Saturday, May 16, 2009

Utah Governor Huntsman - Next Ambassador to China

US President Barack Obama (L) chats with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House May 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama nominated Huntsman as the next US ambassador to China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Jon Huntsman: China Ambassador
| May 16, 2009 11:24 AM EST |

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama reached across the political divide Saturday and named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a possible GOP White House contender and top John McCain supporter, to the sensitive diplomatic post of U.S. ambassador to China.

With the selection, Obama may have sidelined a potentially formidable moderate Republican from the 2012 presidential field. For Huntsman, it's a chance to burnish his credentials and position himself as a viable hopeful _ perhaps for 2016 if Obama is seen as a strong candidate for a second term in 2012.

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, the 49-year-old Huntsman is a popular two-term governor who served in both Bush administrations and was national co-chairman of Arizona Sen. McCain's campaign against Obama last year. Huntsman has made a name for himself advocating a moderate agenda in one of the nation's most conservative states.

Rest of article at link above.

Al Giordano over at The Field, has another take on it:
Huntsman to China: It's About Romney
Posted by Al Giordano - May 16, 2009 at 9:55 am By Al Giordano

When, a day before the 2008 Tsunami Tuesday primaries, Michelle Obama visited with top apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, eyebrows were raised. What was the Obama campaign doing reaching out to Mormons, some said, who have long been a reliable voting bloc for Republicans? Mormons for Obama had, in fact, been formed a year before that, even as former Mormon Bishop Mitt Romney was pursuing the Republican nomination for President.

The nomination, yesterday, of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to be US Ambassador to the People's Republic of China - like Romney, a handsome and articulate boy-wonder billionaire of that faith - has those eyebrows wagging again. It speaks volumes of the outside-the-box tendencies of the President and his team that the thought would even occur to them to appoint such an unexpected envoy, that they would know that Huntsman - a former LDS missionary in Taiwan - speaks Mandarin, and that they'd be able to convince the Governor to switch jobs for a post that is not necessarily a promotion. They must have also had good enough intelligence to sense that Huntsman was bored at his current gig. That they made the sale is a head turner, indeed.

That they announced this shortly after Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele gaffed his way into another controversy, this time regarding the evident anti-Mormon bigotry in Evangelical Christian circles, is nothing less than political poetry. Steele said, on Bill Bennett's radio show, "Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism..."

What is a gaffe? Generally it's something that's true but that society doesn't want to admit.

Mitt Romney is technically the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. He's got the money, a national organization, and the on-camera talent and political experience to handle the national spotlight. Ideologically, his positions line up pretty perfectly with the conservative GOP platform. If any Republican "deserves" it for having paid his dues loyally to the party, it's Mitt. And yet it's extremely unlikely that the said GOP base - we're talking mainly white Southern Baptists here - is going to get over its Mormonphobia in just three years enough to make that possible.

The appointment of Huntsman is thus, politically, a slam dunk. When GOP primary voters inevitably reject Romney once again in the 2012 primaries and caucuses outside of the Mountain West, the resentment - already boiling after last year's adventures in presidential politics - among rank-and-file Mormons that the party to whom they've given so much still doesn't really want them in the Master's house rather than the servant's quarters, will sting. Meanwhile, another of their prominent citizens will likely still be Obama's man in Beijing, proof that somebody in American politics isn't dissing the LDS and its members. And in key swing states like Nevada and Colorado, LDS members are legion.

Some said Obama was crazy, back in 2007 and 2008, to reach out to what conventional wisdom thought was an impenetrable GOP base... Crazy, like a fox.


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