Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman Can’t Get Over Himself

“Jon Huntsman Can’t Stop Talking About The Republican Party,” proclaims a Buzzfeed headline teasing an interview with the former GOP presidential candidate. And they weren’t kidding: the story was posted first thing in the morning yesterday, and by the end of lunch time they posted a second story on Huntsman’s interview. The glaring question–Does Jon Huntsman really have that much of interest to say?–has an unsurprising answer: Nope. But he assured the Buzzfeed editors that he had bestowed upon them a truly generous gift:

“I haven’t asked anyone for a single interview. I don’t do that,” he said, adding, “I’d say we take about 2 percent of the media requests that come in. Really.”

Having thus flattered his audience that they are more important to a former governor of Utah than 98 percent of the media out there, Huntsman proceeded to do what Huntsman does: speak for long periods of time without saying anything. Indeed, what’s striking about the two stories worth of interviews he did with Buzzfeed is the complete lack of policy ideas. He spent most of the time talking about how Republicans don’t like him, how much he enjoyed the movie Lincoln, and that he still believes in climate change.

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“Jon Huntsman Can’t Stop Talking About The Republican Party,” proclaims a Buzzfeed headline teasing an interview with the former GOP presidential candidate. And they weren’t kidding: the story was posted first thing in the morning yesterday, and by the end of lunch time they posted a second story on Huntsman’s interview. The glaring question–Does Jon Huntsman really have that much of interest to say?–has an unsurprising answer: Nope. But he assured the Buzzfeed editors that he had bestowed upon them a truly generous gift:

“I haven’t asked anyone for a single interview. I don’t do that,” he said, adding, “I’d say we take about 2 percent of the media requests that come in. Really.”

Having thus flattered his audience that they are more important to a former governor of Utah than 98 percent of the media out there, Huntsman proceeded to do what Huntsman does: speak for long periods of time without saying anything. Indeed, what’s striking about the two stories worth of interviews he did with Buzzfeed is the complete lack of policy ideas. He spent most of the time talking about how Republicans don’t like him, how much he enjoyed the movie Lincoln, and that he still believes in climate change.

He didn’t seem to put much effort into making excuses for his poor showing in the GOP primaries. But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped blaming his election woes on being too awesome for his own good. He recently spoke with the New York Times Magazine (which apparently made it into the elite 2 percent) as well. He’s had time to reflect upon his election losses, and here is the conclusion he’s drawn:

Honesty? You’re in the wrong business.
It’s terrible. You saw where honesty got me in the primary.

Obviously you’ve thought a lot about it. What went wrong?
When the decision was made to refuse any pandering — because my wife would have left me if I had done any of that — you pretty much disarm yourself. On top of that you have people like Michael Moore, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter coming out and giving you kudos as a sane Republican. That doesn’t play so well in the primary phase of Iowa or South Carolina.

The New York Times referred to you during the campaign as “an early favorite of the pundit classes.” Did you read that and think, I’m toast?
That’s the first dagger to the heart.

This is nonsense, because Mitch Daniels was also an early favorite of the pundit classes, and Daniels also received plaudits from liberal journalists and opinion writers. And yet, whereas Republicans begged Huntsman to leave, they pleaded with Daniels not to go. It isn’t honesty that got Huntsman in trouble, but how he expressed that honesty. The second Buzzfeed article recalls Huntsman’s tweet about global warming: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” What got Huntsman in trouble was his palpable, oozing disdain for Republican voters. He doesn’t like them or their party, and it shows. In the Times Magazine interview, here is how he describes primary voters: “People aren’t turning out for primaries because they work for a living, and those who do turn out are professional activists.”

Surely Huntsman must understand that calling people bums or telling them they only have opinions because they’re paid to have those opinions isn’t the best prelude to asking them for their vote. And why would Huntsman want their vote anyway? Following Huntsman’s logic, it’s degrading to even ask a voter who cares enough about his party to vote in primaries for his support. And maybe that’s how Huntsman feels. But here’s a thought: if Huntsman doesn’t have any respect for the process, then maybe he shouldn’t take part in that process. Call me crazy.

