Matt Lewis

Responding to Erick Erickson’s broadside of Jon Huntsman

Over at RedState, my friend Erick Erickson writes a harsh critique of former US ambassador to China and ex-Utah governor Jon Huntsman. In the controversial post, Erickson writes,

While serving as the United States Ambassador to China, our greatest strategic adversary, Jon Huntsman began plotting to run against the President of the United States. This calls into question his loyalty not just to the President of the United States, but also his loyalty to his country over his own naked ambition.

While Erickson raises some valid concerns regarding Huntsman’s record, his blunt questioning of Huntsman’s loyalty to America is a bridge too far.

Part of Erickson’s criticism seems to be that Huntsman is…ambitious. Name me a politician who isn’t. Political ambitions can be unseemly without being unpatriotic. Regardless, the notion that Huntsman’s political considerations might have compromised or overshadowed his service in China doesn’t jibe with media reports.

By all accounts, Huntsman was an effective diplomat in Beijing — and the buzz about a possible Huntsman candidacy certainly did not appear to in any way undermine his effectiveness as ambassador. While abroad, Huntsman went to painstaking lengths to let it be known that his only interest was serving the United States of America, flatly stating: “While in China, we serve our country, we don’t do politics.”

This is not to say Huntsman is the perfect conservative — he’s not. On the other hand, it is fair to point out there is no one else in the race with Huntsman’s foreign policy credentials — not to mention his executive experience as Governor of Utah, where he cut taxes, created jobs and signed tough pro-life legislation (though he supported civil unions and said Obama’s stimulus probably wasn’t big enough).

Utah voters — who are among the most conservative in the nation — reelected him with an overwhelming 77.7 percent of votes. (During that time, Senator Mike Lee was the governor’s senior legal counsel and Congressman Jason Chaffetz was his campaign manager.)

I have serious doubts about Huntsman’s ability to win the GOP nomination, and there are serious questions about his record to debate. But I do not question his loyalty to the nation, nor his effectiveness as US ambassador to China.