Huntsman’s conservative credentials

The impression most people have is that Jon Huntsman is not conservative, that he is at best a moderate.  Not so, says Nichole Austin:

Despite scuttlebutt to the contrary, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is not a Democrat in disguise, but was in fact a relatively ambitious conservative governor. And if he is “moderate,” he is not appreciably more moderate than other leading candidates or party leaders. If one compares records honestly and looks at policy positions realistically, one will find that in many ways, Huntsman is more conservative than Mitt Romney — who will likely receive the Republican nomination. A surreal juxtaposition to be sure.

As governor of Utah, Huntsman ushered in a boldly transformed tax system. He flattened the tax code, doing away with many, though not all, deductions and credits, and changing six-brackets of progressive income tax rates into one low 5% rate. (Compare with Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat income tax and Herman Cain’s emblematic 9%.) According to PoliFact.com, this new system reduced taxes approximately 30% for the wealthiest residents, and due to remaining tax deductions “the effective tax rate [was] about 3 percent for Utah taxpayers earning $70,000 a year in 2008 and 4 percent for a household with $100,000 in taxable income[.]” He also eliminated the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit Reagan supported and which many Republicans today label “socialist.”

Also according to PolitiFact, which simply crunched Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Utah was fourth in the nation for job creation during the period immediately preceding and including the 2008-2009 recession, right behind Texas, which was third in the nation.

This is just the beginning. One proposal in Washington that has seemingly become too radical for even many leading Republicans to fully sign on to is the “Ryan plan,” which would rein in unsustainable entitlements, most notably Medicare. Newt Gingrich has criticized the Ryan plan, and has vacillated considerably on the proposal — at best, he seems to think it’s too big, too soon, although at one point he said he would vote for it. Romney supports a weaker version of the Ryan plan, which would not phase out Medicare, but keep it as an option, allowing private carriers to compete with it — we might call it the “competitive option,” a Democratic euphemism for the “public option.” Michele Bachmann supports the Ryan plan, but also voiced reservations regarding potential changes to Medicare. Huntsman, on the other hand, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal commending the Ryan plan, and has said he would vote for it. He has re-iterated, unequivocally, his support on multiple occasions. This puts Huntsman in the same camp as Herman Cain and, to some extent, Rick Perry, who wants states to be able to opt out of entitlements and believes they’re “Ponzi schemes.” Mitt Romney later criticized this very accurate characterization of entitlements, saying Perry’s rhetoric was over the top and frightening.

Of course, one other noteworthy item on Huntsman’s resume is that he pursued free market-based health care reform in Utah. The system primarily involved a competitive private health care exchange, diversified consumer options, and electronic medical records. Gregg Girvan of the Heritage Foundation praised it as a “blueprint” for state health care reform. Furthermore, the state did not impose a health insurance mandate on private citizens, although early on, Huntsman seemed to have favored a mandate, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have endorsed insurance mandates of some kind and seem to think that they’re necessary features of a workable health care reform model. On a related note, like most other candidates, Huntsman also said he would repeal Obamacare.

Huntsman has also been consistently pro-life, and has spoken very passionately on the issue. He signed numerous pro-life laws while governor, including making second trimester abortions illegal, enacting fetal pain awareness legislation, and instituting a trigger to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. He also supports a “right to life” amendment to the Constitution. He has not signed the Susan B. Anthony List pledge (Romney and Cain have not either), but his record speaks for itself, and he has been praised by numerous pro-life groups.

via PJ Media » Everything You Thought You Knew About Jon Huntsman Is Wrong.

Plus, the former ambassador to China does know a lot about foreign policy, unlike most of the rest of the field.   His only non-conservative positions, according to Austin, are his belief that global warming is real and his willingness to accept civil unions for gays.  I’m not sure what’s conservative about one’s position on global warming–surely that’s a matter of opinion and interpretation of data–and, indeed, Newt Gingrich, nobody’s liberal, has accepted that man-man global warming is real.  And civil unions at least stop a little short of  gay marriage.

So is the only real problem with Huntsman is that he, like Romney, is a Mormon?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines Robert Talbert

    I’ve been a Huntsman supporter from the beginning because of his record as Utah governor and because of his dual experience with administration and diplomacy. As the dad of two girls from China, I also greatly respect his work with that country, and the fact that he has an adopted daughter from China as well is meaningful to me.

    It seems that the knock on Huntsman isn’t his religion but his closeness to Obama. Obama appointed him to be ambassador to China, after all. And he (Huntsman) can come across to some as sanctimonious. But otherwise I’m not sure why he hasn’t gained traction in the polls. Perhaps with one Romney alternative after the next falling by the wayside, he might peak at the right time.