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China Fight Shows Obama’s Cynicism

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is paid to deny the obvious on a daily basis, but even his ability to lie on behalf of his boss was strained to the max today when he told reporters on Air Force One the administration’s decision to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization about Chinese tariffs on American cars had nothing to do with the president’s re-election campaign. The WTO complaint just happened to coincide with President Obama’s bus tour of Rust Belt states where U.S. cars are manufactured and where he will beat his chest about the beastliness of China’s unfair trade practices. But though the move comes after three years of kowtowing to Beijing, Carney asserted that the complaint was in the works for years and the timing was pure coincidence.

“It can’t suddenly be a political action because it happens during the campaign,” Carney told the press. Oh, no?

This rhetorical flight of fancy doesn’t just display the boundless cynicism of the Obama campaign. It also illustrates the way the president is prepared to seemingly alter his foreign policy to suit the needs of his re-election hopes. Just as he expects friends of Israel to forget about what occurred during the first three years of his presidency prior to the current Jewish charm offensive he is pursuing, he thinks auto workers and their families have memories that are equally as poor.

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is paid to deny the obvious on a daily basis, but even his ability to lie on behalf of his boss was strained to the max today when he told reporters on Air Force One the administration’s decision to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization about Chinese tariffs on American cars had nothing to do with the president’s re-election campaign. The WTO complaint just happened to coincide with President Obama’s bus tour of Rust Belt states where U.S. cars are manufactured and where he will beat his chest about the beastliness of China’s unfair trade practices. But though the move comes after three years of kowtowing to Beijing, Carney asserted that the complaint was in the works for years and the timing was pure coincidence.

“It can’t suddenly be a political action because it happens during the campaign,” Carney told the press. Oh, no?

This rhetorical flight of fancy doesn’t just display the boundless cynicism of the Obama campaign. It also illustrates the way the president is prepared to seemingly alter his foreign policy to suit the needs of his re-election hopes. Just as he expects friends of Israel to forget about what occurred during the first three years of his presidency prior to the current Jewish charm offensive he is pursuing, he thinks auto workers and their families have memories that are equally as poor.

The president is right when he now says U.S. car manufacturers have been adversely affected by China’s trade practices. But though the administration has registered prior complaints, the overall tenor of Obama’s attitude toward China has been more focused on appeasing Beijing rather than standing up to it. He has done little if anything to open up China’s markets to U.S. goods, China’s theft of American intellectual property, or to adequately respond to its currency manipulation. Indeed, the only consistent theme of Obama’s policies has been a desire to create U.S. subsidies that give the Chinese cause to complain they are being judged by a double standard.

The contrast between Mitt Romney’s aggressive stance toward China and the more lenient attitude of the Obama administration was illustrated during the Republican presidential debates when Jon Huntsman, the president’s ambassador to Beijing, accused the eventual winner of the GOP nomination of being too tough on the issue. The harsh talk about China we’re hearing now is just one more election-year conversion and about as credible as the laughable Democratic talking points about Obama being Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House.

While Americans are used to presidential candidates employing the most transparently cynical political tactics, Obama’s 2012 transformation into Israel’s friend and China’s foe is a bit much for even his most ardent loyalists. While his allies among the leaders of the labor movement have good reason to stifle their own disgust at his trade double-dealing, it’s not likely many rank and file members are going to buy this brazen baloney.

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U.S. Must Signal Military Strength to China

Former ambassador to Beijing and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has some useful points to make in the Wall Street Journal about how America must deal with China. But his prescriptions are curiously incomplete.

He argues, convincingly, that “the U.S. must deal with China from a position of strength”; “we should be pursuing free trade agreements with Japan, Taiwan and India, and allowing American businesses to enter Burma”; “we should renew our ties to key allies, focusing on joint endeavors that hedge against some of the more difficult contingencies we could face in the region from an aggressive China and People’s Liberation Army”; and we must make clear that, while “values matter,” “in today’s China those values we share are found mostly among people like Mr. Chen, and not in the Communist Party or the government.”

