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How Huntsman's affiliation with Obama could help him

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And President Obama has tried to do just that, naming former rival Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State and--in a move seen by many as particularly shrewd at the time--appointing former Republican Utah governor Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China.

But banishing the man (whom Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said was the only Republican who concerned him) may not keep his ambitions for the White House at bay. Huntsman resigned from his post in Beijing Monday, saying he will be returning to the United States this spring. Between the powerful political advisers he's amassed and the house he's bought in Washington, the rumor mill is abuzz over Huntsman's potential candidacy.

Pundits cite two major obstacles for Huntsman, a moderate Republican with both foreign policy and big-business chops: his religion and his affiliation with Obama. The first may not be such a big deal--Huntsman is a Mormon, but so is Mitt Romney, and voters seem to be warming up to the idea of a Mormon president over time.

But the other issue presents an interesting dilemma for any leader. How do you burnish your own credentials while criticizing your former boss? And can a candidate seem leader-like if he also appears ungrateful for the chances he's been given?

There is no doubt the issue will be a tricky one for Huntsman. At a time when an angry and far right wing of the party helped sway many midterm election outcomes in 2010, Huntsman will have to appeal to Republican primary voters not just on his agenda and values, but on his ability as a moderate Republican to appeal to independent voters and therefore beat the president. To do that, he's likely to find himself speaking out against the president even earlier than some of his primary opponents, which could very well make him appear unappreciative for the opportunity he was given, a quality most don't associate with leadership.

That said, if he is able to strike the right balance of gratitude and respectful disagreement, I don't think Huntsman's affiliation with the Obama administration will hurt him much. In fact, it could even help. Huntsman will be in the unique position across the Republican field to say he's witnessed the administration's goings on from the inside, and here's what needs changing.

In addition, Huntsman's distance from Washington over the last two years--what pundits saw as a crafty move on Obama's part to keep Huntsman out of the spotlight--could work just as well to help him. While disagreeing with the president about issues related to China could get complicated for Huntsman, his Beijing post will help Huntsman distance himself from Obama's far more controversial domestic policies, such as health-care reform and stimulus spending. When foreign policy does come up, Huntsman may not be the incumbent president, but he'll be able to throw the "I've been there" card down at any time, thanks to his on-the-ground experience.

If Huntsman does actually run, he will have formidable foes in the primary better able to rally the party's more conservative and rural voters. But in an age when civility seems ascendant, and when many voters jaded by the heated rhetoric in Washington are looking for someone who can work across the aisle, Huntsman's Achilles heel--a forced position of gratitude to the president--could also end up being his secret weapon.

By Jena McGregor

 |  February 1, 2011; 5:36 AM ET |  Category:  Foreign Affairs , Government leadership , Presidential leadership , Public leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Egypt: Obama's communication highwire | Next: The risks of drawing out Egypt's leadership transition


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There is no formal vetting procedure for American presidents. Contrary to what many believe, the FBI or CIA or any other law enforcement or intelligence entity is not required to conduct any sort of background investigation or security clearance on presidential candidates.

The only vetting that is performed consists of the actual primary and nomination process of a presidential campaign, with public opinion and actual votes as the final decision maker. Once a presidential election is certified by the Electoral College, the matter is a fait accompli.

It had become customary in postwar modern times for presidential candidates to allow for the release and scrutiny of the substantive body of their personal records and credentials, in fact primarily because of a strong interest from the mainstream media.

The appearance of Barack Obama upon the national political scene changed that dynamic, and he received an astonishing free pass from this important traditional procedure.

Certainly there have been some instances where a presidential candidate has been evasive or less than completely forthcoming in following this unofficial practice.

The medical records of JFK were allegedly sanitized to delete his diagnosis of Addison's disease and history of treatments for STD related maladies. The financial records of LBJ were allegedly altered to conceal the extent of his business ownerships and investment holdings. The national guard service records of W were allegedly missing or incomplete regarding his attendance and compliance with certain standard regulations.

All of these instances pale in comparison to the astounding totality of secrecy that guards practically every original record and document from Barack Obama's past.