    Let’s not forget he dropped out of high school to plan keyboards in a progressive rock band too, which has nothing to do with being conservative but it pretty darned awesome.

  • http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines Robert Talbert

    I’ve been a Huntsman supporter from the beginning because of his record as Utah governor and because of his dual experience with administration and diplomacy. As the dad of two girls from China, I also greatly respect his work with that country, and the fact that he has an adopted daughter from China as well is meaningful to me.

    It seems that the knock on Huntsman isn’t his religion but his closeness to Obama. Obama appointed him to be ambassador to China, after all. And he (Huntsman) can come across to some as sanctimonious. But otherwise I’m not sure why he hasn’t gained traction in the polls. Perhaps with one Romney alternative after the next falling by the wayside, he might peak at the right time.

    Let’s not forget he dropped out of high school to plan keyboards in a progressive rock band too, which has nothing to do with being conservative but it pretty darned awesome.

  • http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines Robert Talbert

    Sorry, his daughter is adopted from India. Still meaningful.

  • http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines Robert Talbert

    Sorry, his daughter is adopted from India. Still meaningful.

  • Joe

    I agree with Robert. The knock on him was that he was Obama’s guy. Why else would Obama make him an ambassador to a country that matters? I am starting to wonder if this was really a political appointment designed to get Huntsman out of the country and make him part of the “team” in order to prevent him from becoming a forceful and leading critic of the administration and to damage him for 2012. I mean, isn’t that essentially why Obama made Hillary Sec of State?

    Or maybe I just need another cup of coffee …

  • Joe

    I agree with Robert. The knock on him was that he was Obama’s guy. Why else would Obama make him an ambassador to a country that matters? I am starting to wonder if this was really a political appointment designed to get Huntsman out of the country and make him part of the “team” in order to prevent him from becoming a forceful and leading critic of the administration and to damage him for 2012. I mean, isn’t that essentially why Obama made Hillary Sec of State?

    Or maybe I just need another cup of coffee …

  • WebMonk

    Who the heck is John Huntsman?

    Oh, yeah, he’s that guy that has less name recognition and less support than even Rick Santorum.

    He and Rick will be gone from the race by the end of the year.

    To the conservative politically plugged-in, maybe the problem was that he was Mormon. To everyone else it was because he was boring, uninspired in speech, idea and behavior, and all around forgettable.

    He wasn’t even wooden. Gore demonstrated that being wooden-faced would actually get you some publicity. He was just bland.

    That’s my guess as to why he is at the very bottom of the pack.

  • WebMonk

    Who the heck is John Huntsman?

    Oh, yeah, he’s that guy that has less name recognition and less support than even Rick Santorum.

    He and Rick will be gone from the race by the end of the year.

    To the conservative politically plugged-in, maybe the problem was that he was Mormon. To everyone else it was because he was boring, uninspired in speech, idea and behavior, and all around forgettable.

    He wasn’t even wooden. Gore demonstrated that being wooden-faced would actually get you some publicity. He was just bland.

    That’s my guess as to why he is at the very bottom of the pack.

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  • Lisa

    Huntsman could beat Obama.

  • Lisa

    Huntsman could beat Obama.

  • DonS

    As governor of Utah, Huntsman ushered in a boldly transformed tax system. He flattened the tax code, doing away with many, though not all, deductions and credits, and changing six-brackets of progressive income tax rates into one low 5% rate. (Compare with Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat income tax and Herman Cain’s emblematic 9%.)

    This is highly misleading. Is the author really comparing Huntsman’s state income tax rate of 5% with Perry’s and Cain’s proposed federal rates? Apples and oranges. I agree that his tax reform proposal was a good one, but one needs to understand that it is relatively easy to push conservative reform in Utah, and he also has the reputation of a big spender.

    Huntsman’s biggest problems are manyfold. He’s not merely a Mormon — his grandfather was an LDS apostle. He comes from extreme wealth, which is a negative for some. He quit his position as governor to accept a position in the Obama administration, which won him no friends in the conservative sector. He was a cap and trade proponent, only backing off because of serious opposition in his conservative state. And, he’s an open borders guy — supporting drivers’ licenses tuition assistance for illegals. The trust factor is particularly low for him because he has taken these liberal positions in a conservative state — many think that in Washington he would move much farther to the left.

  • DonS

    As governor of Utah, Huntsman ushered in a boldly transformed tax system. He flattened the tax code, doing away with many, though not all, deductions and credits, and changing six-brackets of progressive income tax rates into one low 5% rate. (Compare with Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat income tax and Herman Cain’s emblematic 9%.)