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Former ambassador to Beijing and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has some useful points to make in the Wall Street Journal about how America must deal with China. But his prescriptions are curiously incomplete.

He argues, convincingly, that “the U.S. must deal with China from a position of strength”; “we should be pursuing free trade agreements with Japan, Taiwan and India, and allowing American businesses to enter Burma”; “we should renew our ties to key allies, focusing on joint endeavors that hedge against some of the more difficult contingencies we could face in the region from an aggressive China and People’s Liberation Army”; and we must make clear that, while “values matter,” “in today’s China those values we share are found mostly among people like Mr. Chen, and not in the Communist Party or the government.”

What’s missing here? Any mention of military strength. Huntsman is right that we need to get our economic house in order (presumably by reducing the burden of government on the economy and reducing the ridiculous federal budget deficit). But we also must make clear to China that there is no sense in a military challenge to the U.S. and our allies because we will be strong enough to resist any Chinese adventurism. That deterrence is in the process of being lost today, unfortunately.

As former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman pointed out in a previous Journal oped, a bipartisan commission chaired by Stephen Hadley and William Perry determined that the Navy needs at least 346 vessels in the future. But today, the Navy has only 286 ships, and it is shrinking. Based on the present trajectory, it will be down to 240-250 ships at best. That is hardly a signal of strength to China at a time when its own military is expanding at breakneck pace.

The fact that Huntsman makes no mention of this important expression of national power is a reminder that he ran for the Republican nomination as a quasi-isolationist–and reason to be thankful his campaign gained so little traction.

 

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Huntsman’s Eyebrow and the GOP Race

In a post published yesterday, Pete noted that among Jon Huntsman’s failures as a candidate was the fact that  “he came across as supercilious.” Many others have noted the same tendency.

But while he was certainly supercilious in the metaphorical sense, he was also in the quite literal, etymological sense. The word comes from the Latin superciliosus, meaning the same thing, and that word in turn comes from supercilium, meaning eyebrow. (The English language medical term superciliary means “of or relating to the eyebrow.”)

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In a post published yesterday, Pete noted that among Jon Huntsman’s failures as a candidate was the fact that  “he came across as supercilious.” Many others have noted the same tendency.

But while he was certainly supercilious in the metaphorical sense, he was also in the quite literal, etymological sense. The word comes from the Latin superciliosus, meaning the same thing, and that word in turn comes from supercilium, meaning eyebrow. (The English language medical term superciliary means “of or relating to the eyebrow.”)

And, as John Podhoretz commented about his performance in one of the debates last fall, Huntsman’s right eyebrow seems permanently arched, giving him a, well, supercilious air.

By such trifles, it seems, are presidencies gained and lost.

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Huntsman Withdrawal as Didactic as Usual

During the next few days, we’ll probably see a surge of rose-tinted, wistful commentary on Jon Huntsman — how he was both the most conservative and most reasonable candidate, whose one flaw was he ran for president during a time when the Republican Party had become radically dogmatic/extreme/anti-intellectual/uncompromising.

This is ridiculous. It’s hard to imagine there would ever have been a time when someone like Huntsman would be popular with conservatives. His problem wasn’t that he had a few moderate positions – plenty of Republican voters could have lived with that. His problem was always tone. He came off as self-righteous when arguing from the left, but deferential and respectful when arguing from the right.

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During the next few days, we’ll probably see a surge of rose-tinted, wistful commentary on Jon Huntsman — how he was both the most conservative and most reasonable candidate, whose one flaw was he ran for president during a time when the Republican Party had become radically dogmatic/extreme/anti-intellectual/uncompromising.

This is ridiculous. It’s hard to imagine there would ever have been a time when someone like Huntsman would be popular with conservatives. His problem wasn’t that he had a few moderate positions – plenty of Republican voters could have lived with that. His problem was always tone. He came off as self-righteous when arguing from the left, but deferential and respectful when arguing from the right.

Then there was his reputation as the Republican scold. Take, for example, his gratuitous criticism of the GOP field in his withdrawal speech today:

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman abandoned his quest for the presidency Monday morning with an endorsement of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and an unexpectedly sharp condemnation of the “toxic” tone that the Republican primary battle has taken.

