Political Animal


May 26, 2011 9:30 AM Calling out a RINO

By Steve Benen

A conservative site called Verum Serum put together a video this week, targeting apparent Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, and making him out to be the most liberal Republican the public has seen in decades. One part of the video stood out for me.

I thought I’d heard about nearly all of Huntsman’s center-left policy positions, but I didn’t know about this particular health care revelation. Huntsman was asked whether he considers access to health care a right. He replied, “I think health care is a right…. Why is that the insurance sector will not provide affordable health care policies? I’ve called them in; I’ve asked them; I’ve humiliated them publicly.”

In case this isn’t obvious, such a sentiment isn’t just at odds with the Republican Party’s ideology, it’s also a downright liberal sentiment. Hell, plenty of Blue Dog Dems would probably balk at this kind of rhetoric.

The same clip notes another Huntsman quote, which is already better known, in which he said, “Until we put a value on carbon, we’re never going to be able to get serious about dealing with climate change longer term. Now, putting a value on carbon either suggests that you get a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system underway.”

And in case this isn’t obvious, today’s GOP considers this a radical, economy-crushing, borderline-communist plot.

So, what are we left with? A Republican presidential candidate who believes health care is a right, supported an individual health care mandate, wanted a bigger stimulus in 2009 with fewer tax cuts, expressed support for the Affordable Care Act, wanted to combat climate change with either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, and has endorsed civil unions, TARP, and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Oh, and he’s also a former member of the Obama administration who called President Obama a “remarkable leader.”

I’m hard pressed to imagine how the Republican base even considers voting for this guy, though I suspect he could probably run for the Democratic nomination in 2016 and be fairly competitive.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Live Free or Die on May 26, 2011 9:38 AM:

    He is not going to get it-He is done. Back to medicare:

    The GOP was clearly caught off guard by this reaction. The erroneously believed that the propaganda machine was going to save the day. The real question is: Are Dems finally going to go for the jugular and clean up in 2012, or will they throw the GOP a life preserver, by keeping Medicare, "On the table". This is the time when dems need to have absolute message discipline if they are going to run the table in 2012.

    Another thing, The dems should point that when the GOP says "holding the insurance companies accountable", that means that when you are 75 years old you will be spending a significant part of the end of your life arguing with insurance company about why they are refusing to pay for an expensive operation. Finally, is it me or is it that the math does not seem to work our for insurance companies? If I have an insurance company and a 75 year old comes to me with a 18K voucher, how do I make a profit off of that premium if I know that any operation that they need will come to several times that amount, and that the probability of them needing an expensive operation in the near future is very high? The only two way to make the math work, is to deny approval for the operation or really jack up the rates of the young folks.

  • T2 on May 26, 2011 9:42 AM:

    couple Huntsman's issues with Dick Armey's statements on Romney yesterday and it would seem clear that neither Romney or Huntsman is going to satisfy the Conservative/Berserk Wing of the GOP. And since that Wing makes up a large majority of the current Republican Party, the two Mormons now appear to be simply placeholders until the real candidates - Perry, Bachmann, Palin declare for the nomination. I leave PawPaw off the list because I don't think he's a viable candidate.

  • ComradeAnon on May 26, 2011 9:44 AM:

    But he has hypocrisy mastered. And thats all that matters.

  • DAY on May 26, 2011 9:46 AM:

    "If you Liked Ike, you will Love John"
    - Vote Huntsman in 1960!

  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Where's MY RED MEAT?

    Where's kill the poor?
    The old?
    The women?
    The children?
    The brown?
    The sick?
    The foreign?

    RED MEAT, DAMNIT!!! RED MEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Huntsman's actually probably too Liberal for the Democrats!

  • June on May 26, 2011 9:54 AM:

    In reading through Huntsman's postitions, it still strikes me as amazing that Republicans revile him because he's interested in taking a reasonable, humane approach to the nation's problems. The GOP looks like a collection of psychos when they go apoplectic with rage when someone says that healthcare is a right?

    Re: Medicare on the table -- in listening to the interviews with Democrat Steve Israel yesterday when he was asked about this issue - he said very strongly that Democrats' version of Medicare being on the table involves producing cost savings through strengthening Medicare, e.g. empowering the HHS Secretary to be able to negotiate pharmaceutical prices, providing seniors upfront with more preventive services, etc. I think Democrats need to make this crystal shining clear now - especially before our own side comes out to start eating our own as we almost always do.

  • Anon on May 26, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Christ what a blunder.
    Seriously, the guy could have run in 2016 as a Democrat and the media would eat it up because he'd be a centrist and they love party switchers. The hell was he thinking? Has he not picked up a paper in the past 4 years?

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Where, oh where, has that 11th Commandment gone from the RepuG Party?

  • Kathryn on May 26, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Makes you wonder why he's bothering, sanity in the GOP is non-existent and now Palin is hinting strongly that she's jumping in, the thought of another Palin show, day in and day out is, words fail me, there are no words to express the sick feeling it produces.