    This is highly misleading. Is the author really comparing Huntsman’s state income tax rate of 5% with Perry’s and Cain’s proposed federal rates? Apples and oranges. I agree that his tax reform proposal was a good one, but one needs to understand that it is relatively easy to push conservative reform in Utah, and he also has the reputation of a big spender.

    Huntsman’s biggest problems are manyfold. He’s not merely a Mormon — his grandfather was an LDS apostle. He comes from extreme wealth, which is a negative for some. He quit his position as governor to accept a position in the Obama administration, which won him no friends in the conservative sector. He was a cap and trade proponent, only backing off because of serious opposition in his conservative state. And, he’s an open borders guy — supporting drivers’ licenses tuition assistance for illegals. The trust factor is particularly low for him because he has taken these liberal positions in a conservative state — many think that in Washington he would move much farther to the left.

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    He’s the only candidate in the field I feel enthusiastic about.

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    He’s the only candidate in the field I feel enthusiastic about.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I think Huntsman was an excellent governor for Utah – an able leader. I would trust him as president.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I think Huntsman was an excellent governor for Utah – an able leader. I would trust him as president.

  • Jonathan

    Huntsman is impressive [i.e., disqualified from the nomination] in that he doesn’t appear to be motivated by hate – against Muslims, women, gays, or “illegals,” as DonS @6 ignorantly says. Moreover, in a recent debate, he and Ron Paul were the only 2 GOP candidates to humanely condemn the use of torture.

  • Jonathan

    Huntsman is impressive [i.e., disqualified from the nomination] in that he doesn’t appear to be motivated by hate – against Muslims, women, gays, or “illegals,” as DonS @6 ignorantly says. Moreover, in a recent debate, he and Ron Paul were the only 2 GOP candidates to humanely condemn the use of torture.

  • DonS

    Hmm, Jonathan, what was “ignorant” about what I said? Where was I wrong (I am assuming that, to be labeled as “ignorant”, I must be wrong? I didn’t even offer a personal opinion as to his fitness for the office, but rather just pointed out why I believe he has not gained traction in the Republican primaries. It seems to have been pretty “ignorant” for you to apply the “ignorant” tag to what I said.

    You’re obviously just a “hater” ;-)

  • DonS

    Hmm, Jonathan, what was “ignorant” about what I said? Where was I wrong (I am assuming that, to be labeled as “ignorant”, I must be wrong? I didn’t even offer a personal opinion as to his fitness for the office, but rather just pointed out why I believe he has not gained traction in the Republican primaries. It seems to have been pretty “ignorant” for you to apply the “ignorant” tag to what I said.

    You’re obviously just a “hater” ;-)

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    I agree with Jonathan on a fundamental difference being that Huntsman does not stoke populist rage. That such a candidate cannot gain traction against such remarkably silly opposition is a pretty nasty indictment of the Republican Party.

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    I agree with Jonathan on a fundamental difference being that Huntsman does not stoke populist rage. That such a candidate cannot gain traction against such remarkably silly opposition is a pretty nasty indictment of the Republican Party.

  • Joe

    I am not going to blame anyone except John Huntsman for his lack of traction. The man has access to billions of dollars (his father is a multi-billionaire). If he wants to get his message out and he thinks that people have the wrong impression he certainly has the means to do so.

  • Joe

    I am not going to blame anyone except John Huntsman for his lack of traction. The man has access to billions of dollars (his father is a multi-billionaire). If he wants to get his message out and he thinks that people have the wrong impression he certainly has the means to do so.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @10, I don’t care about your opinion of Huntsman; I called you ignorant for using the perjorative “illegals” to describe (only Latino) people who may be in the US without proper documentation. People are not “illegal.” Read this and stop using the word:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/24/mitt-romney-rick-perry-herman-cain-why-the-gop-demonizes-illegals.html

  • Jonathan

    DonS @10, I don’t care about your opinion of Huntsman; I called you ignorant for using the perjorative “illegals” to describe (only Latino) people who may be in the US without proper documentation. People are not “illegal.” Read this and stop using the word:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/24/mitt-romney-rick-perry-herman-cain-why-the-gop-demonizes-illegals.html

  • DonS

    Nice, Jonathan. I didn’t say or imply “only Latino”. And, they are here illegally, so the term is descriptive and proper.

  • DonS

    Nice, Jonathan. I didn’t say or imply “only Latino”. And, they are here illegally, so the term is descriptive and proper.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @14, the term “illegals” is racist and thus deeply offensive. But you know that.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @14, the term “illegals” is racist and thus deeply offensive. But you know that.