“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in American history,” Huntsman said in a news conference in which he was flanked by his wife, children, father and South Carolina supporters.

There have been a lot of unfair attacks in the race, but that’s pretty typical of any primary season. And it’s not like Huntsman’s hands are clean here. He’s taken plenty of shots at the other candidates, including recently blasting Mitt Romney for saying he “enjoys firing people.” Huntsman had a lot of great attributes as a candidate, but writers and pundits shouldn’t gloss over the main reason he never caught on. It was his attitude, not his ideas.

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Huntsman Post-Mortem: Forget About 2016

A year or more ago there were some political observers who saw Jon Huntsman as a coming man in the Republican Party. Most thought he would wait until 2016 to run for president, but the former Utah governor and ambassador to China was a future contender to be reckoned with. But after his disastrous presidential campaign comes to an end today, speculation about his political future will be kept to a minimum. Huntsman’s bid for the GOP nomination was not, as many have already noted, just a matter of the wrong man at the wrong time. The campaign spotlight unmercifully exposed the candidate’s weaknesses and bad judgment. No one should expect a rerun in 2016 in the event of a Republican defeat this November.

Huntsman’s was, from the start, a bizarrely conceived candidacy. Though he had impeccable conservative credentials on most domestic issues, Huntsman’s decision to position himself as the leading moderate in the race to lead a deeply conservative party was a blunder from which he could never recover. His anti-war foreign policy stances were best suited to a Democratic audience, not a Republican one. That accounted for the consistently laudatory coverage he received in the mainstream press. But the idea that Republicans would ever nominate a man who was best described as a liberal’s idea of a Republican was farcical.

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A year or more ago there were some political observers who saw Jon Huntsman as a coming man in the Republican Party. Most thought he would wait until 2016 to run for president, but the former Utah governor and ambassador to China was a future contender to be reckoned with. But after his disastrous presidential campaign comes to an end today, speculation about his political future will be kept to a minimum. Huntsman’s bid for the GOP nomination was not, as many have already noted, just a matter of the wrong man at the wrong time. The campaign spotlight unmercifully exposed the candidate’s weaknesses and bad judgment. No one should expect a rerun in 2016 in the event of a Republican defeat this November.

Huntsman’s was, from the start, a bizarrely conceived candidacy. Though he had impeccable conservative credentials on most domestic issues, Huntsman’s decision to position himself as the leading moderate in the race to lead a deeply conservative party was a blunder from which he could never recover. His anti-war foreign policy stances were best suited to a Democratic audience, not a Republican one. That accounted for the consistently laudatory coverage he received in the mainstream press. But the idea that Republicans would ever nominate a man who was best described as a liberal’s idea of a Republican was farcical.

The vast financial resources at his command could not disguise the fact that Huntsman’s campaign was poorly led and executed. The decision to concentrate his efforts on New Hampshire where independents and Democrats can vote wasn’t wrong. But non-Republicans were far more likely to back Romney and especially the libertarian outlier Ron Paul more than Huntsman. In the end, according to Politico, even his wealthy father thought it was foolish to pour money into this hopeless effort. The only smart thing he did in the last six months was to pull out and endorse Mitt Romney while such a statement might be said to have done the frontrunner some good.

As for his future, it’s possible to imagine Huntsman getting some kind of appointment in a putative Romney administration. But he should forget about another presidential run. That’s not just because the next generation of political talent in the GOP such as Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio or Chris Christie will eclipse him. Huntsman’s performance on the stump and in the debates was so poor as to render him an unlikely prospect for the future. While he committed no absurd gaffe in the manner of Rick Perry, his arch and condescending tone in the debates was more than off-putting. His tendency to comment on the proceedings as if he were in the peanut gallery, to make ill-considered quips quoting songs and, finally, his decision to answer a Romney riposte in Chinese (to show how much smarter he was than his rivals) told us everything we needed to know about his personality.

