It’s an indictment of American politics and the conservative movement that the Republican candidate who speaks the most sensibly is running at 1 percent in the polls. Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China under Barack Obama for nearly two years, displayed a level head, candor and a global perspective during Wednesday’s GOP candidates’ debate held in Simi Valley, California.
For that, his views will be buried in the majority of news accounts because his name is not Rick Perry or Mitt Romney. This debate was essentially set up as a boxing match that pitted the governor of Massachusetts against his counterpart from Texas. Such a dramatic plot buildup left no room for networks or commentators to manoeuvre away from that script. If this was coverage of a sport, an underdog could win with a definitive moment. Multi-candidate political debates rarely have knock-out punches, though, and with eight people on stage and less than two hours of coverage Huntsman and the non-headliners had little opportunity for a game-changing achievement.
Huntsman impressed, nevertheless, answering some questions that showed he’s a right-winger with a conscience. He spoke about the “humanity” that should be involved in immigration policy, the tragedy and “un-American” nature of the “fortress security mentality” the country has adopted since 9/11, and, most distinctly of all, backed science full-heartedly when some of his peers continue to stubbornly declare their disbelief in climate change and evolution.
“We can’t run from science, we can’t run from mainstream conservative philosophy,” Huntsman said, commenting on Republicans’ need to appeal to mainstream, independent voters, millions of whom are educated enough to know humans and velociraptors didn’t co-exist and that extreme flooding and other bizarre weather patterns just may be a hint that something big is happening with the planet. “If we’re going to win in 2012, we have to make sure we have someone who can win the numbers.”
And, yes, it was nice to hear a Republican politician point to Canada and say we are an example to follow.
“Why is it that Vancouver has the fastest-growing real estate market in the world? It’s because they let people in legally and it lifts all boats,” Huntsman, the former Utah governor, said during the immigration discussion.