Former China Ambassador and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman took to the national airwaves this weekend to offer critical assessments of those candidates currently considered GOP frontrunners for the 2012 nomination.
“Right now this country is crying out for a sensible middle ground — this is a center-right country, [and] I am a center-right candidate. Right now we’ve got people on the fringes,” Huntsman said during an appearance with ABC News.
“President Obama is too far to the left. We’ve got people on the Republican side who are too far to the right, and we have zero substance. We have no good ideas that are being circulated or talked about that will allow this country to get back on its feet economically so that we can begin creating jobs.”
And that was only his opening gambit.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was characterized by Huntsman as a flip-flopper.
“I know, in 1986, he was against a flat tax,” Huntsman said as part of a conversation about the economic policies he enacted while governor of Utah. “If we were to talk about his inconsistencies and changes on various issues, we’d be here all afternoon.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry‘s continued denial of evolution and global warming creates “a serious problem” for the GOP, Huntsman indicated while building on an earlier Twitter exchange that earned him some kudos from more moderate sects of the Republican Party.
“The minute the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem; we lose a whole lot of people wh would otherwise allow us to win the election of 2012,” Huntsman said. “When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution; when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said [and] what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science and, therefore, in a losing position.”
When confronted with national polls indicating that 52 percent of Republican voters believe in strict creationism and only 31 percent believe global warming is occurring, Huntsman would not confirm that he was out-of-step with his own political party, but did say that Republicans need to be “rational” and listen to what the majority of the scientific community is saying.
“I’m here to tell you that for us to be successful as a party, we need to be one that respects science, not one that runs from science,” he added.
Huntsman also took a swipe at Perry for the Texan’s earlier remark about Ben Bernanke, chief of the Federal Reserve, being “almost treasonous” for printing more money between now and November 2012.
“I’m not sure if that is pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas,” Huntsman began, drawing in earlier Perry comments regarding Texas separating from the union. “I’m not sure the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and think, ‘That sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.’ … This perpetuates the name-calling and the finger-pointing and the blame-game when we want solutions, we want to look to the future and have somebody with vision.”
The GOP, he said, needs to win back the Reagan Democrats and the disaffected independents.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann‘s claim that, if elected president, the nation would realize gasoline costs once again below $2 per gallon was classified as unrealistic by Huntsman.
“I just don’t know what world that comment would come from,” Huntsman said. “We live in the real world, it is grounded in reality, and gas prices just aren’t going to rebound like that. … [She’s] talking about things that may pander to a particular group, or may sound good at the time, but simply is not founded in reality.”
In addition, when dealing with the U.S. economy, Huntsman said he “wouldn’t necessarily trust of any of my opponents right now, who were on a recent debate stage with me [because] every single one of them would have allowed this country to default.”
“There was zero leadership on display in terms of my opponents, zero leadership on display in terms of the President, who should have used the bully pulpit well ahead of time, he should have walked away from the teleprompter — the people want you to speak from your heart and soul, tell us where you want us to go, tell us what you expect from Congress, tell us what’s on your mind — that never happened and it waited until the 11th hour. And then we had some of my Republican opponents, I think, who basically recommended something that would have been catastrophic for this economy.”
When asked specifically about the portion of the Ames GOP debate in which all Republicans on stage, including Huntsman, raised their hands to indicate they would not accept a deal that saw $1 of revenue increases for every $10 in spending cuts — a 10-to-1 deal — Huntsman said, “It was a nonsense question,” and indicated that such an important issue shouldn’t have been brought up in a debate with a simple show of hands.
“I don’t think tax increases are good for this country right now,” Huntsman added. “In fact, I believe they are the worst thing we can do.”
He wouldn’t say that he was sorry he raised his hand in response to the question, only that he was sorry there wasn’t additional discussion about the U.S. tax policy.
The interview is embedded below: