Huntsman Offers New Tone for Republican Presidential Primary

The cable news channel MSNBC is running a Spike Lee-directed cinema verite promotional ad wherein political pundit Chris Matthews suggests that none of the crop of 2012 Republican presidential candidates will have the political courage to admit that President Barack Obama “is as much of an American as I am.”

On Tuesday, Republican Jon Huntsman proved Mr. Matthews wrong.

In announcing his candidacy for the GOP nomination for president, Mr. Huntsman stood in a New Jersey park facing the Statue of Liberty and made it clear that at least one Republican candidate would try to take the high road.

“He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love,” the former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China said of Mr. Obama. “But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who’s the better American. … It concerns me that civility, humanity and respect are sometimes lost in our interactions as Americans.”

How refreshing.

Mr. Huntsman subsequently has been criticized in the tea party wing of the Republican Party for not spreading the same anti-Obama, anti-government and no-new-taxes demagoguery that dominate GOP arguments today.

Contrast Mr. Huntsman’s courage with that of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who on Thursday pulled out of the very important bipartisan debt-ceiling talks because he didn’t want his name connected with anything that remotely could look like a tax increase.

Serious politicians in both parties know that there is no realistic solution to our nation’s financial ills that doesn’t include both spending cuts and revenue increases of some sort. We suspect Mr. Cantor knows that, but he prefers political gamesmanship to protect his own future with his extreme base.

We frequently have lamented the sorry state of political discourse in America. It doesn’t get much worse than potential candidates for president questioning Mr. Obama’s very citizenship, as Donald Trump and others have. Mr. Trump took himself out of the race before voters had to.

America is better off when Americans respect the presidency. State governments are better off when elected officials can engage in fierce philosophical debates without lowering themselves to fierce personal attacks.

In all the negativity that exists in the 24-hour news cycle, there are some refreshing rays of hope. In Missouri’s St. Charles County earlier this month, County Executive Steve Ehlmann, a Republican, and Circuit Court Judge Ted House, a Democrat, co-hosted a luncheon in which attendees focused on raising the level of political discussion.

The speaker at that event, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, challenged the audience to hit the reset button on the harsh political tone of the day.

“We must restart a dialogue by listening to each other respectfully,” Mr. Nixon said.

That, too, seems to be Mr. Huntsman’s tone. For at least one day, he distinguished himself as the most grown up of the Republican presidential candidates, even if the odds are against him.

There will be plenty of time for voters and editorial writers to examine records and determine which of the various candidates has the best vision for America. But for now, we welcome Mr. Huntsman’s civil tone and hope that his candidacy contributes to a hearty debate about our nation’s future.



Author: Newspaper Contributors

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