Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 16, 2011

HUNTSMAN CALLED OBAMA A 'REMARKABLE LEADER'.... There's certainly a credible case to be made that Jon Huntsman is a credible Republican presidential candidate. He's a conservative with domestic (governor of Utah) and foreign policy (Ambassador to China) experience, who enjoys a fair amount of respect from the GOP establishment.

But if there's a scenario in which Republican voters overlook stories like these, I don't see it.

Washington is a town famous for false praise. Lawmakers are often graciously thanking their "good friend" from across the aisle -- right before skewering that person as unpatriotic or ill-suited for governing.

So imagine the surprise to find a Republican offering what appears to be truly genuine admiration for a Democrat. And then to find out that the Republican might be thinking about running against that Democrat in 2012.

In a handwritten letter to President Obama obtained by The Daily Caller, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, calls the president a "remarkable leader" -- and underlines "remarkable" for emphasis.

The letter was sent in August 2009, eight months into Obama's term. It came the same week as another Huntsman letter to Bill Clinton, in which Huntsman praised the former president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Even if Huntsman denounces all of this and categorically condemns the entire Obama administration as part of his Republican presidential campaign, there are some things GOP primary voters -- especially this year's Republican electorate, dominated by the unhinged right -- just won't forgive, especially when there are more appealing alternatives.

When push comes to shove, Huntsman worked for Barack Obama and praised his leadership. In Republican presidential politics, that's about as serious a deal-breaker as announcing one's hatred of Reagan.

For what it's worth, a Republican strategist close to Huntsman suggested the White House leaked the letters to embarrass him. "Need any more proof that the White House most fears Jon huntsman?" the strategist asked. "I don't think so."

It's possible, but I doubt it. If the White House wanted to embarrass Huntsman with these letters, why would the president's team leak them on a Friday in April to a conservative outlet like the Daily Caller?

Steve Benen 9:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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...why would the president's team leak them on a Friday in April to a conservative outlet like the Daily Caller?

Why, to throw off suspicion, of course. It's almost as if you don't understand how the paranoid style works.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 16, 2011 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Huntsman is a serious candidate in an unserious party. Any party that is dominated by the Tea Party and is lead by Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Jim DeMint will not nominate Huntsman in 2012. If they are handed their hats again the party might reorganize and decide he is a great candidate for 2016.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 16, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

If in fact Governor Huntsman wrote this letter in a moment of distraction, it was a scurrilous attack on his character to release it.

Posted by: Al on April 16, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

And handwritten, no less!

Poor bastard, if it was in e-mail form, he could at least claim that someone either faked or stole his addrees.

And that's tough to do with a handwritten letter unless you hack off your arm.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 16, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

especially when there are more appealing alternatives.

Like Donald Chump or Loony-tunes Bachmann!

Posted by: sue on April 16, 2011 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

in the words of white sox announcer ken harrelson, "he gone!"

Posted by: mellowjohn on April 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, on his first RepuG Primary ballot, he will be listed as Huntsman, DOA.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 16, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

And yet, if The Powers want Huntsman in there, they can so easily orchestrate a movement such that the dumbbells will just brush off whatever Huntsman said earlier. The dextrobooboisie will just follow their leaders as told. Hence, intrinsic features of persons/parties/plans/arguments etc. are of lesser consequence in our day of manipulated masses.

PS - Steve, can we lose those Trump for President survey/ads? Is it really true you have to accept whoever wants to advertise at a venue?

Posted by: neil b on April 16, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

the problem is that Huntsman is not really a conservative. Huntsman supports open borders and unlimited immigraiton. Anyone stupid enough to understand the demographic implications of open borders and unlimited immigraiton from Mexico is not fit for any elected office let alone the Presidency.

Huntsman would be better off running as a Democrat in 2016 than running as a Republican in 2012. There is almost no one who can be called a conservative who would support Huntsman.

Posted by: superdestroyer on April 16, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

All this totally ignores that the LETTER IS COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT!

The letter is just the cherry on top of Huntsman's disqualification!

Just try and imagine if Obama had been appointed Ambassador to China in 2006 --- by Dick Cheney -- and then tried to run in 2008 for the Democratic nomination?