Virtually the entire paper trail of the current president's existence, from birth to the White House, continues to remain deeply hidden away.

Barack Obama and his supporters were able to successfully hide his past and explain away and minimize his associations with highly controversial individuals and groups during their 2008 campaign.

Will they be able to effectively repeat this deception between now and 6 November 2012?

Only if you let them.

Posted by: FlashHarry | February 3, 2011 12:32 PM

Flashberry - The same old tired BS. Bush never released his National Guard records (oh yeah, they were "lost" - grad school? What a joke. Why don't you support America and stop listening to the figments of your imagination that keep echoing in your head. Unbelievable. Are you for real?

Posted by: Duke69 | February 3, 2011 8:53 AM

Jon Huntsman and any other potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination may all have flaws of one sort or another, but all of them know that the issue of personal transparency will surely be the Achilles heel of the current president.

American voters of all political persuasions can recall the Obama 2008 campaign repeatedly promising that their administration would uphold the highest ethical standards with a particular emphasis on transparency.

A vast majority of them believe that the process of running for the office of President of the United States should be the toughest public job interview on the planet.

The sad fact remains that the current president, according to longstanding government clearance protocols, could not be hired as a janitor in a federal building with the amount of verifiable personal background information that he has provided.

Barack Obama's original typewritten long form birth certificate, school records, SAT and LSAT scores, college and law school admission records and grade transcripts and thesis papers, medical records, passport history, Illinois state senate tenure records, presidential campaign foreign donor lists, complete White House visitor logs and other relevant records and documents have all never been released or allowed to be subjected to any sort of scrutiny, despite several years of repeated requests for disclosure by numerous individuals and non-traditional media organizations.

The Obama 2008 campaign and subsequent administration have to date spent a considerable sum on legal fees, estimated in the millions of dollars, to fight Freedom of Information Act filings and other requests to examine this material. The powerful international law firm Perkins Coie has been their primary provider of these services.

Virtually the entire paper trail of the current president's existence, from birth to the White House, continues to remain deeply hidden away in a tight shroud of secrecy.

Barack Obama's true origins, past associations, ideological convictions, behavioral influences and ongoing relationships are matters of great concern to a fast growing number of people who just want to know the truth about this man.

This is the sort of information about their presidential candidates that postwar modern era American voters had become accustomed to having the mainstream media provide for them, until 2008 when Obama received an astonishing special exception from the traditional expectation that such candidates should allow for the release and scrutiny of the substantive body of their personal records and credentials.

This occurred largely because of the mainstream media's desire to "make history" by covering the campaign of the man whom they were clearly very interested in helping to become the first black president. They failed in their essential responsibility to report on significant events with thoroughness and impartial objectivity.

2012 will be an interesting year.

Posted by: FlashHarry | February 3, 2011 7:09 AM

Huntsman makes Obama look like a fool

he has class
He treats others with respect
he does not judge you base race sex religion or color
Now that would be real change

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | February 1, 2011 10:50 PM

You are kidding right? Would not his bigger problem is that no one ever heard of him?

Posted by: devluddite | February 1, 2011 10:36 PM

spoiled brat son of a billionaire industrial polluter who has exploited the earth and the workers in his foreign plastic styrofoam factories. How many of his plants are overseas?
... _ _ _ ...

jeeze louise do you know squat.

while we can all debate the dangers of styrene after a suit drinks a swig--non-alcoholic & caffeine free-- and we can question how his family compensates workers at plants purchased from the likes of texaco, dow/GE, et. al. when the works were on the verge of shut down---where is your grit to call an ambassador to Singapore and China and a state gov. a brat?

The family business got its start looking at the wrong end of a chicken.

Your comments don't deserve a styrene based egg carton-- rather a pulp based product.

Posted by: thealaskan | February 1, 2011 8:07 PM

Sorry, but the inbred racial intolerance of Mormonism makes ANY Morman persona-non-grata.

Posted by: wcmillionairre | February 1, 2011 3:47 PM

No, seriously...WHO?

