In the tank for Willard

Why does Roger Simon think Jon Huntsman is “in the wrong party”?

Hopes that Mitt Romney’s backbone shortage and post-modern way with the facts might lead to his getting less-than-hagiographic media coverage took a big hit with Roger Simon’s latest Politico column, which is more or less a recitation of Romney-campaign talking points about the struggle for the Republican nomination. Most of the political analysis seems right to me: Gingrich and Perry could have been real threats to Romney, while the other clowns, including Santorum, never were and never could be.

But my jaw dropped when I read this sentence:

Santorum was the only “un-surged” non-Romney guy left (except for Jon Huntsman, who is not competing in Iowa and is probably in the wrong party).

How’s that again? Jon Huntsman is in the wrong party insofar as he’s a reasonably sane and decent human being rather than a hater like Santorum, a snake-oil salesman like Paul, or a human pretzel like Romney. He’s an old-fashioned conservative Bob Taft Republican, a breed just as extinct as the liberal Rockefeller Republican. The modern GOP has no place for him.

But Simon seems to be implying that Huntsman ought to be a Democrat. That’s an insane thing to say. It’s true that someone with Huntsman’s beliefs and values might wind up voting for Obama over Romney because Romney, and the party he heads, have become so dangerous and so despicable. But Huntsman, a natural-born plutocrat, is a friend of the plutocracy. He’s taken the Norquist no-taxes pledge. He likes the Ryan budget. In political terms, he’s an extremist, even though his personality seems closer to Obama’s than to those of his GOP rivals. But Obama’s temperate personality doesn’t make him a Republican, and Huntsman’s temperance doesn’t make him a Democrat, or even a RINO.

I agree with George Will (not an everyday occurrence) in thinking Huntsman the most conservative of the current GOP candidates, and perhaps the the most electable. I’m grateful that the Republican primary electorate sees what Simon sees rather than what Will and I see.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

11 thoughts on “In the tank for Willard”

  1. What you and the Republican base dislike about Romney — that his heart doesn’t seem to be in the things he has to say to get nominated by the Republican party (admittedly, they dislike the fact that his heart doesn’t seem to be in them, you dislike the fact that he’s willing to say them anyway) — is why I’m rooting for him to win the nomination. We’re in very fraught times, and Obama may not be re-elected regardless of who his opponent is, if the economy tanks again because of feckless economic leadership in Europe or myriad other reasons. Hoping the Republicans nominate someone genuinely frightening, as opposed to a garden variety political opportunist and hypocrite, strikes me as very dangerous. Romney wouldn’t be my ideal president, but I think he’d be a lot better than, say, George W. Bush was.

    For that matter, while I agree Huntsman’s no Democrat, again I view the positions he’s taken (Norquistian blood oaths, Ryanesque budget chicanery) as just garden variety political opportunism and hypocrisy. I just assume he’s thinking in terms of 2016, and needs to establish his conservative street cred. I suppose it would be nice if someone in the Republican party would actually stand up for decency and common sense. But then, I think it would be nice if you’d stop praising Andrew Sullivan for renouncing insanity, and started re-examining your reasons for agreeing with him on whatever mishegoss it is you think you agree with him on.

    1. I’d prefer Huntsman to Romney. While I agree with most of your analysis about Romney, I think there’s a bit of a caveat: we don’t know who or what Romney will be loyal to when he’s in office. My guess is he’ll take whatever positions make him most likely to be re-elected. Would that make him a center-right president trying to effectuate the best policy? A center-right president trying to appeal to independents? Or a far-right president trying to keep his base appeased in a Rovian excite-the-base strategy for 2016? I don’t know. If it’s the former two then I can stomach Romney. But the possibility of the latter is very real and shouldn’t be discounted lightly.

      1. Those are certainly considerations. The interests that need to be protected in the Republican party aren’t in many cases aligned with the national interest at this time. But on the core issues — economy and defense — I think he’d be center-right. In any Republican administration there will be a lot of nonsense around social issues that upsets people, but it’s trying to hold back history; it will be painful and annoying but in the long run I don’t think it matters. (As I told my 89 year-old father a few years ago: when we’re talking about gay marriage, and it’s not the punchline of a comedy routine, it’s already over. He agreed.) Economic policy of course would favor the rich — but it wouldn’t be the kind of completely uninformed ding-dong-ism that actually rules the Republican base. The biggest long-run problem would be environmental policy.

        On national security and foreign affairs I think his policies would be indistinguishable from Obama’s, which I mostly support.

  2. Huntsman is not a Democrat, but he’s certainly out-of-step with the GOP. This puts him the historic company of people like Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, but also like Dwight Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater and anyone else who pre-existed the Reagan Revolution. Huntsman is a throw-back, and the GOP has no place for people like him. None.

    1. He may share that trait with the bygone Republicans you name, but on hearing about his economic plan most of them would revulse in horror. Huntsman has proposed a plan under which the truly wealthy would pay no taxes, the somewhat wealthy would get a hefty tax cut, and the working poor would see their taxes rose sharply. Eisenhower in particular, with his 90% marginal tax rates and his warnings of unrestrained power of wealthy interests (albeit military-industrial, but the point was generalizable), would not recognize Huntsman’s economic visions.

      1. My point was not to defend Huntsman, but rather to point out how far afield the GOP has strayed.

  3. Any citation that Huntsman signed the Norquist pledge? I’m only finding that he refused to sign it. As of Dec. 21, 2011, DailyKos reports that he has not signed it. News to me if he has.

  4. Huntsman believes in anthropogenic global warming and evolution. For many, those are stronger “anti-Republican” signals than any of his other policy positions.

  5. President Huntsman might appoint Citizen Obama to an Ambassadorship. The UN, or South Africa, or Kenya, or Indonesia. Today’s GOP thinks Obama should be sent to Gitmo.

  6. I have been following Simon’s writing for some time, if for no other reason than that we interact from time to time on Google+. Based on what I’ve read of his, I interpret his statement as meaning, “Huntsman seems like such a sensible guy it’s as if he’s in a different party than the rest of the field.” Nothing more than that.

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