08 May 2011

Jon Huntsman and the Desperate Appeal

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman nobly sacrificed his presidential ambitions in 2009, when he accepted President Obama's nomination to serve as ambassador to China. Unfortunately for Huntsman, nobody has fully explained to him that being a part of the Obama administration is disqualifying for Republican caucus voters, who believe that the president was born in a Hamas-run madrasa in a small Indonesian village somewhere in Kenya. Also, there are rumors that the president's children are black.

Not that Huntsman's own background will fill the average believer in the wonder-working power of the evangelical Christian church with much more confidence. Most GOP voters, in my experience, know two things about Mitt Romney: the second is that he passed Obamacare in one state, and the first is that he is what they charmingly describe as a cultist. Huntsman combines all of the cult appeal of Romney with a C.V. that may be described as "Romney lite": just another rich, good-looking Mormon with a photogenic family and a record as a pragmatic, problem-solving governor. (Also like Romney, Huntsman's father served in the Nixon administration.) There is, consequently, little chance that Huntsman will ever exceed the 5 percent mark in any competitive primary, except Utah, and he will probably still lose that. (If Bob Bennett is too liberal for Utah Republicans, what hope for sensible moderate Huntsman?)

(If I seem a little bitter about all of this, it is because there was a time, namely early 2008, when I thought that something like a Daniels-Huntsman ticket was possible. And given that one of the two parties' nominees will inevitably win the White House, I prefer to have the sanest possible people running on both tickets. But the enduring appeal of birtherism and the splenetic chants to keep government out of our Medicare have rather soured me on the prospect.)

So, Huntsman's campaign faces some uphill battles. And he is trying to prevail by positioning himself as some sort of a Bobby Kennedy for the right: young, competent, passionate, and dedicated to national service. Hence, this Huffington Post coverage of Huntsman commencement speech at the University of South Carolina. Huntsman, in a bid to win the votes of young people (long a crucial Republican demographic), led the students in their traditional football cheer--"Go, fight, win, kick ass!"--and also sought to portray himself as a hep cat by talking about his ambitions to be a rock and roll musician.

Yes, because rock and roll is what all the kids are about. To be fair, I don't think MC Moroni would really fly.

To prove his rock bona fides, Huntsman quoted Ben Folds' song "The Luckiest" at length. Ah, "The Luckiest"--the second-sappiest song on the sappiest BF solo album, a song seemingly designed to be played as the night wears on at an emo wedding, a song that is pretty much the anti-BF5 ballad, a song that is ... intrinsically not cool.

We should spare asking Huntsman whether he knows any other BF songs, or what he thinks that "Philosophy" (for instance) is really about, or whether he's ever asked a girl to give him back his black T-shirt. But if Huntsman really wants to stake his credibility to coolness in 2011 on knowledge of Ben Folds lyrics, then let's raise him and call:

Governor Huntsman, what do you think about "Brick"?

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