Last campaign, Huntsman was an early endorser of Sen. McCain, which was seen by some as a betrayal of his fellow Latter-day Saint, Gov. Romney. He spoke at the Republican convention in St. Paul last summer, rallying the troops on behalf of his fellow governor, Sarah Palin.
Huntsman has diplomatic experience, having served as ambassador to Indonesia during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. At the time, he was the youngest U.S. ambassador in over a century. He also served in the early first George W. Bush administration as a deputy U.S. Trade Representative. He served his LDS mission in Taiwan, where he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Given how important our relations with China are, I think the president has chosen wisely.
Huntsman made it very clear that he would not serve as governor beyond his second term. It comes as a surprise, however, that he is not finishing his second term. Gov. Huntsman has been trying to position himself as a moderate by coming out in favor of some form of civil unions for same sex couples, which has drawn the ire of many. In fact, this stance resulted in him being disinvited from giving a major address to a conservative group. He has been an effective governor, a good governor. I am sad to see him go, as he is a breath of fresh air in Utah's often frightening and extreme political culture.
He was wishy-washy about private school vouchers. When the Utah Legislature passed a private school voucher bill, it was with Gov. Huntsman's support and approval. When the voucher question was put to a referendum, Huntsman initially supported it. The bill was a win/win proposition. As public support began to lean heavily in the direction of voting against vouchers, Huntsman, while not withdrawing his support, just sort of disappeared, became very luke-warm and tried to distance himself publicly from the whole matter. On the other hand, before the economic melt down, in the years when Utah was chalking up hundreds of millions of dollars in budget surpluses, the legislature tried to eliminate some $2 million in funding for a program that provided disabled Utahns with some medical help, like eye care. After failing to convince to the legislature to reinstate funding for the program, Governor Huntsman raised the money privately and funded it.
He also been known to pop up at my parish, The Cathedral of the Madeleine, for Mass from time-to-time, as well as to participate in the worship of other religious communities around the city. He and his wife have seven children. Five of which are theirs by birth and two daughters who are adopted; one from India and one from China. Like President Obama, he shows family values by living them and not just as some political stunt. More often than the president, Huntsman translates this into coherent political positions, ones that are in step with his values, which flow from his faith. In case you can't tell, I am kind of lamenting the fact that he will not likely run in 2012. He is only 49. So, there is time for him.
Anyway, it made an interesting Saturday morning headline: Obama: Crucial Role for Huntsman in China