Jon Huntsman wants you to know he rides a dirt bike. On real dirt! He's Salt of the Earth. Grease of the Garage. Dragster on the Dunes. Huntsman's runnin' and gunnin' for president. But underneath the Steve McQueen costumery, this made-for-cable-TV Moderate Speed Racer is a creaky old John McCain on Wheels.
The former Utah Republican governor and Obama ambassador to China is the answer to an election-year problem that doesn't exist. The quadrennial "problem," in the minds of Beltway GOP strategists and liberal media chin-pullers, is that the Republican Party isn't moderate, civil, self-critical or inclusive enough.
Huntsman is the latest no-labels flavor of the month, a straw man of the same people who have spent the past year smearing entitlement reformers as senior citizen-killers, budget hawks as Hitler's spawn, border-security activists as racists, and leading GOP women as sluts, nuts and bimbos.
Just like the failed 2008 GOP contender whose consultants are now fueling the Huntsman bid, McCain 2.0 is a big-spending accommodationist more in tune with the Democratic elite than with the conservative rank-and-file. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday, Huntsman assailed the current economic crisis overseen by the Obama administration as "totally unacceptable" and "totally un-American." Yet, Huntsman retains nothing but "respect" for his former boss in the White House and laments the loss of "civility" wrought by "corrosive" political debates.
This is all you need to know about the manufacturing of the Huntsman candidacy: Swooning reporters far outnumbered supporters at the kickoff in Liberty Park and at a follow-up rally in New Hampshire. CNN's enamored anchor Wolf Blitzer gushed: "Here's what I especially liked about Jon Huntsman's presidential announcement in front of the Statue of Liberty. He called for some civility in the race for the White House. Unlike several of the other Republican candidates, he did not open with a blistering assault on President Obama."
Yeah. Who do all those uncivil Republicans running against Obama think they are -- opposing the opposition with oppositional rhetoric? Heaven forfend.