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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Huntsman, Jon

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  • Former 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate

  • Former Governor of Utah

  • Former U.S. Ambassador to China

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Jon Huntsman, a millionaire scion of the Huntsman chemical empire, is a former Utah governor who served as Barack Obama’s first ambassador to China and later as a candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

When he announced his candidacy in 2011, Huntsman claimed he was motivated to run because “for the first time in our nation's history, we are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less competitive and less good.”[1]

However, Huntsman’s campaign never gained much traction and in January 2012, shortly after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary, he announced he was dropping out. Commentators speculated that Huntsman’s primary goal during the 2012 campaign was to position himself for another presidential run in 2016.[2]

During the 2012 campaign, Huntsman often endeavored to position himself as the moderate Republican in a crowded conservative field, famously tweeting that “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”[3]

Unsurprisingly, given his service under President Obama, Huntsman’s foreign policy stances tended to stray largely from the vehement criticisms lodged at the president by his GOP rivals.

But Huntsman managed to find differences between President Obama’s foreign policy and his own policy proposals. In August 2011, for example, Huntsman authored a blog post on his campaign website on how “Obama’s failed on trade,” writing that “From the day of his inauguration, President Obama has unnecessarily delayed America's recovery by stifling critical negotiated trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.” Huntsman continued, “The President delivers fantastic speeches on free trade in the abstract, saying in last year's State of the Union address that ‘we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores’ if Washington fails to act. But the fierce urgency of the President's free trade pitch must have been lost, because for the last 2.5 years he has refused to submit the deals for legislative approval unless the measures were coupled with expanded funding for a union-backed entitlement program.”[4]

Huntsman also criticized President Obama for his record on Afghanistan, telling the right-wing National Review, “The future of the United States is not going to be determined by firefights on the Hindu Kush.”[5] Huntsman also opposed the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya, saying: “With all of our deployments and all of our engagements abroad, we need to ask a fundamental question: Can we afford to do this? That should be driven by the second point, which is whether or not it’s in our national security interest. I felt from the beginning that Libya was not in our core national security interest.”[6]

Although generally less hawkish than some of his fellow candidates, Huntsman nonetheless towed a hard line with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. "I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran,” he told a New Hampshire audience. “If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.”

Like most other 2012 Republican candidates—including, most notably, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum—Huntsman stressed the importance of the U.S. relationship with Israel, calling it the “most meaningful relationship in the Middle East” and that it is “in tatters right now.”[7] In a September 2011 National Review op-ed following the Palestinian bid for UN membership, Huntsman wrote, “President Obama’s misguided Middle East policies directly contributed to a breakdown of the peace process. The people of Israel have lost confidence in the Obama administration and no longer feel the president understands Israel’s security needs.“[8]

Also like other Republican candidates, Huntsman accused the Obama administration of weakening the United States: “Once the United States vacates leadership responsibilities, others will be reluctant to turn to us in the future. These events do not unfold in a vacuum and the world watches closely how we carry ourselves. There is increasing talk and more speculation about our country’s trajectory. The administration’s actions portray us as a disengaged country in decline rather than a leader, and countries around the world will begin to discount the United States as a factor in their respective futures.”[9]

Huntsman couched his foreign policy as business-friendly. A June 2011 blog post on Huntsman’s campaign website titled “National Security for the 21st Century” reads, “As [Huntsman has] said, we’re in many parts of the world that don’t make sense for our national security or our budget. He would also work to open more foreign markets for American businesses. In this economy, we should be aggressively pursuing more and greater free trade, not reverting to protectionism or waiting for sign-off from the unions.”[10]

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Sources


[1] Team Huntsman, “Welcome to Jon Huntsman for President!,” jon2012.com, August 25, 2011, http://jon2012.com/blog/Aug-25-2011/Welcome-Jon-Huntsman-President.



[2] Jonathan Chait, “Jon Huntsman’s Long Game,” The New Republic, May 20, 2011, http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/88780/jon-huntsmans-long-game.



[3] Jon Huntsman, Twitter.com, August 18, 2011, https://twitter.com/#%21/JonHuntsman/status/104250677051654144.



[4] Jon Huntsman, “Take It From Me: Obama’s Failed on Trade,” jon2012.com, August 22, 2011, http://www.jon2012.com/blog/Aug-22-2011/Take-It-Me-Obamas-Failed-Trade.



[5] Elise Jordan, “The World According to Huntsman,” National Review online, August 1, 2011, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/273196/world-according-huntsman-elise-jordan.



[6] Jeff Zeleny, “Huntsman Criticizes Obama on Libya,” The Caucus, New York Times, May 20, 2011, http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/huntsman-criticizes-obama-on-libya/.



[7] Elise Jordan, “The World According to Huntsman,” National Review online, August 1, 2011, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/273196/world-according-huntsman-elise-jordan.



[8] Jon Huntsman, “Palestinian Statehood Bid: Sign of a Larger Problem,” National Review online, September 22, 2011, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/278089/palestinian-statehood-bid-sign-larger-problem-jon-huntsman#.



[9] Jon Huntsman, “Palestinian Statehood Bid: Sign of a Larger Problem,” National Review online, September 22, 2011, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/278089/palestinian-statehood-bid-sign-larger-problem-jon-huntsman#.



[10] Jake Suski, “National Security for the 21st Century,” jon2012.com, June 28, 2011, http://www.jon2012.com/blog/Jun-28-2011/National-Security-21st-Century.


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Huntsman, Jon Résumé


 



Affiliations

  • Huntsman Cancer Foundation: Former executive

  • Envision Utah: Affiliate




Government

  • U.S. Ambassador to China (2009-2011)

  • Governor of Utah (2005-2009)

  • Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (2001-2003)

  • U.S. Ambassador to Singapore (1992-1993)

     


Business

  • Huntsman Corporation: Former executive

  • Huntsman Family Holdings Company: Former CEO


 



Education

  • University of Pennsylvania: B.A.

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