When it comes to the political chessboard, this is an intriguing move.And Huntsman? He gets the opportunity to escape the country, perhaps to return when the batshit insane wing of the Con party's no longer in control:
Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. (R) will be introduced today as President Obama's choice as ambassador to China, a source familiar with the decision said last night. [...]
Several Salt Lake City media outlets reported last night that Huntsman had accepted the offer to head the U.S. mission in Beijing, and that Lt. Gov. Gary R. Herbert would replace him as governor. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Huntsman was in Washington last night, but that calls to his spokeswoman and various staffers were not returned.
Huntsman was elected in November to a second term as Utah's governor, drawing 70 percent of the vote. He served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy U.S. trade representative from 2001 to 2004 and, for President George H.W. Bush, was ambassador to Singapore. He is an expert on China, and he speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently.
David Plouffe, who managed the Obama campaign, conceded recently that he saw Huntsman as one of the few Republicans on presidential caliber, and hinted that, for Democrats' sake, he hoped Huntsman doesn't run in 2012.
Now, that probably won't be an issue.
By tapping Huntsman for the job, Obama gets a Mandarin-speaking official -- something Chinese leaders will no doubt appreciate -- while also removing a credible re-election challenger. The president also boosts his bipartisan cred by adding another high-profile Republican to his administration.
Not too sure about that, but I guess a lot can happen in eight years. For instance, we went from popular, prosperous superpower to loathed, bankrupted superpower. Then again, it's always easier to destroy than to rebuild.
I was speaking earlier with Michael Cohen via email, and he compared Huntsman's move to Arlen Specter's party switch.
"Specter is a hack who switched parties for his own cynical reasons -- but for a guy like Huntsman in a safe state with a bright political future to basically say, 'To hell with the GOP. I'll spend a few years carrying water for a Democratic President' ... well, it just speaks volumes.
"Not only does it suggest that the GOP is alienating non-dogmatic conservative politicians, but it suggests that Huntsman basically considers the Republican Party, in the near-term, a lost cause. This is the kind of guy who could move Republicans to a more sensible middle ground and he doesn't seem to have any interest at all. It's the political equivalent (sort of) of Bill Clinton joining the Bush Administration in 1989."
Seeing Huntsman alongside President Obama this morning at the White House, I kept thinking about an incident from a couple of weeks ago. Huntsman had scheduled several campaign-style stops in Michigan, apparently to help lay the groundwork for future support. Republican leaders in one key Michigan county abruptly withdrew Huntsman's invitation, however, when local officials learned that the Utah governor had the nerve to support civil unions for gay couples.
It was a ridiculous move, of course, but it also sent a signal to Huntsman about the level of maturity in his party -- or in this case, the lack thereof. It's certainly possible the response from this county and other GOP activists made clear to Huntsman that it's not worth even trying to take the lead in the party, at least not in the near future.
So, for now he's teaming up with Obama, perhaps wondering if Republicans will have grown up by 2016.
Regardless, I'm rather pleased by this move. Not least because I think Steve Benen's right: this guy was a credible challenger. I doubt any Republican's going to have a shot at the presidency in 2012. But knowing my fellow Americans, they'll be stupid enough to elect another Con by the time Obama's out of terms. At least Huntsman isn't a Con along the lines of Huckabee. Look, the man even speaks Mandarin - he's not a backwoods hick. Who knows, he might even make a decent president.
Unless, of course, the Cons spend the next eight years becoming so out-of-control insane that Americans wouldn't risk electing one no matter how sick they are of Dems. In which case, I have a feeling we'll be welcoming Jon Huntsman into the Democratic party.