Saturday, May 16, 2009

GOP Moderate Picked For China Ambassador

About a month ago John McCain was asked on one of those political talk shows who he thought were viable Republican presidential candidates in 2012.

The first name mentioned was Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

My first reaction was "who is that guy?" I filed the name in the back of my mind as a to-do list to check out some day. Utah is not exactly the news capital of the universe.

President Barack Obama beat me to the punch. The president Saturday nominated Huntsman U.S. Ambassador to China.

In reading his bio, Huntsman speaks Mandarin Chinese (a top priority to my way of thinking),
and served as ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and as a deputy U.S. trade representative and U.S. trade ambassador under President George W. Bush.

He is a popular two-term governor in a state dominated by The Church Of Latter Day Saints where he has developed a reputation for his moderate brand of political governing.

In short, he is my kind of Republican. Obama must share that opinion and without being too sinister effectively removes Huntsman as a rival in the 2012 presidential race should the Senate ratify the appointment. Okay, it may be sinister from a political viewpoint but that does not detract from the qualifications the Utah governor brings to the diplomatic table.

Huntsman, 49, learned Mandarin from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, and is regarded for his experience in trade matters between the two nations and as an environmentalist.

He signed an initiative that would set a regional cap-and-trade effort to reduce global warming. And in a 2006 speech at Shanghai Normal University, Huntsman spoke of the need for China and the U.S. to work together to protect the environment.

"The United States and China must be good examples and stewards of the Earth. We must match economic progress with environmental stewardship. The effects of industrialization are felt worldwide," Huntsman said then.

As governor, Huntsman quietly negotiated the loosening of the state's rigid liquor laws in an effort to attract more tourism to the state.

Huntsman made headlines recently for encouraging the Republican Party to swing in a more moderate direction if it wanted to bounce back from the 2008 elections. He favors civil unions for gay couples although he supported a 2004 state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

These positions have drawn the ire of Republican conservatives.

Before becoming governor in 2005, Huntsman made millions serving as chairman and chief executive of his family chemical company.

If confirmed by the Senate, Huntsman will succeed Clark Randt as U.S. ambassador to China.

Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert would become governor until a special election in 2010.

Unless there's something creepy in his portfolio, Huntsman seems a good choice. But politics being what they are, I'm standing by to hear the expected mumbling by conservative Republicans complaining he's too moderate, moderate Republicans grumbling because they lost another piece of presidential timber, other Republicans complaining the appointment is a diabolical plot and some party loyalist Democrats bitching it should have been one of theirs.

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