Huntsman’s Future

by Brien Jackson

At Foreign Policy’s frankly disappointing “shadow” blog, Christian Brose offers up an analysis of Jon Hunstman’s move out of the GOP Presidential candidates field and into the Obama administration that is both reasonable, and yet highly absurd at the same time:

He probably assumes that the GOP will spend the next few years banging rocks together in the wilderness, throwing moderates like Colin Powell out of the party, and trying to wind the clock back to the early 1980s while the rest of the country moves on. He probably assumes that he’s already established himself as “a different kind of conservative,” that the domestic policy fights he’ll face as governor will be frustrating and possibly fruitless, and that the GOP will need a few more electoral thrashings before it is ready to buy what he’s selling. What’s more, he probably assumes that, while the rest of the GOP tears itself apart in naval-gazing fights about the meaning of “true conservatism,” he can go off and pad his resume with several years of experience managing America’s largest (and increasingly, its most important) bilateral relationship, and that when he returns in, say, 2014, not only will the GOP primary voters not punish him, they’ll welcome him as a practical, reform-minded leader, attuned to the problems of the 21st century,¬†who puts the national interest above partisan politics — that is, just the kind of guy to lead them to victory in 2016.

From a general standpoint, I think there might be some meat here. If the GOP base nominates a candidate in 2012 that gets shellacked by Obama, there’s going to be an opening for a more “apostate”candidate to change directions in 2016. This will probably have to be someone we haven’t heard of to this point, because there’s really no one in the current GOP who can fit this bill. But let’s be clear about something; it’s most certainly not going to be Jon Huntsman.

At the end of the day, political parties just aren’t that accepting of people who worked for administrations of the opposition party. It’s one thing if you were a member of the other party at the time, and have since changed your ideas, but to work for the other party and then try to come back and seek a leadership role, to say nothing of the Presidential nomination, of your party is just simply not going to happen. I think Huntsman knows this and, moreover, I think he realized that he was never going to get anywhere in the current national GOP. I think his decision to accept the ambassadorship reflects, more than anything else, that that was a job he really wanted to have, and realizing that his ceiling was rather low, he jumped on the opportunity.

Not every move is pure Machiavelli.