The wide tent is put to the test.

May 16, 2009




You have to like the implications of President Barack Obama’s choice of Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah as ambassador to China. Obama ignored what to many is conventional thinking by giving such a plum job to the man who co-directed the McCain-Palin campaign. And while Huntsman described his own high ground by saying he could not refuse the call to service, the fact is that he could have turned down a position  that will disrupt his family and preempt what would have been a certain new term as governor. As to the idea that giving Huntsman this appointment was Obama’s way of getting the governor out of the running for the White House in 2012, Huntsman will be only 57 years old in 2016 by which time the Democratic juggernaut, such as it is, should have run out of steam anyway.

More important, Huntsman is by reputation a straightforward, intelligent, sensible man who is well equipped to help further a foreign policy that promises to forsake the bullheaded and arrogant policies of the Cheney-Bush administration — transposition deliberate. Huntsman, from what I have read so far, can strike the balance necessary to deal with a country like China: respecting its history and the culture of its people, exploring the interests it shares with the United States, and keeping up the discussion of American concerns about human rights issues in China.

It will be interesting to see what effect this appointment has on Huntsman’s standing in his party, both because the appointment makes him a part of an administration that the most vocal Republicans profess to loathe and because he is likely to help advance a policy of engagement – in China and elsewhere – that was rejected by the last administration and by the Republican candidates in the last national election.


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