Posted by: wcmillionairre | February 1, 2011 3:45 PM

Here's my title for this "piece:"
"Those Hate-Filled, Irrational Right-Wingers Hate Anyone Who Even Smiles at Obama. We All Hate Them, Don't We? Boo! Hiss!"
What does this have to do with "Post-Leadership? I don't see the double-entendre aspect. Just more left-wing blather from college-educated robots.
Madam, please wipe the drool from your chin.

Posted by: BigSea | February 1, 2011 2:20 PM

Huntsman is a Mormon and baggers (renamed christian right) will NOT vote for a Mormon. He stands no chance

Posted by: mjcc1987 | February 1, 2011 2:18 PM

Huntsman doesn't stand a snowball's chance for the GOP nomination. He's not "conservative" enough, and he "consorted with the enemy" by serving as Ambassador under President Obama. Remember, this is a party that unseated incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett last year because he agreed to work with a Democratic senator on health care reform. The Republican party has gone hard to the right, and has become unbelievabley intolerant of anybody who shows any cordiality towards Democrats. The Tea Party announced their intention to unseat three Republican senators in 2012. While Olympia Snowe is no surprise target, Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch certainly are. The GOP has become a monolithic right wing party.

Posted by: jheath53 | February 1, 2011 2:15 PM

In leadership planning is quite essential. It seems Huntsman did not plan to be one of the 2012 contenders otherwise he could not have taken the job as Ambassador. This is not a good indicator for a good leader.
Serving far from Washington, doesn't mean he was not part and parcel of the Admin. He gets directives from the main Office in Washington, therefore he is one of them! I do not see how he can campaign against the present Administration.

Posted by: fridamulindayahoocouk | February 1, 2011 1:49 PM

The GOP is the party of racists - what do you think.

Posted by: question-guy | February 1, 2011 1:45 PM

In the general election an association with President Obama would be a huge plus. however, it makes his chance of getting past "the base" (qaeda in Arabic) in the primary is nil.

Posted by: John1263 | February 1, 2011 1:44 PM

I have nothing against people who identify as Mormons. I wish them the best. However, I could no more vote for a Mormon for president than vote for a practitioner of voodoo. It's bad enough when all candidates feel they have to out do each other trying to prove the authenticity of their Christianity in order to win the Bible thumpers. But I can't take a professed Mormon seriously. He is either lying or irrational. Either way, not fit for the office.

Posted by: jp1943 | February 1, 2011 1:36 PM

His service to his country won't hurt him any more than it would hurt a soldier with Obama as his CIC. What will hurt him is he is a spoiled brat son of a billionaire industrial polluter who has exploited the earth and the workers in his foreign plastic styrofoam factories. How many of his plants are overseas? All of them. He would never have been elected to squat without his daddy's dough. He is more RINO than Romney and Guiliani combined. What works in Utah, won't play in Peoria.

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | February 1, 2011 12:29 PM

I'm getting whiplash trying to follow the beltway narratives. For almost two years the MSM has been in overdrive with its narrative that the Republican Party is now ruled by ultra conservative uncompromosing tea partiers, which was born out in the mid-terms. Now that the media's biggest obsession has seemingly self-destructed, the new media meme is that a moderate Republican who supports Gay marriage, cap and trade and served Obama aka the devil has a decent shot at the Republican nomination. Do you media people get together and come up with BS just to entertain yourselves on how easily the public swallows it?

Posted by: NMP1 | February 1, 2011 12:08 PM

Hopefully, Republicans will do a more thorough 'pecker check' on this guy than the one they did on the phony Scott Brown .If, in spite of any Obama connections he has the right stuff then he will be in the thick of the fight. I'm thinking it will be harder to get the Republican nomination than it will be to defeat the president.. He is, in effect, a lame duck now..The tank is empty for Obama.. He is boxed in, with no where to go... in spite of Chris, Mr. Ed, Rachel, Lawrence and their ink in the media. His health care plan will be hard to recognize after the courts and the congress get finished with it... He has no plans that will do anything to help with housing, employment and all the things that affect any recovery in this country..

Posted by: james_m_reilly1 | February 1, 2011 12:05 PM

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