Former Republican candidate Jon
Huntsman took a battle axe to his own party, comparing it to China's Communist
Party and criticizing it's standard bearer in a wide-ranging interview at the
92nd Street Y Sunday night.
Recounting his first experience on
the presidential debate stage in Iowa last August, Huntsman says he was struck
by the question "Is this the best we could do?"
Huntsman, the former Utah governor
and once President Barack Obama's Ambassador
to China, expressed disappointment that the Republican Party disinvited him
from a Florida fundraiser in March after he publicly called for a third party.
"This is what they do in China on party matters if you talk
off script," he said.
Huntsman said he regrets his
decision to oppose a 10-to-1 spending cuts to tax increase deal to cut the
deficit at the Iowa debate lamenting: “if you can only do certain things over
again in life.”
"What went through my head
was if I veer at all from my pledge not to raise any taxes…then I’m going to
have to do a lot of explaining," he explained. "What was going
through my mind was 'don't I just want to get through this?'"
That decision, Huntsman said,
"has caused me a lot of heartburn.”
Huntsman jokingly blamed his
failed candidacy in part on his wife, Mary Kaye, who told him she'd leave him
if he abandoned his principles.
“She said if you pandered, if you
sign any of those damn pledges, I’ll leave you,” Huntsman recounted.
"So I had to say I believe in
science — and people on stage look at you quizzically as though you're was an
oddball," Huntsman said, explaining why he was "toast" in Iowa.
Asked by journalist Jeff Greenfield if he could win the
nomination of the Republican Party in Utah today, Huntsman said he could not,
saying later that Ronald Reagan would "likely not" be able to win the
GOP nomination nationally in this political climate.
On foreign policy, Huntsman
questioned his former Republican opponents' hard-line positions on China.
"I don’t know what world these people are living in," he said, not
naming Mitt Romney by name.
Though he categorically ruled out
being Romney's running mate, Huntsman stood by his tepid endorsement of Romney,
saying he would manage legislation through Congress more effectively.
But Huntsman said Romney has to
campaign on more than fear, and provide a positive alternative to Obama.
“He’ll have to work hard on making
sure that happens,” he said.
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