  • WebMonk

    Jonathan, the term is being claimed to be racist and offensive by people who are trying to make it so for political reasons. I deal regularly with poor latino populations (some of which are illegals themselves) and they don’t mind people using it and even regularly use the term themselves.

    It’s a case of some people being offended on behalf of people who aren’t offended themselves.

  • WebMonk

    Jonathan, the term is being claimed to be racist and offensive by people who are trying to make it so for political reasons. I deal regularly with poor latino populations (some of which are illegals themselves) and they don’t mind people using it and even regularly use the term themselves.

    It’s a case of some people being offended on behalf of people who aren’t offended themselves.

  • Jonathan

    @16 Sure, that’s why the term is used only to describe Latinos suspected of what may not always be even a felony. Check out the article @13.

  • Jonathan

    @16 Sure, that’s why the term is used only to describe Latinos suspected of what may not always be even a felony. Check out the article @13.

  • DonS

    What Webmonk said, Jonathan. Peter Beinart is far-left, not some kind of authority on the subject. Illegals are illegal — it’s a proper descriptive term that applies to anyone, regardless of race, who is in the country illegally.

  • DonS

    What Webmonk said, Jonathan. Peter Beinart is far-left, not some kind of authority on the subject. Illegals are illegal — it’s a proper descriptive term that applies to anyone, regardless of race, who is in the country illegally.

  • Jonathan

    @18 Next thing you’ll be telling me is, you’re the CavChap chair for Hispanic Outreach.

  • Jonathan

    @18 Next thing you’ll be telling me is, you’re the CavChap chair for Hispanic Outreach.

  • DonS

    Wow, @19, clever comeback! Nice job.

  • DonS

    Wow, @19, clever comeback! Nice job.

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    @12 He’s invisible because he doesn’t say the stupid, inflammatory things that draw media coverage and boost polling numbers. If there’s anything that the Republican race has proved so far, it’s that you need to be angry and melodramatic to get attention. That’s a shame. The solution isn’t to tell level-headed candidates to stop being reasonable.

  • http://porterperkins.blogspot.com Mark Perkins

    @12 He’s invisible because he doesn’t say the stupid, inflammatory things that draw media coverage and boost polling numbers. If there’s anything that the Republican race has proved so far, it’s that you need to be angry and melodramatic to get attention. That’s a shame. The solution isn’t to tell level-headed candidates to stop being reasonable.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    I’m not sure what’s conservative about one’s position on global warming–surely that’s a matter of opinion and interpretation of data

    Thanks for saying that, because if you didn’t, I’d’ve had to.

    I love how the Pajamas guy attempts to wedge all these points into the label “conservative”, as if there were some ideological underpinning to it all, instead of the fairly bizarre pastiche that is modern … Republicanism? Right-wingism? Those terms have less semantic value, less etymological significance, so I don’t mind as much if the modern (scare-quote) “conservative” buffet choices are labeled as such.

    But, again, what, exactly, is so conservative about a “flattened” tax code? Or, more specifically, reducing taxes for “the wealthiest”?

    Also, this:

    Utah was fourth in the nation for job creation during the period immediately preceding and including the 2008-2009 recession…

    The clear implication of the Pajamas writer being that Huntsman — and the Utah state government — was responsible for this “job creation”. But “conservatives” are always telling me that the government can’t create jobs. So why do they believe it can? Just because it bolsters their favorite “conservative” candidate?

    (Oh, I know what some will say: the government “got out of the way”, allowing businesses to create jobs. Fine. But then you basically do believe that government can create jobs, if indirectly — as long as they follow your partisan guidelines, of course. Also, given the relative ease with which people can move between states, merely eyeing this one datum — without looking at what sectors these jobs were added in, and where they might have migrated from — seems like just unexamined fanboyism. We saw the same thing when Perry was ascendant.)

    Furthermore, the state did not impose a health insurance mandate on private citizens, although early on, Huntsman seemed to have favored a mandate, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

    The author doesn’t make it clear if he realizes that there’s quite a difference between a state imposing an insurance mandate and the federal government doing so. The latter, I still agree, is unconstitutional. But at the state level? Not very conservative, fine, but still a different beast.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    I’m not sure what’s conservative about one’s position on global warming–surely that’s a matter of opinion and interpretation of data

    Thanks for saying that, because if you didn’t, I’d’ve had to.

