Feature

Gov. Jon Huntsman and Obama

Why Obama asked Utah’s Republican governor to be his China ambassador, and why Huntsman accepted

President Obama named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) as his ambassador to China, said Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic, which “can only be called a genius move” by Obama, and a “terrible blow to the GOP.” A “pro-civil union Mormon who gets the problem of climate change,” Huntsman is “the un-Cheney.” So, in one stroke, Obama has "co-opted” one of the GOP’s rising moderates and rid himself of a potential political rival.

I’m not sure that “Obama co-opted Huntsman,” said Dennis Sanders in The Moderate Voice. It’s just as likely that Huntsman saw no viable path to national office as a Republican, with the “Limbaugh wing of the party” calling the shots. Huntsman probably decided that “dealing with the Chinese is far easier than dealing with Sean Hannity.”

It’s also possible that Huntsman is “waiting until 2016” for a run at the presidency, said Reihan Salam in Forbes.com, calculating that the GOP “tea-partyism will die down” by then. Burnishing his foreign policy credentials in a job once held by former president George H.W. Bush can’t hurt his chances with his foreign policy–centric party, either.

Actually, China was “the one offer he couldn’t refuse,” said Rebecca Walsh in The Salt Lake Tribune. Huntsman—who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, has an adopted Chinese daughter, and is respected and admired by the Chinese—clearly “left his heart in China.” So yes, Obama disarms a 2012 competitor, but “Huntsman will be returning home.”

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