  • Steve P on May 26, 2011 10:03 AM:

    He sounds like the nice guy friend of the crack smoking girl, giving her a fast food gift card and a prepaid cell with his number saved, for when she wants to quit the life.

  • ManOutOfTime on May 26, 2011 10:04 AM:

    Love it. I am confident Jon Huntsman is a decent human being: I'm sure he's good to his wife and kids, probably treats his dog better than Mittens did, smart guy, good ambassadorial type, all that. But at the end of the day, he is a Republican. And to be a Republican nowadays means having to talk out of both sides of your mouth and to speak in racist dog whistles. The Democratic Party's position owes a lot I think to Bill Clinton (for teaching us how to win again) and Howard Dean (for enginerring our perestroika) - but we also owe a lot to Newt Gingrich (for driving moderation out of the GOP) and Karl Rove (for convincing Repugs to dance with the devil and run on lizard-brain-only themes).

    So f**k Jon Huntsman - personally, I think he's grooming himself to take Orrin Hatch's seat when he retires which I hope will be soon.

    The GOP may rise from its ashes one day, but it hasn't burned all the way to the ground yet. This Medicare fight may be the beginning of the end for the Gingrich-Rove cycle, but I'm not good at calling that - I thought they'd bottomed-out in 2009 but then America went and gave the gavel to Boehner.

  • Live Free or Die on May 26, 2011 10:05 AM:

    "Re: Medicare on the table -- in listening to the interviews with Democrat Steve Israel yesterday when he was asked about this issue - he said very strongly that Democrats' version of Medicare being on the table involves producing cost savings through strengthening"

    June, the dems should all be singing from the same page. Hoyer was confusing yesterday. Israel's explanation is too complicated for Americans to understand. If a dem says that Medicare is on the table, Americans will take it as both parties trying to cut medicare. All dems have to repeat is this: Repubs want to destroy medicare and give you a voucher instead. Dems will protect medicare and strengthen its funding.

  • Kevin Ray on May 26, 2011 10:09 AM:

    Yep. Shoulda kept the job, lost the party.

  • June on May 26, 2011 10:15 AM:

    @Live Free or Die - exactly! Exactly my point. I can feel the fear from our side starting to build, and it's only a matter of time until it's inevitably stoked and exploited into an out-of-control hysteria. To his credit, though, Israel did also make that strong distinction - Republicans want to end Medicare, Democrats want to strengthen it.

  • wishIwuz2 on May 26, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Maybe he could run to the left of Obama. There are a large number of dis-affected liberals who might consider Huntsmann. Plenty of moderates could be possible, and even a few Republicans who just can't stomach their own anymore.

  • Danp on May 26, 2011 10:42 AM:

    So, what are we left with? A Republican presidential candidate who believes...

    Oh, please. He's just another Republican who claimed to believe when it was expedient.

  • tomb on May 26, 2011 10:54 AM:

    I am amazed at politicians who run away from previously held beliefs and statements in an effort to pander to the crowd. Don't they understand that speaking out for your beliefs wins more votes than pandering? And if you do lose, at least you lost for something and your soul stays alive. What happens when you pander and lose? Your soul dies along with any political future. Mitt Romney will prove to be a case in point.

  • Susan on May 26, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Huntsman will not likely run for Hatch's seat, he's too liberal for Utah. Our last legislative session was dedicated to undoing everything Huntsman did. If Huntsman's finger prints were on it, it was legislated out. Yes, he was elected twice and was wildly popular as a governor but the crazies hate him and as you saw in 2008 when they dumped Bennett, the crazies control the GOP in Utah. If he wants to stay in politics, he can't do it here. He can't count on Mormons either, they hate Reid and love Mitt (he saved the Olympics from those awful democrats don't cha know?)

    As to his stand on medical care, his dad is founder of a huge and wonderful cancer institute (his mom had cancer) and Huntsman was supportive of universal coverage at least at the beginning of his term. Was in the local paper at the time so its not a shock to us.

  • Bless on May 26, 2011 12:28 PM:

    I *think* I get the he's a Republican In Name Only allusion, but since I liked what I was hearing the rhino imagery didn't seem demeaning, but rather majestic.

    This level of psychology I guess I just don't get.

  • anandine on May 26, 2011 2:00 PM:

    When asked about global warming, he said it was a scientific question that should be answered by scientists. He said 90% (it's actually higher) of scientists believe in it. If 90% of oncologists said something caused cancer, he would believe them.

  • Ted on May 26, 2011 11:04 PM:

    I'm thinking of him as a Goldwater type - he's staking out positions that are outside of the mainstream now in hopes that people in his party will come around later. Remember, demographically the Republicans are in a lot of trouble - the old white people that make up their base are dying off, and young people, blacks and Hispanics don't like most of the Republican positions on issues. He can't win the nomination this time around, but if he's the only one campaigning for the vote of the non-insane portion of the party he can maybe get 15-20% and when the Bachmann/Palin ticket gets crushed he can say "Told you so" and maybe get some people to listen. Plus he's only 51, so he can try again at least a couple more times. I think he's playing the long game.