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Huntsman calls for new U.S. ‘industrial revolution’

John DiStaso
Senior Political Reporter

May 21. 2011 10:46PM
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, left, speaks as Rick Angwin, center, Commander of VFW Post 1631 in Concord, listens during a visit to the VFW in Concord Friday afternoon. Mark Bolton/Union Leader 5/20/211 

MANCHESTER - Unapologetic for being 'respectful' and 'gracious' to the Democratic President who appointed him, potential Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman came to New Hampshire this weekend not to criticize Barack Obama, but rather to call for a new 'industrial revolution' fueled by domestically produced energy and tax and regulatory reform.

Huntsman, the 51-year-old former governor of Utah who resigned in August 2009 to become Obama's ambassador to China, this morning is beginning the fourth of five days in the first-primary state as he gauges the proverbial presidential waters.

Followed by a horde of media, mostly from Washington, Huntsman, who will make a decision with his wife and seven children next month on whether to run for President, is well-known in Washington, but is a largely unknown in the Granite State.

To build name recognition and, presumably, the foundation of an activist base, Huntsman's visit has included 12 stops, centered on his delivery Saturday of the commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University.

Huntsman, after being appointed ambassador, wrote Obama a personal 'thank you' note calling him 'a remarkable leader.' He wrote a similar complimentary note to former President Bill Clinton and said he was 'impressed' with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While some say that throws his Republican credentials into question, Huntsman told the New Hampshire Sunday News that expressing gratitude in writing 'is a great American tradition.'

Interviewed on Friday over a bowl of chili and side dish of jalapeno peppers at Shorty's restaurant, Huntsman said he does not regret serving in the Democratic administration.

'I'll continue to write 'thank you' notes and be gracious,' he said. 'There's a difference between a gracious 'thank you' and what one blog termed a 'love letter.'

'You might be respectful of someone that may not share the same world view.'

U.S-China relations is 'a bipartisan issue, and (as ambassador) you're there to protect, promote U.S. interests,' he said.

Huntsman represented the Democratic President for nearly two years in China, a nation with an $18 billion trade surplus over the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.

'If there's one relationship in this world that matters for the next generation and for their financial well-being, it really is the U.S.-China relationship.'

He said for the relationship to 'break through,' the White House, regardless of its occupant, should have a 'singularity of focus' on China much like the U.S. had with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Huntsman said the U.S. trade deficit with China can be reduced without imposing huge tariffs on their imports. Such tariffs, he said, 'would throw us into a depression.'

'The best answer is to get our own house in order,' he said. U.S. 'power' in its relationship with China 'has been weakened by an economic core that is rotting out,'' he said. 'When we have a weak core, we're less able to project the goodness of the United States, the power of the United States to manage our foreign policy interests.'

To fix the economy, Huntsman called for an 'industrial revolution' fueled not only by the aggressive budget-cutting and entitlement reform outlined in Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's plan, but also by reform of individual and corporate taxes as well as regulations.

He said his state, after instituting such reforms, became 'the Number 1 economy in the country, the best-managed state in the country, the fastest grown state in the country.'

Huntsman called for an aggressive move toward energy independence, with natural gas as 'a very important transitional product.'

Overall, he said, 'We've got to open up opportunities (for energy production) that perhaps in an easier world, a more prosperous world, people might want to close up. But we don't have a choice today. And federal government is supposed to facilitate that rather than hinder it.'

Huntsman said Obama's call last week for Israel to use the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians was 'premature.'

'This is best left to the negotiators - the speed of the negotiations and where along that route they want to talk about borders. But there are a lot of other issues they have to cover as well,' he said. 'By recommending pathways in advance, we probably jeopardize the process of negotiations.'

Huntsman is also skeptical of the current U.S. stance in Afghanistan, but is withholding specifics until a major speech planned for next month.

The current deployment of troops, he said, 'is neither affordable nor tactically organized in ways that would address the threat. We're fighting asymmetrical warfare, and we've got to have a presence on the ground that understands what it means to fight an asymmetrical war.'

Huntsman said high-ranking Pakistanis probably knew of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts long before the U.S. raid that resulted in his death.

'That ought to be an example that our relationship with Pakistan is not working,' said Huntsman. 'It's a disconnect between our intelligence collaboration with Pakistan and our political relationship. I suspect they knew a lot more than they were letting on.'

On heath care, Huntsman denied that he formerly supported the so-called 'Obama-care' law.

The nonprofit advocacy group Protect Your Care contended on Friday that Huntsman was in favor of the Obama-signed law before he was against it.

Huntsman said he 'congratulated Obama on a legislative victory,' the passage of health care reform, when the President went to China in 2009. But he said he did not support it then and believes it should be repealed.

He called the federal law 'top heavy' and too costly and said it 'stands in the way of the innovation being done in individual states,' including 'cross-border' insurance purchasing and allowing small businesses to create pools to lower costs.

State governments 'are closer to their constituencies,' he said. 'I think by letting that play out and learning from their experiences, we'll all be better served.'

Huntsman said he reformed health care in Utah without an individual mandate and that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did 'what he believes' by signing into law a plan that included such a purchase requirement.

'He did what he felt was best for his people, and you rise and fall based on whether it actually works in the end,' Huntsman said. 'That's federalism at work.'


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