I was struck by Daniel Henninger’s column in the WSJ this morning. He was decrying the freak show that is this series of GOP presidential debates, and the way they are making our republic stupider by the day.
And then he got to talking about the way Jon Huntsman impressed in an editorial board meeting:
These dark thoughts came forth earlier this week when a group at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page spent some 75 minutes talking to candidate Jon Huntsman. He’s the one they stick on the end of the podium.
Say this: Jon Huntsman may or may not deserve to be the nominee, but he’s better than the back of the line.
After starting with a horrifyingly robotic recitation of his resume (exactly as he’s said in every debate), the former Utah governor took us on an intriguing tour of his thinking on a range of issues.
Mr. Huntsman said the U.S. likely would have to intervene militarily against Iran’s nuclear program in the next four or five years, a remarkable assertion. He said this in an Oct. 10 speech in New Hampshire, but even in our super-saturated media age, trees fall silently in an empty forest.
He supports “regime change in Syria” through diplomatic and covert means. We should try to make Iraq a “buffer” between Iran and Syria.
He supports the details of the Ryan Plan on entitlement reform. Like Rep. Ryan, he says this contest is “not a normal election”; if the Republicans lose, he said, the U.S. could be on course to repeat Japan’s 10 years of moribund economic growth.
There was more, some of it impressive, some not (for ideas on economic policy, he talks to his brother, an entrepreneur). The point is that one left the meeting with a basis to think about Mr. Huntsman as president, rather than the thumbs-down vote he’s gotten from the Roman Colosseum of the TV debates…
You may or may not have noticed that, when Huntsman sat down with The State‘s board recently, he also impressed them as being the guy with the most substance in the field. Or he impressed Cindi, anyway, which takes some doing.
Part of this is that an editorial board meeting is a vastly superior vehicle for assessing what sort of POTUS a candidate might be than the Reality TV formats of the “debates,” especially given what Mr. Henninger called “(t)he assumption that every cat and dog must be in the debate.” If only there were a way to duplicate that experience — sitting down with a candidate for an hour or two or three and really digging into issues, with discussion rather than robotic questions and timed answers.
But maybe there’s also something about Huntsman — something that even the traumatized, extremism-ridden, post 2008 GOP would see if they’d stop sticking him at the far end of the podium, uninvite some of the less-suitable candidates, and give him an extended listen for once.