Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I suppose this could theoretically work for Jon Huntsman -- if Ron Paul (and his Mini-Me, Gary Johnson) hadn't already staked out the small-government-means-killing-fewer-brown-people territory long before Huntsman sauntered in, and done so in a much more principled and absolutist way, based on an actual ideology that a certain subset of right-wingers actually share:

Huntsman said Obama’s expected plan to bring home 10,000 troops this year and all 30,000 surge troops by the end of 2012 is "a little slow and a little cautious."

"I think over the next year there's room to draw down more… More than 10,000 over the next year," Huntsman said on "GMA" this morning. "I think we have to see -- nine years and 50 days into this conflict, the money that has been spent on both conflicts, well over $1 trillion, I think we have to say, 'What have we accomplished in Afghanistan?'"

Spencer Ackerman, alas, really doesn't get it, because he really doesn't understand Republicans very well:

People are focusing on the fact that Huntsman won't win. But that doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that he can easily shift the Overton Window on security questions. The structural dynamic of the GOP race is that it's the most foreign-policy starved that the party's fielded in a generation. Huntsman's ambassadorial experience might not grant him that much electorally, but for the purposes of the other candidates, it means Huntsman is the yardstick by which the press will measure the gravity of their foreign policy pronouncements....

The rest of the GOP field, at some point, will have to grapple with his foreign-policy positions. Because they're going to be asked about them, and their own will be judged against his, again and again and again.


Sure, the mainstream press may say that Attention Must Be Paid to what press darling Huntsman says about foreign policy because he has a tiny dollop of foreign-policy experience. But the first audience before whom this Huntsman-as-semi-expert case will be made is going to respond, "Really? We should listen to that guy? Says who?"

Since when have Republicans given a crap whether someone has anything resembling expertise, as you and I (and Spencer Ackerman) understand it? Let me list all of the GOP's presidential nominees since 1980: Reagan, Poppy Bush, Dole, Shrub Bush, McCain. Of those, which two do Republicans respect the most on foreign policy? In fact, which two are regarded as war heroes? Do I have to answer that? Isn't it the two who never fought in a war?

To Republicans, real "expertise" means agreeing with conservative dogma. Anyone can be an expert. Sarah Palin. Joe the Plumber. Jonathan Krohn.

If some smartypants non-Fox debate moderator tries to use this line on the rest of the GOP field -- "Hey, that sexy motorcycle guy actually has foreign policy experience, so shouldn't you be listening to him on Afghanistan?" -- the GOP base is going to recoil in disgust and take it out on Huntsman as well. And Huntsman's continued basement ranking in GOP polls (and primaries) will take care of the rest. So, Spencer, trust me: the Overton window will not be moved by Easy Rider.

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