving them an opportunity to come home for reinvestment purposes. It's going to take a widespread effort with all the states in America, all the governors, state legislatures, to begin to retool ourselves in the form of job training and vocational skill development. We used to do that very well in the old days, but we've lost our connection with it. That's got to be a critically important part of preparing for whatever manufacturing renaissance is on the horizon.

K@W: What's your reaction to the continual log jams in the U.S. Congress these days? How can you run a country like that?

JHJ: You can't. And our inability to put forward a budget after three cycles is evidence of that. I think, in large part, it's because the middle has been blown out of our political system. The people on the right and left who would give the middle the hand-off on legislation, the middle would then grind it into something that was doable and move the work of the people forword. They're no longer there. The Olympia Snowes, the Evan Bahys, the people who basically occupy a lot of the middle ground where the work really gets done. So you've got right and left with their backs against the wall pointing fingers of blame at each other, engaged in hyperbolic political rhetoric. The work of the people isn't getting done.

Because of that, and because of the fact that I'm sure most Americans are reaching the 212 degree boiling point, the demands of the American people will [be heard] by the candidates for higher office in the next election cycle or two, as opposed to the Tea Party debt concerns, which I think are still very valid. [The issue is:] Are you going to be able to get the work of the people done? Are you willing to work across the aisle? That's got to come from the American people, and they must insist that the people they elect actually focus on getting the work of the people done.

To date, the message has been, don't collaborate, don't compromise, stymie the system. And that's exactly what we have. Well, the American people are going to have to reverse that, and they're going to have to say, "But we still need to get the work of our nation done or we're going to fall behind." That must be expressed at the ballot box.More at


Saturday, May 5, 2012 8:16 AM


That's my problem with em here in Michigan, and as a whole - they're willing to burn it all to the very ground than have it in any hands but theirs, and they ACT like a bunch of toddlers throwing a sandbox tantrum cause they have to share a toy, and I am heartily sick of it, have been for a while.

Ain't the only one neither, and I do have concerns about what is gonna happen when that tidal wave of rage finally breaks loose.



Saturday, May 5, 2012 12:51 PM


Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...

You and me, both, Frem; when the disparity between rich and poor gets too great, look out! The question is what is "too great" enough to galvanize people?






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