Political Animal


June 01, 2011 9:25 AM Huntsman’s new pander-based strategy takes shape

By Steve Benen

I can imagine the scene at Huntsman campaign headquarters. The unannounced candidate sits down with his advisers who tell him, “Republicans don’t like your record on health care, the environment, immigration, economic policy, gay rights, TARP, or service in the Obama administration.”

Huntsman replies, “Well, what do Republicans like?”

The advisers respond, “They like Paul Ryan’s House GOP budget plan.”

And so, Huntsman has decided to put two and two together — and has embraced the radical Republican agenda with both arms.

Two weeks ago, the former Obama administration official announced his support for the GOP plan, including an explicit endorsement of the provision ending Medicare. Today, Huntsman goes further, writing an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that, after name dropping Reagan and Goldwater, talks up the Ryan proposal.

The debt ceiling must be raised this summer to cover the government’s massive borrowing, and we must make reductions in government spending a condition for increasing the debt ceiling. This will provide responsible leaders the opportunity to reduce, reform, and in some cases end government programs — including some popular but unaffordable subsidies for agriculture and energy — in order to save the trillions, not billions, necessary to make possible a future as bright as our past. It also means reforming entitlement programs that won’t deliver promised benefits to retirees without changes that take account of the inescapable reality that we have too few workers supporting too many retirees.

I admire Congressman Paul Ryan’s honest attempt to save Medicare. Those who disagree with his approach incur a moral responsibility to propose reforms that would ensure Medicare’s ability to meet its responsibilities to retirees without imposing an unaffordable tax burden on future generations of Americans.

Of course, in reality, the GOP plan isn’t an “honest attempt to save Medicare” at all. It’s certainly not “honest,” relying on fraudulent numbers that don’t add up, and it doesn’t “save” Medicare, but rather, replaces it with a privatized voucher scheme.

But reality clearly isn’t the point; Huntsman’s desperate pandering is.

This comes, by the way, the same week as Huntsman named Paul Ryan one of his political heroes.

The strategy has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball.

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.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on June 01, 2011 9:36 AM:

    Talk is cheap, Huntsman.

    Prove yourself!

    Grab some old guy with an O2 tank, and cut the tube on the bastard, and grab his old lady in the wheelchair, push her down a flight of stairs, and scream out, "There! Now there's 2 less fucking leaches sucking at the public teat! Bwa-ha-ha!!!"

    lueters sweet, CAPTCHA?
    Dont you like sour lueters?

  • emjayay on June 01, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Huntsman replies, “Well, do Republicans like?”

    Maybe you left out a "what"?

    Reread. Edit. Reread.

  • zandru on June 01, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Partisan Envy

    Gee, I can't help but wish DEMOCRATS would be willing to pander to their base like this... maybe more of us would turn out on election day (or, in NM, thanks to 28 days of early voting, election month).

  • hell's littlest angel on June 01, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Huntsman is making himself attractive to the teabagger fringe in order to make himself a viable vice presidential candidate. And he's got a pretty good chance provided Romney doesn't make the top of the ticket. If Romney gets the nomination, then Huntsman will have to start gunning for another job in his administration -- Secretary of Underwear Security or Ambassador to Kobold.

  • Shelly on June 01, 2011 9:51 AM:


    Like a lot of people, I check the comments to see what you and my other favorites have to say. I have learned to skip over some, like FRP who writes like a freshman with a thesaurus. Most of the time your comments are sharp and pithy.

    I came to Washington Monthly after Rachel Maddow mentioned it on her show, and shortly after I started reading it, I began hearing her voice in your comments. Lately when I see C U N D Gulag, my mind converts it to C A P T Cha, and I skip to the next comment.

    Here's the email address for the Web Editor, Daniel Luzer, services@washingtonmonthly.com?subject=Attn:Daniel Luzer. He might actually be able to do something about your complaint. Pounding us with it is only, you know, pounding us with it.

  • walt on June 01, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Huntsman inadvertently exposes the base strategy for what it is - not so much pandering as intentionally tribalizing politics with insane "us vs them" positioning. The average Republican has no clue what the Ryan plan amounts to. All they know is what Sean, Bill and Glenn tell them to think (subtext: look at all these scary black people trying to take away your Medicare!) It's not the base that's demanding fealty to nutty ideas like voucherizing Medicare. It's ideologues like Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, and Rupert Murdoch. Let's not confuse the puppets with the puppetmasters here.

  • JD on June 01, 2011 9:53 AM:

    Emjayay, given Steve's amazing output, one error is quite forgiveable.

    As for Huntsman, I used to have some respect for him. No more. Anybody who makes raising the debt ceiling contingent on anything relegates themselves to category "right wing wacko".

  • SaintZak on June 01, 2011 9:53 AM:

    If there's one thing old people know about, it's their Medicare. I am astounded that the Republicans are traveling this road. It almost defies belief.