    I love how the Pajamas guy attempts to wedge all these points into the label “conservative”, as if there were some ideological underpinning to it all, instead of the fairly bizarre pastiche that is modern … Republicanism? Right-wingism? Those terms have less semantic value, less etymological significance, so I don’t mind as much if the modern (scare-quote) “conservative” buffet choices are labeled as such.

    But, again, what, exactly, is so conservative about a “flattened” tax code? Or, more specifically, reducing taxes for “the wealthiest”?

    Also, this:

    Utah was fourth in the nation for job creation during the period immediately preceding and including the 2008-2009 recession…

    The clear implication of the Pajamas writer being that Huntsman — and the Utah state government — was responsible for this “job creation”. But “conservatives” are always telling me that the government can’t create jobs. So why do they believe it can? Just because it bolsters their favorite “conservative” candidate?

    (Oh, I know what some will say: the government “got out of the way”, allowing businesses to create jobs. Fine. But then you basically do believe that government can create jobs, if indirectly — as long as they follow your partisan guidelines, of course. Also, given the relative ease with which people can move between states, merely eyeing this one datum — without looking at what sectors these jobs were added in, and where they might have migrated from — seems like just unexamined fanboyism. We saw the same thing when Perry was ascendant.)

    Furthermore, the state did not impose a health insurance mandate on private citizens, although early on, Huntsman seemed to have favored a mandate, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

    The author doesn’t make it clear if he realizes that there’s quite a difference between a state imposing an insurance mandate and the federal government doing so. The latter, I still agree, is unconstitutional. But at the state level? Not very conservative, fine, but still a different beast.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, contrary to Veith’s opening sentence, I believe that the impression most people have of Jon Huntsman is that he was fairly ignorable in Roseanne, but he was hilarious in The Big Lebowski.

    Which is to say, he’s like Mitt Romney (“Oh yeah, the Mormon”), but without the name recognition.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, contrary to Veith’s opening sentence, I believe that the impression most people have of Jon Huntsman is that he was fairly ignorable in Roseanne, but he was hilarious in The Big Lebowski.

    Which is to say, he’s like Mitt Romney (“Oh yeah, the Mormon”), but without the name recognition.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@9, 13, 15, 17, 19), DonS and I frequently disagree, as you may know, but even so, I definitely have to agree with him on this one. I cannot seriously believe that you are taking him to task for using the term “illegals”.

    I mean, it’s not that I don’t recognize that some segment of the population also holds your views. I just tend to take such arguments as seriously as people who use such words as “herstory” and “womyn” (so why don’t you go ahead and label me a misogynist, hmm?). I kinda thought that foofaraw largely died out in the 90s.

    I mean, you are aware that there are laws regarding immigration in this country, regardless of whether they’re enforced. So even if, as the bumper sticker logic goes, “people are not ‘illegal’”, then obviously their actions can be.

    Seriously, Jonathan, you’re a Christian, and you know better than to defame a man by presuming to read his heart. You’re telling Don that he’s racist merely by using a word — without actually listening to what Don is saying about what he thinks. It’s knee-jerk political correctness that you’re spouting, a cry that goes up every time you hear a word, regardless of the context.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@9, 13, 15, 17, 19), DonS and I frequently disagree, as you may know, but even so, I definitely have to agree with him on this one. I cannot seriously believe that you are taking him to task for using the term “illegals”.

    I mean, it’s not that I don’t recognize that some segment of the population also holds your views. I just tend to take such arguments as seriously as people who use such words as “herstory” and “womyn” (so why don’t you go ahead and label me a misogynist, hmm?). I kinda thought that foofaraw largely died out in the 90s.

    I mean, you are aware that there are laws regarding immigration in this country, regardless of whether they’re enforced. So even if, as the bumper sticker logic goes, “people are not ‘illegal’”, then obviously their actions can be.

    Seriously, Jonathan, you’re a Christian, and you know better than to defame a man by presuming to read his heart. You’re telling Don that he’s racist merely by using a word — without actually listening to what Don is saying about what he thinks. It’s knee-jerk political correctness that you’re spouting, a cry that goes up every time you hear a word, regardless of the context.

  • JunkerGeorg

    On foreign policy, Huntsman did stand out from most of the rest of the Republican field in actually agreeing with ‘another’ candidate (whose name we dare not speak), that is, taking a somewhat non-interventionist position along with promoting continued free trade with China, rather than getting into a trade war.

  • JunkerGeorg

    On foreign policy, Huntsman did stand out from most of the rest of the Republican field in actually agreeing with ‘another’ candidate (whose name we dare not speak), that is, taking a somewhat non-interventionist position along with promoting continued free trade with China, rather than getting into a trade war.

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