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January 08, 2012 11:20 AM Huntsman longs for ‘a sane Republican Party’

By Steve Benen

Jon Huntsman appears to be coming to terms with the fact that he won’t be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Ordinarily, competitive candidates who still expect to win wouldn’t openly question their party’s sanity in an on-the-record interview.

In an interview Friday, the Utah governor turned China ambassador said bluntly that the GOP had lost its equilibrium in the Obama era but predicted it would eventually return to its bearings — and vindicate his own brand of pragmatism.

“I believe in the ideas put forward by Theodore White, the cycles of history,” Huntsman told POLITICO. “I believe we are in one such cycle. I think that cycle ultimately takes us to a sane Republican Party based on real ideas.”

Suggesting that the GOP currently is something other than sane isn’t the best way to win the support of Republican voters and may stir speculation that he’s preparing to launch a third-party bid.

Huntsman is probably confusing Theodore White and Arthur Schlesinger, but the larger point is what matters here. Huntsman returned from service in the Obama administration, working under certain assumptions about the state of his Republican Party. What he came to realize is that the GOP of 2011 and 2012 is just not where he thought it was.

This is a party so radical that an anti-abortion, anti-tax former governor who’s vowed to eliminate Medicare is considered a center-left candidate, unworthy of consideration.

Huntsman looks forward to the eventual reemergence of “a sane Republican Party.” I suspect he’s not the only one with that wish, but this is not the year for such a development.

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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  • hells littlest angel on January 08, 2012 11:29 AM:

    The Republican party, like Generalissimo Franco, is not in good health.

  • TCinLA on January 08, 2012 11:41 AM:

    The only way that is going to happen is when this southern conspiracy currently masquerading as the "Republican" party (my Quaker abolitionist great-great-great-grandfather who helped found the Pennsylvania Republican Party has been spinning in his grave to watch his party of freedom and liberation be taken over by The Enemy) is destroyed and laws passed against its resurgence in any form, the way Germany and the rest of Europe have anti-Nazi laws. We need anti-southernist laws.

    The state of the GOP is truly amazing, to confront it in person. Yesterday I was out at one of my favorite activities, flying antique airplanes, in "red-state" California (the Inland Empire). It's an activity that attracts mechanically-adept, mostly working-class, older white males (i.e., most over 50). Bunch of nice guys when you're talking airplanes and such. Was with a group of them when someone said something that set them off, and they were into the Standard Republican Rants. Rather than bite my tongue as I usually do, I decided to say something. Asked how may of them, like me, make use of VA medical care: all of them. Were they aware that is "socialized medicine"? Dead silence. How many bought their homes on the GI Bill? All of them. Were they aware that was a "socialist" program? Dead silence. How many have ever had to use unemployment insurance and were damn glad to have it? Most of them. Did they consider that "welfare"? Dead silence. I asked them how many of their parents voted for FDR: all of them. What's different this time other than the racial background of the current president? Dead silence. Fortunately, I had just delivered a long talk on aviation history that they had all avidly been interested in, so they couldn't dismiss me as some "lefty ignoramus," so I left them with "Guys, voting your values doesn't include supporting the people who rob you, con you, lie to you, and make your lives worse." There were a couple thoughtful looks as I then told an airplane joke to get us all back "on track," at which point with the topic changed to something interesting, they went back to being the good folks they really are.

    See? That's what 50 years of far right disinformation can do. Too bad we lefties spent the past 50 years with our heads up our collective ass while the Right was out organizing this coup d'etat they're so close to achieving.

  • Kiweagle on January 08, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Throughout the entirety of the Bush years, the consistent description of just about everything the GOP did could be summed up in four simple words: Criminal, Stupid or Both.

    Saying that they're insane completely ignores the fact that most of these guys sold their soul for power, access and wealth before deciding that "1%" should be allowed to control everything in America.

    The real problem is that the GOP has decided that lying and obstruction works wonders on the uninformed electorate because it worked so well in 2010 at a time when conservatism - following the disastrous Bush years - had been thoroughly discredited, e.g. tax cuts pay for themselves, deregulation works, creating massive government programs (Medicare bill, Dept. of Homeland Security, No Child Left Behind) and starting two wars without paying for them won't bankrupt the treasury.

    God how I wish I lived in a world where George Orwell's "1984" didn't seem so damn familiar.

  • Kiweagle on January 08, 2012 11:51 AM:

    @TCinLA on January 08, 2012 11:41 AM: NICE ONE!

    If there is one thing I despise the conservative movement for more than anything else, it's the way they've made it almost impossible for their adherents to discuss politics with liberals without starting a shouting match or suffering an aneurysm, e.g. Rep. Joe Walsh screaming at his constituents.

