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Huntsman and Service to Country

Posted in Election 2012,Foreign Policy,U.S. by Ryan on the January 10th, 2012

In the Saturday debate in New Hampshire, Romney and Huntsman had an exchange regarding China.

HUNTSMAN: Listen, we have the most important relationship of the 21st Century with China. We’ve got to make it work. Of course we have challenges with them. We’ve had challenges for 40 years. It’s nonsense to think you can slap a tariff on China the first day that you’re in office, as Governor Romney would like to do.

You’ve got to sit down and sort through the issues of trade like you do with North Korea, like you do with Iran, like you do with Burma, and Pakistan, and the South China Sea. They’re all interrelated. And to have a president who actually understands how that relationship works would serve the interests of the people in this country, from an economics standpoint and from a security standpoint.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry, Governor, you were, the last two years, implementing the policies of this administration in China. The rest of us on this stage were doing our best to get Republicans elected across the country and stop the policies of this president from being put forward.

[ …Romney comments at length about China stealing intellectual property among other things… ]

HUNTSMAN: I think it’s important to note, as they would say in China, that (speaking mandarin)…

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN: … he doesn’t quite understand this situation. What he is calling for would lead to a trade war. It makes for easy talk and a nice applause line but it’s far different from the reality in the U.S.-China relationship.

So, a robust back and forth.  Huntsman taking issue with Romney talking about coming down hard on China and Romney taking some issue with Huntsman saying he doesn’t know what he is talking about.  I took Romney’s jab about Huntsman’s time in China as a “heat of the moment” comment that simply reflected his displeasure at being criticized on his comments.

Well, on Sunday, without being questioned about this exchange, Huntsman deliberately brings it up, taking issue with Romney criticizing his “service to his country.”

HUNTSMAN: Let me say — let me say, first are all, with respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning, and I’m sure they’re terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here.

I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. And I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think…

(APPLAUSE)

He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who — what political affiliation the president is.

I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country: I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.

GREGORY: All right. Well, why don’t you get a response, Governor Romney? And then I’ll come back to you on the austerity question.

ROMNEY: I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama’s agenda. I think the decision to go and work for President Obama is one which you took. I don’t disrespect your decision to do that. I just think it’s most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.

HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like that.

It was a pointed exchange.  I almost expected Romney to perhaps apologize, saying it was the wrong thing to say and that it was simply the heat of the moment.  However, he didn’t, he made some generic points about serving under Obama.

I was driving home tonight and listening to CSPAN radio here in the DC area and it had some live events from New Hampshire.  One of the events was Huntsman’s and he was reminding people of the exchange.  He asked the crowd if they’d caught the debate the day before.  He said something to the effect of “We made clear to one candidate that this campaign will always put this country before politics.”

It was then that I had an epiphany.  Huntsman, in his effort to decry partisanship, may have overlooked the awkward position from which he standing.  He “put his country first” and began his service as ambassador in August of 2009.  Less than 2 years later, he resigned from that position in April of 2011 to run for President.

In effect, according to Huntsman, he put politics ahead of country.

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