Republicans like to nominate a candidate who has run before but never one who has had such a disastrous tryout. Like Rudy Giuliani, a man who qualified far more for the White House, Huntsman’s first impression on the presidential campaign trail will be his last.

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Huntsman Follows Undecideds to Romney

The big political news today coming out of South Carolina is the decision of Jon Huntsman to withdraw from the Republican presidential race and endorse Mitt Romney. In doing so, Huntsman is acknowledging the failure of his campaign to catch fire and doing the honorable thing by backing the Republican who has the best chance of winning in November. But by getting on the Romney bandwagon, he’s following the same path that has seen a considerable portion of undecided South Carolinians who are now supporting the frontrunner.

Yesterday’s Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research poll conducted for Newsmax revealed a major swing to Romney when compared to the survey the same group had taken just four days earlier. While the numbers of all the other candidates remained relatively stable in the last week, Romney gained nine percentage points, going from 23 to 32 percent. That stretched his lead over Newt Gingrich to a comfortable 11 points with only five days to go before the Palmetto state votes. But just as important as the raw numbers is where Romney picked up support. In the last four days, IA/MOR poll found that those expressing “no opinion” went down from 15 to 7 percent. You don’t need a PhD in statistics to figure out that most of those undecideds are now in the Romney column.

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The big political news today coming out of South Carolina is the decision of Jon Huntsman to withdraw from the Republican presidential race and endorse Mitt Romney. In doing so, Huntsman is acknowledging the failure of his campaign to catch fire and doing the honorable thing by backing the Republican who has the best chance of winning in November. But by getting on the Romney bandwagon, he’s following the same path that has seen a considerable portion of undecided South Carolinians who are now supporting the frontrunner.

Yesterday’s Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research poll conducted for Newsmax revealed a major swing to Romney when compared to the survey the same group had taken just four days earlier. While the numbers of all the other candidates remained relatively stable in the last week, Romney gained nine percentage points, going from 23 to 32 percent. That stretched his lead over Newt Gingrich to a comfortable 11 points with only five days to go before the Palmetto state votes. But just as important as the raw numbers is where Romney picked up support. In the last four days, IA/MOR poll found that those expressing “no opinion” went down from 15 to 7 percent. You don’t need a PhD in statistics to figure out that most of those undecideds are now in the Romney column.

We can draw two conclusions from this decisive swing to Romney.

First is the avalanche of negative advertising directed at Romney, principally by Newt Gingrich’s super PACs, not only failed to dent the former Massachusetts governor’s reputation, but had the opposite effect. The attempt to brand Romney a predatory capitalist was seen by most conservatives as absurd and South Carolinians appear to agree. We shall, no doubt, hear a lot more about Romney’s career at Bain Capital from Democrats who can be counted on to demagogue the issue relentlessly in the fall campaign. But the decision by Gingrich and Rick Perry to attack Romney from the left while claiming to be the true conservatives in the race was a major blunder.

The second point to be gleaned from this poll is that the effort by some evangelical leaders to try to settle on Rick Santorum as the conservative alternative to Romney doesn’t seem to be having much affect on South Carolina voters. The previous survey taken last Wednesday had Santorum trailing Gingrich by eight points. On Sunday, the margin remained stable with the only difference being that Ron Paul had gained a percentage point edging Santorum out of third place. Unless Santorum can do something to galvanize his campaign in the next few days, he will find himself finishing a distant third or fourth in South Carolina. That would mean the effective end of his hopes, because if Santorum can’t do well in a state where his core constituency of social conservatives are so strong, then there’s no reason to believe he’ll do better anywhere else.

Another victory in South Carolina after his Iowa and New Hampshire triumphs will give Romney an overwhelming lead in the GOP race. However, this will also provide Gingrich the opportunity he has been counting on. If Santorum can’t overtake the former speaker in South Carolina, he may pull out along with Perry who was trailing even the now withdrawn Huntsman. That would leave Gingrich as the last “non-Romney” Republican left in the race, a position all of the also-rans have been hoping would propel them to eventual victory. But the last month has been a series of unmitigated disasters for Gingrich, culminating in his Occupy Wall Street-style bashing of Romney’s business experience. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to imagine a damaged Gingrich overcoming Romney’s momentum.

