Huntsman Does Politics, Not Eggs

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman began his appearance at Wednesday’s Politics & Eggs breakfast by confessing that he can do politics – but doesn’t care for eggs. Before an audience of 150 people at Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics, Huntsman pledged he would win the New Hampshire primary, saying state voters are seeking common sense, practical solutions and substance over sideshows.

Gov. Jon Huntsman at Politics & Eggs

Huntsman’s message combined a dark view of present circumstances with an optimistic vision of the future. The nation is “in a deep funk” these days, Huntsman said. This is not the country’s natural condition, Huntsman contended. “We are a blue sky, optimistic people,” Huntsman said.

He worries that for the first time one generation risks passing on a nation that is “less good, less productive, and less competitive” that it received. He proceeded to outline a pro-growth economic agenda focused on job creation.

Problems are driven by the nation’s debt, which Huntsman described as a metastasizing cancer. “I think it’s immoral that we are burdening the next generation with debt – and I want to make it unconstitutional” through a balanced budget amendment.

“We can’t afford to have any sacred cows” when it comes to the budget, Huntsman said. Medicare and defense have to be included to achieve his goal of reducing government spending to 19 percent of GDP.

Our tax code is “dilapidated and anachronistic.” Huntsman proposes eliminating all loopholes and all deductions, replacing existing tax brackets with rates of 8, 14, and 23 percent and reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

Huntsman also pledges to “get the regulatory monkey off our back.” Obamacare and Dodd Frank have “created enormous uncertainty in the marketplace.” Employers won’t hire and companies are not deploying capital given this uncertainty.

The third part of Huntsman’s program is achieving energy independence to replace our “heroin-like addiction” to imported oil. Huntsman noted he drove a Suburban fueled by natural gas as governor.

On foreign policy, the former Ambassador to China said America “needs to be a little more skeptical about foreign entanglements.” Ten years in Afghanistan is enough, he said; “Only Afghanistan can save Afghanistan.” While pleased by developments in Libya, Huntsman reiterated that Libya is not core to United States interests.

Making a subtle contrast with President Obama and presidential candidates who have only served in Congress, Huntsman said “It’s important for our next president to have governed something and to have governed successfully.”

Huntsman took five questions in Q&A. In his first response, Huntsman defended free trade as good for domestic job creation.

Local agitator Charlie Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center asked about China’s record on human rights and religious freedom, an especially appropriate question for an event taking place on the campus of Saint Anselm College. Huntsman responded that part of how he’d shown leadership on this issue was by meeting with Catholic priests who had been imprisoned in China. Huntsman expanded on his China experience, saying that most people there have no memory of the Cultural Revolution and that the rise of the internet is accelerating freedom faster than the regime can prevent it.

I asked a question noting that if you look on the back of an Iphone, it says the device is manufactured in China but designed and engineered in America. To a candidate who wants to grow American’s manufacturing base, is this a bad thing? Huntsman brought the question back to reforming the tax code to encourage innovation here.

Asked about the Middle East, Huntsman gave a vigorous defense of Israel, saying the U.S. has not only shared interests with Israel but shared values as well.

Challenged about how he had joined with all the other candidates in the last debate saying he would reject a tax deal that included 90 percent spending cuts and 10 percent tax increases by a questioner who seemed disappointed with his action, Huntsman complained that “the whole two hour debate should have been about tax reform” and talked about his practical experience in governing. Such deals don’t really materialize in the real world, Huntsman said.

Huntsman’s only reference to his rivals was veiled and delivered with humor. He introduced his wife by slyly noting that he had not arrived with a phalanx of Texas Rangers but was accompanied by his own secret weapon, Mary Kaye. When Rick Perry spoke to the Politics & Eggs group a couple weeks ago, the Texas Governor was protected by a sizable contingent of Rangers. September 1, 2011

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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