    As Benen himself as pointed out and proven so many times before, being a conservative means that ideology trumps reality, and therein lies the madness.

  • angler on January 08, 2012 12:05 PM:

    Pure pedantry: Hunstman is confusing Theodore White with Thucydides.

  • Texas Aggie on January 08, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Huntsman looks forward to the eventual reemergence of a sane Republican Party.

    I'm not sure that this is possible. Mr. Huntsman mentioned 30 year cycles, but the republicans have been insane and growing more so since Reagan. There is no indication that anything is going to change ever. After Goldwater they doubled down on the hysterics and have been getting more and more shatbit crazy ever since.

  • c u n d gulag on January 08, 2012 12:17 PM:

    If you look at the younger Republicans coming up like Ryan, Rubio, Nikki Haley, and the even younger ones in the College Republicans - they are even more insane than Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, the Bush's, Dole, McCain, and Romney.

    So, I don't see sanity as an option anywhere in the near future.

    Sanity is about 180 degrees of change away.

  • jim filyaw on January 08, 2012 12:31 PM:

    huntsman is infected with the same delusion that many in the msm doggedly cling to, that the modern republican party has any connection with the party of eisenhower or nixon. not so. since the advent of the gipper, it has been on a perceptible (to anyone who bothers to look) slide into undiluted right wing ideology braced with a rigidity that would do the medieval catholic church credit. it serves the kochs and murdochs and their kind, period. its foot soldiers are an army of credulous religious fanatics held in thrall by the adroit use of the hate of the moment. now, it is muslims, immigrants, gays, and abortion that convinces these trusting souls to consistently vote against their own interests in favor of those of the plutocrats who hold their puppet strings. their world is hermetically sealed against all contrary opinion. one would be more likely to find a sensible soul among the khmer rouge or the national socialist party of germany than among these true believers. huntsman can despair and hope all he wants, but at some point he's got to accept the obvious. he is the worst enemy of his party-a reasonable person.

  • jim filyaw on January 08, 2012 12:46 PM:

    one p.s.

    yeah, i'd love to see the return of the eisenhower/dirksen/rockefeller republican party, but i fear the brand is too far gone. how does one 'rehabilitate' the nazi party, the klu klux klan, the mau-mau, the al-quaida?

    toss it in the same dumpster and start from scratch.

  • Kathryn on January 08, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Really excellent TCinLA, that's a model approach for all of us if opportunity presents itself. The final question about the racial makeup of the current president was perfect, very subtle and non accusatory. Bravo!

  • zandru on January 08, 2012 2:46 PM:

    Bravo, TCinLA!!

    You did good. Perhaps a lot of those old VA guys will start to re-think some of their assumptions.

    Like you, when I talk with a rightwinger, I play up the things they respect: in my case, business owner. Since I do the books and taxes, I know more about how the tax code works than almost every ordinary American - particularly if they're informed mainly by Fox Newz. Moreover, since taxes are mostly what they're all about, this gives me an air of knowledgebility and credibility.

    Plus, as you noted, any way that you can remind these guys that you're part of one of their interest groups, the better. As one of them, it's harder for them to lump you with them smelly librul hippies.

  • schtick on January 08, 2012 2:48 PM:

    One thing to add to the "thinking" repubs, they all believe they are living the American dream and going to cash in on it. They have a job, insurance, money in the bank, buy all the toys their neighbors have and more, they think they have a job forever and the business they work for will never fail or leave, and of course, one number away from winning lotto millions to join the elite they are working for and worship so much.
    They practice being rich by calling people that collect SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment or join OWS as being lazy, living off others, living off the government, lefty dems or calling/insinuating that people are children playing on a computer in their parents basement claiming they don't know what they are talking about because those "children" don't agree with them. (I call it repub tunnel vision).
    They want to do away with people collecting anything they pay into themselves, like SSI, Medicare, Medicaid or unemployment by claiming these people don't deserve any kind of handout from tax dollars because of the almost non-existent fraud of the people receiving the funds. I have yet to hear of any them say anything about doctors, lawyers, or healthcare businesses that commit fraud in the millions compared to the few thousand dollars of the people that collect. (Except in Florida they elect them to office so they can rob more of their tax dollars.) Don't let the people buy soda, or steak. Or better yet, make them buy all generic shit (and it is shit) or have them piss in a cup before they can collect their checks. Seniors need to hop on their hoveround and scoot down to the SS office to piss in a cup and be positive for drugs because most seniors ARE on prescription drugs.
    That the repubs have convinced the people that barely have a pot big enough to piss in that they are living the American dream and their neighbors that worked all their life for that same pot are living off their tax dollars is a scary mentality that has no cure.
    That last earthquake we had up here in NY were all my deceased hard-line repub family and friends spinning in their graves.