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Third Isn’t Good Enough for Huntsman

The networks have already declared Mitt Romney the winner of the New Hampshire primary, giving him an extraordinary sweep of the first two states to vote. Second place has also apparently been decided with the runner-up title going to libertarian extremist Ron Paul. That will keep Paul’s buzz up in the coming days, but it also means something else: the end of Jon Huntsman’s hopes for a breakout night in New Hampshire.

Huntsman bet everything on a huge showing in New Hampshire hoping that Democrats and independents would make him relevant. But a third place showing isn’t good enough. Of course, even if he had finished second it was difficult to see a path to contention for Huntsman, but a third place finish ensures that he is finished. Huntsman has enough of his father’s money in his pocket to go on campaigning as long as he likes, but defeat in New Hampshire means that this liberal’s idea of a conservative will soon fade from the spotlight.

The networks have already declared Mitt Romney the winner of the New Hampshire primary, giving him an extraordinary sweep of the first two states to vote. Second place has also apparently been decided with the runner-up title going to libertarian extremist Ron Paul. That will keep Paul’s buzz up in the coming days, but it also means something else: the end of Jon Huntsman’s hopes for a breakout night in New Hampshire.

Huntsman bet everything on a huge showing in New Hampshire hoping that Democrats and independents would make him relevant. But a third place showing isn’t good enough. Of course, even if he had finished second it was difficult to see a path to contention for Huntsman, but a third place finish ensures that he is finished. Huntsman has enough of his father’s money in his pocket to go on campaigning as long as he likes, but defeat in New Hampshire means that this liberal’s idea of a conservative will soon fade from the spotlight.

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Ron Paul Gets the Rod Serling Treatment

Not only is Jon Huntsman’s latest attack ad on Ron Paul pretty pitch-perfect, it also comes at a great time. After watching the annual New Year’s 48-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon on the SciFi network, Ron Paul’s creepy conspiracy theories and crackpot foreign policy sound exactly like something the horror genius Rod Serling would concoct to terrify us.

Only one gripe: how could Huntsman’s team have left out this classic clip from the Reagan debate over the summer?

As the rest of the GOP field focuses on Iowa, Huntsman’s been stumping in New Hampshire, and in the latest Suffolk University survey he ties Newt Gingrich for third place, with Ron Paul in second. Huntsman currently has the state to himself, and there’s no reason to think he can’t edge out Gingrich in the quickly-approaching primary. More videos like this one can’t hurt.

Not only is Jon Huntsman’s latest attack ad on Ron Paul pretty pitch-perfect, it also comes at a great time. After watching the annual New Year’s 48-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon on the SciFi network, Ron Paul’s creepy conspiracy theories and crackpot foreign policy sound exactly like something the horror genius Rod Serling would concoct to terrify us.

Only one gripe: how could Huntsman’s team have left out this classic clip from the Reagan debate over the summer?

As the rest of the GOP field focuses on Iowa, Huntsman’s been stumping in New Hampshire, and in the latest Suffolk University survey he ties Newt Gingrich for third place, with Ron Paul in second. Huntsman currently has the state to himself, and there’s no reason to think he can’t edge out Gingrich in the quickly-approaching primary. More videos like this one can’t hurt.

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WikiLeaks Debunks History for Stupid People

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deserves a medal rather than prison. “He and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour,” he writes, “by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.”

He’s right. And I suspect Rachman’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek when he says Assange should be rewarded. If the United States wanted all that information made public, the government hardly needed his help getting it out there.

Anyway, Rachman points out that many rightists in China and Russia, and leftists in Europe and Latin America, assume that whatever American foreign-policy officials say in public is a lie. I’d add that Arabs on both the “left” and the “right” do, too. Not all of them, surely, but perhaps a majority. I’ve met people in the Middle East who actually like parts of the American rationale for the war in Iraq — that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world might leech out its toxins — they just don’t believe the U.S. was actually serious.

