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Jon Huntsman on the issues

at 08:58 AM ET, 05/20/2011


(Charles Dharapak - AP)
Jon Huntsman’s interview with George Stephanopoulos is the first time the ex-Utah governor and China ambassador has talked through the issues at any length, and also the first time he’s previewed his plan to sell reasonableness to the Republican Party. And the plan seems to be this: Huntsman will agree with the GOP on policy, but be moderate in argument.

So he doesn’t oppose cap-and-trade because global warming is a hoax, or the science is unsettled. He opposes it because a) any solution will have to be international and b) we need to be worried about the economy right now. He’s not against stimulus in theory, but he thought the specific stimulus Obama passed was poorly designed. He doesn’t defend the specifics of Ryan’s changes to Medicare, but supports them because the mounting national debt has forced us to consider “proposals that would’ve been laughed out of the room” at another time. It’s an interesting approach, though I wonder how appealing it’ll look next to the red meat Michele Bachmann will be throwing to the crowd. Anyway, here are the cliff notes:

On the stimulus: “My take was, let’s stimulate business. Let’s look at tax cuts, let’s look at payroll tax deductions..But more than that, George, a specific focus as opposed to just giving dollars to states. And let’s face it, every governor took it. Mark Sanford in South Carolina was the only one who stood up and said, ‘I’m not going to take it,’ and in the end, he ended up taking it, too. We as governors, our states, we all make contributions to Washington. And when stimulus dollars are coming back, you ultimately found that every governor took those dollars.”

On the Affordable Care Act: “If I had a chance to repeal it, I would. But then you have to say what goes in its place, and I think the answer to that is look at what all the states are doing. All the states that are incubators of democracy, are experimenting on their own. They’re coming up with novel solutions. In our own state, we came up with, I think, what was a very novel approach to closing the gap on the uninsured. To harmonize medical records — which was a major step in getting costs out of the system. So once the incubators of democracy do what they are best equipped to do, I think Washington then learns what works and what doesn’t work.”

On Ryan’s budget: “I would’ve voted for it. Including the Medicare provisions. Because the only thing that scares me more than that is the trajectory that our debt is taking...we’ve got to be bold, and we’ve got to have, I think, proposals on the table that perhaps in years past would’ve been laughed out of the room. And we’ve got to look seriously at them. We don’t have a choice. We’ve hit the wall.”

On the debt limit: “I would vote to increase the debt limit if there was a corresponding level of cuts.”

On cap-and-trade: “I don’t change on my positions. The circumstances change, like on cap and trade, for example. You know, today our focus — although we all care about the environment, today our number one priority’s the economy — and we should not be doing anything that stands in the way of economic growth .... And we also have to remember, George, that this is an international challenge. If we come up with our own approach, and if the Chinese who are now the largest emitters in the world don’t go up with their own, if the Indians don’t come up with their own, we’re all downstream. And if we unilaterally disarmed, we’re disadvantaged economically.”

On civil unions and immigration: “It’s a fairness issue. I believe in traditional marriage. But subordinate to that, I think we probably can do a better job when it comes to fairness and equality. And I don’t believe in penalizing the younger generation coming across our borders who have no say whatsoever over their journey and destiny.”

 
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