  • hell's littlest angel on June 01, 2011 9:57 AM:

    @Shelly: that was very graciously put. Hopefully, it will provide someone food for thought. Oddly, although at least two unwelcome commenters are gone since the advent of the security system, the comment section hasn't acquired a screechy, whining undertone.

  • hell's littlest angel on June 01, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Whoops. Should be " has acquired a screechy, whining undertone."

  • June on June 01, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Ryan is late to the party - Democrats have ALREADY offered their alternative to Ryan's nonsense - it's called the Affordable Care Act, provisions of which extend the life of Medicare by at least 12 years, and which, as we all know, every single Republican, including Ryan, lied about and then voted against.

    I'm longing for some enterprising pundit or "journalist" to ask Republicans - "If you're genuinely concerned about preserving Medicare, why did you proudly vote against the Affordable Care Act, which strengthens Medicare and extends its shelf life by some twelve years?" -- or something like that.

  • berttheclock on June 01, 2011 10:06 AM:

    "too few workers supporting retirees"

    Shame when he was Ambassador to China, Huntsman couldn't have convinced them their workers, who have taken our jobs, that they should do more to support our retirees. Only fair, eh? I understand Huntsman speaks fluent Bentonvillese.

  • zandru on June 01, 2011 10:18 AM:

    Like I Said...

    ... so I'll make it brief: Democrats should offer a plan. A short, maybe even one-page bill that opens Medicare to anyone who wants to buy in. Rates to be established by the Medicare Board, not statute, but to be only age-based, and not to exceed the mere $100 or so per month that the geezers pay.

    This will help flesh out what we all hoped for in ACA, and be a more than viable and popular "alternative" to Ryan's plan, which simply gets rid of Medicare.

    Call their bluff.

  • June on June 01, 2011 10:21 AM:

    @Zandru - sounds simple enough - but we both know the GOP will simply again launch into their "gub-mint takeover of healthcare!!!" gambit - and even though I love my Dems, there's no getting around the fact that they still stink at winning the megaphone game. I tend to think that if Dems did something like that now, it would be a gift to the GOP propaganda machine.

  • berttheclock on June 01, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Nah, zandru, far too intelligent a suggestion.

    I don't know whether there have been changes, but, in 2003, if one was eligible for Medicare, but, opted not to take one's Social Security, one had to pay their Medicare bill in three month payments. If, you draw the SS check, one month's billing is automatically taken out each month.

    The real beauty to such a plan as suggested by zandru is the expansion of the pool. With so many over the age of 50 out work, it makes a great deal of sense. But, then, sense and inner Beltway does not, normally, compute.

  • berttheclock on June 01, 2011 10:35 AM:

    Yes, truly a shame Rudy Vallee thought the Democratic Party was made up of "Chipmonks" and wouldn't instruct us how to use a megaphone.

    If only we had gone to "Grand Ole Ivy".

  • Kathryn on June 01, 2011 11:05 AM:

    Now that the Republicans have traveled this road on Medicare, their subtle as a wrecking ball approach is, obvious to all, trap the President and Democrats in the quick sand with them or they will destroy the economy, wink, wink Wall Street. Unless and until we get fair reporting and representation in the alleged main stream media, they may get away with it. Hoyer was just on MSNBC stating that the so called clean bill wasn't clean at all as the wording laid the total deficit on Obama. All reporting stated that it was a clean bill to raise the deficit, Hoyer says no. I hold out zero hope that the reporting will improve, so what is the answer to non stop blackmail and goal post obliteration? Is it time for Obama to take over the major networks with a short frank address about the blackmail and the outcome of failure on debt limit, spelling out what will happen to social security, medicare payments,economic recovery etc.? It's not his style but people in Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and Ohio now have a good taste of what governance (if you can call it that) by Republicans brings and any informed sane person would not choose that for the country, informed being the operative word. Either that or Dems need to crash the media parties on Sunday and daily evening shows with abandon and plain speakers like the new Congresswoman from New York or Cong.Weiner, who they are now trying to neutralize with crap, to counteract that chinless twit McConnell and weepy incompetent Boner. The results of electing these treasonous bastards is pretty damn high isn't it?

  • June on June 01, 2011 11:33 AM:

    @Kathryn, thanks for posting that bit about what Steny Hoyer said about the bill - if I hadn't read that, I'd have had no idea. You know, that's the kind of GOP dirty trick that makes my blood boil. So, now, they're going to say "Look, we gave them a clean bill and it failed," without mentioning that they packed the "clean bill" full of dirty lies.

    "Is it time for Obama to take over the major networks with a short frank address about the blackmail and the outcome of failure on debt limit, spelling out what will happen to social security, medicare payments,economic recovery etc.?"

    I would tend to say, yes.

  • c u n d gulag on June 01, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Thanks for the link.
    And sorry about my CAPTCHA comments.
    It's just that my eyesight sucks, and I have arthritis in my hands, so it's just another needless pain in the ass.