And let’s not forget the most ridiculous theories of all. Surely somewhere in all these leaked files there’d be references to a war for oil in Iraq if the war was, in fact, about oil. Likewise, if 9/11 was an inside job — or a joint Mossad–al-Qaeda job — there should be at least some suggestive evidence in all those classified documents. If the U.S. government lied, rather than guessed wrong, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or if NATO invaded Afghanistan to install a pipeline, this information would have to be written down somewhere. The State and Defense department bureaucracies are far too vast to have no records of what they’re up to.

Conspiracy theories, though, as someone once said, are history for stupid people. Those who actually believe this stuff — whether about American foreign policy, the president’s birth certificate, or whatever — think the historical record is part of the con job, that anyone who debunks the conspiracy is either deluded or in on it.

So Assange is accused of working for the CIA.

Rachman points out other silly theories that are debunked, or at the very least unsupported, by the leaked cables. “The Americans say, in public, that they would like to build a strong relationship with China based on mutual interests,” he writes, “but that they are worried that some Chinese economic policies are damaging American workers. This turns out to be what they are saying in private, as well. In a cable predicting a more turbulent phase in US-Chinese relations, Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador, insists: ‘We need to find ways to keep the relationship positive,’ while ensuring that American workers benefit more. Many Chinese nationalists and netizens have developed elaborate theories about American plots to thwart China’s rise. There is not a hint of this in WikiLeaks.”

Julian Assange is stridently anti-American. He is not trying to boost the government’s credibility by leaking thousands of cables, and he almost certainly would refuse a medal if one were offered. He should not have done what he did for a number of reasons, and the least rational among our species won’t be persuaded of anything by this material, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t still feel a little bit satisfied.

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deserves a medal rather than prison. “He and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour,” he writes, “by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.”

He’s right. And I suspect Rachman’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek when he says Assange should be rewarded. If the United States wanted all that information made public, the government hardly needed his help getting it out there.

Anyway, Rachman points out that many rightists in China and Russia, and leftists in Europe and Latin America, assume that whatever American foreign-policy officials say in public is a lie. I’d add that Arabs on both the “left” and the “right” do, too. Not all of them, surely, but perhaps a majority. I’ve met people in the Middle East who actually like parts of the American rationale for the war in Iraq — that the promotion of democracy in the Arab world might leech out its toxins — they just don’t believe the U.S. was actually serious.

And let’s not forget the most ridiculous theories of all. Surely somewhere in all these leaked files there’d be references to a war for oil in Iraq if the war was, in fact, about oil. Likewise, if 9/11 was an inside job — or a joint Mossad–al-Qaeda job — there should be at least some suggestive evidence in all those classified documents. If the U.S. government lied, rather than guessed wrong, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or if NATO invaded Afghanistan to install a pipeline, this information would have to be written down somewhere. The State and Defense department bureaucracies are far too vast to have no records of what they’re up to.

Conspiracy theories, though, as someone once said, are history for stupid people. Those who actually believe this stuff — whether about American foreign policy, the president’s birth certificate, or whatever — think the historical record is part of the con job, that anyone who debunks the conspiracy is either deluded or in on it.

So Assange is accused of working for the CIA.

Rachman points out other silly theories that are debunked, or at the very least unsupported, by the leaked cables. “The Americans say, in public, that they would like to build a strong relationship with China based on mutual interests,” he writes, “but that they are worried that some Chinese economic policies are damaging American workers. This turns out to be what they are saying in private, as well. In a cable predicting a more turbulent phase in US-Chinese relations, Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador, insists: ‘We need to find ways to keep the relationship positive,’ while ensuring that American workers benefit more. Many Chinese nationalists and netizens have developed elaborate theories about American plots to thwart China’s rise. There is not a hint of this in WikiLeaks.”

Julian Assange is stridently anti-American. He is not trying to boost the government’s credibility by leaking thousands of cables, and he almost certainly would refuse a medal if one were offered. He should not have done what he did for a number of reasons, and the least rational among our species won’t be persuaded of anything by this material, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t still feel a little bit satisfied.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Read Less




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