Would ANY Democratic primary voters have ever trusted him again? NO! He served in the Bush administration! No way! Forget it!

Well that's about the level of hatred Republicans feel for Obama -- they way Democrats felt & feel about Dick Cheney.

About 1/2 of their primary voters SERIOUSLY think Obama only won election because he secretly worships Satan.

I'm not kidding. They really believe this stuff. They can say things like "Obama is the anti-Christ" with a straight face. And now Huntsman has the "mark of the beast."

Forget the letter. His chances were always less than zero.

Posted by: Cugel on April 16, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Like Shrub's National Guard records, they are obviously forgeries!

Posted by: DAY on April 16, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK


AmEmb Huntsman could overcome this with some difficulty. He was a part of the administration and would have reasonably good things to say of Obama and the Clinton's, even if only niceties such as these. What is he supposed to do, criticize the administration from Beijing?

On the other hand, it is sad to see someone in the administration release personal correspondence of this nature. He or she should be fired immediately. If the President authorized the release he should apologize.

Don't get me wrong ... I'm a solid Obama supporter, but this is not the change in DC we continue to hope for.


Posted by: xando foote on April 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

If Huntsman is willing to fully embrace the birther movement, he, like Trump, may be forgiven by the teahadists for earlier laudatory comments about Democrats, but I don't see him doing that.

Pawlenty, on the other hand, may be the next one to jump on the birther bandwagon if he can't break out of the low single digits, as he has shown an increasing willingness to go full teatard.

Posted by: Rip on April 16, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

If Huntsman claims he was forced to write the water via some form of Kenyan waterboarding technique, he will be an instant hero among the GOP. That's how they roll.

Posted by: Danp on April 16, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

In a sane nation, Huntsman is a very formidable opponent of President Obama!

His praise of Democrats notwithstanding, a well-versed, erudite conservative would poll well against a "remarkable" leader for no other reason he'd have a chance in the same room say during a debate unlike the Palin inspired candidates gracing the current Republican presidential menu.

Ah, but the closed Republican primaries! What a land-mined field of ignorance and prejudice, and therein rests my difference with you Mr. Benen.

I can very well see this "leak" as coming from a re-election planning session! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 16, 2011 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK


Huntsman is the kind of candidate that loses in a 50 state rout. Huntsman would give the Democrats everythng they want and do nothing that conservatives want.

Anyone who would vote for Huntman's policies and governance would be more willing to vote for President Obama and anyone who wants any form of conservative governance just stay home. Huntsman would be the kind of candidate who would leave the Repubicans with 25 seats in the Senate and 150 seats in the House. That is why only Democrats believe that Huntsman is a good candidate.

Posted by: superdestroyer on April 16, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Strongest likelihood: it was leaked by the Huntsman team, which is still in the testing phase, in order to get that particular skeleton out of the closet and see what happens before he gets any further down the road. Presumably it was going to come out eventually anyway if his candidacy ever does gain any traction, so might as well put it out there now.

Posted by: twc on April 16, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

If instead he had bit the head off of a kitten and praised Satan perhaps there would be a way for him to finesse the issue enough to satisfy the teabaggers but I think his "crimes" are a bridge too far them.

Posted by: gocart mozart on April 16, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm starting to think Jon Huntsman is actually running for 2016 as the natural heir to Obama. Think about it. Biden is too old to run. Huntsman can use the "there is no red America, no blue America, just the United States of America" template and run as Obama's successor.

My bet is Huntsman puts his hat in, runs a sunshine campaign, fills his Rolodex, then drops out before Iowa. Then runs for real in 2016 with the Tea Party waning as a force in the GOP.

Posted by: joejoejoe on April 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think joe may have his finger on it. Huntsman is too moderate for Utahns (I know, I live here) which would make him just right for a general election. Age is also on his side, as he's within one year of Obama (older or younger I can't remember).

Posted by: Michigoose on April 16, 2011 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

And, why would it embarrass, Huntsman? That's practically the same thing Mitt's spokesman said after his Romneycare was praised by the White House.."it shows how they fear...". rofl.

Posted by: Cha on April 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK
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