  • exlibra on January 08, 2012 3:16 PM:

    The fact that Huntsman was politically naive enough to think that his prior service to the country (both as Governor and as Ambassador. The latter in the "enemy" administration, yet!) would qualify him, *in the current climate*, to run as a Republican... is enough to disqualify him. All the signs of the mental deterioration of his party, of the descent into the last stage of rabidity (frothing at the mouth, lockjaw, hydrophobia, etc), all of those were in place long before he threw his hat in the ring. Long before he even accepted the Ambassadorial posting. And he never noticed???

    I can only repeat after Craptcha: "70.9 Aissus (aiee, Jesus)"

  • Nick on January 08, 2012 3:43 PM:

    Thanks for your post and your excellent comments to your friends!

  • Rob on January 08, 2012 4:05 PM:

    If you want a sane conservative political movement in this country again, you have to nuke The Republican Party from orbit.

    It's the only way to be sure.

  • T2 on January 08, 2012 5:55 PM:

    You have to wonder about Huntsman. What,exactly did he think he was getting into? For my money, quitting his Ambassadorship to run against people that he now sees as "not sane" isn't exactly a sound move. That today's GOP has become a haven for social, cultural and political crazies has not been a secret for at least two years. Jon, you screwed up buddy, Big Time.

  • tamiasmin on January 08, 2012 10:12 PM:

    I doubt that Huntsman will be hurt by his critique. Sanity is deeply suspect among Republicans. After all, it is associated with knowledge, logic, an appreciation of cause and effect, and a realistic assessment of one's own place in the scheme of things. It is even allied at times with the hateful vices of unselfishness and empathy. Like souffles and literacy, it is a noxious import from Europe. No Real American wants anything to do with it.

  • Redwood Bark on January 09, 2012 4:50 AM:

    I actually buy Huntsman's ideas about political historical cycles, in rough terms, so it's fair to conclude that he's an idiot to run and speak like he is in a year like this one, or perhaps we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and ask why he's running ANYWAY. Stupidity is an easy answer. What about strategy?

    Huntsman is now showing a last-minute surge in NH polling. A LOT of independents vote in the New Hampshire Primary. I think he knows what he's doing.

    With the one hand, he's holding open the possibility of a miracle in NH, the one early state where he has a chance, and with the other hand, he is betting his mom 10 G's that he won't win this year, but he will successfully set himself up as the leader of the realist, sane moderate/liberal wing of the party that has been abandoned for a good long time now and is itching to take command since the tea partiers have failed to right the Republican ship (not to mention the country!). Huntsman is telling those self-identified lib/mod Republicans and independents that they still belong and don't have to live in cowering submission to the loony right.

    In other words, Hunstman's building a base for 2016.

    But the miracle isn't impossible. If Huntsman finishes third behind Romney and Paul, especially if they're all somewhat close, Huntsman could be the big headline Wednesday. Since Romney can't dominate races, the not-Romney/not-Paul winner of the third-tier race over the first several primaries could well be the overall nomination winner.

    Now it might be Hunstman's turn to be flavor of the week and see if he can stretch the week out longer than his predecessors. Bringing sanity back the Republicans shouldn't be a joke. It would benefit us all. But right now, it's an absurd joke, and that absurdity is so over-the-top that Hunstman's harsh words for his fellow elephants might be the slap in the face these bozos need.

    I'm voting for Obama. But if we have to risk seeing him lose to some Republican bozo with his legions of super-duper PACs spreading lies, I would rather the alternative be a Republican like Huntsman who isn't batshit insane and (especially in Romney's case) pathologically dishonest.

  • Anonymous on January 09, 2012 11:11 AM:

    //"c u n d gulag on January 08, 2012 12:17 PM:

    If you look at the younger Republicans coming up like Ryan, Rubio, Nikki Haley, and the even younger ones in the College Republicans - they are even more insane than Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, the Bush's, Dole, McCain, and Romney."//

    Goldwater? He was actually a sane one, I don't know why you have him lumped in with the rest, he even had no problem with gays in the military, everything started to go downhill after his era, even though people coined the term 'Goldwater Republican' to somehow epitomize the "evils" of the GOP. In reality, nowadays, he would probably be seen as too close to Moderate.

    Huntsman nailed it on the head though. I've been saying the same thing, every Republican now is more insane that the one before him. If these whack-a-doodles would get their $%^& together, they might figure this out. I'd definitely consider voting 'R' in November if it were Huntsman on the ballot, but none of these other freak shows would EVER get my vote.

  • Herschel on January 09, 2012 12:36 PM:

    I think Huntsman was confusing Theodore White with Arnold J. Toynbee.

  • Rhiannon Cummings on January 10, 2012 7:26 AM:

    You and everybody ELSE, Jonny-boy!

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