President Obama in what can only be described as a badass move hired a man who some saw as his biggest threat in 2012, and then sent him to China. Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., a man who can simultaneously be a Republican and not sound insane, will be America’s next ambassador to China. Previously, Obama staffer David Plouffe told an interviewer that Huntsman was the only Republican there were a little worried about. Not so much any more, it’s hard to manage an exploratory committee from the embassy in Beijing.
Huntsman is a Palo Alto native, heir to a the billion-dollar Huntsman fortune and fluent in Mandarin due to a posting in Taiwan as a missionary. I’m not exactly sure how China feels about getting another Christina missionary from America, but the Democrats are basically moderate Republicans foreign-policy wise, so I’m not especially worried Huntsman will make any real difference when it comes to international policy.
What’s far more interesting about this pick is what it says about President Obama. Clearly he can read poll numbers and knows how popular he is. He’s done a good job remaining largely untouchable while his opponents self-destruct and mock his condiments. He hasn’t tried to make any of the Republican talking heads stop because he doesn’t want them to, Bachmann and Limbaugh and Steele make the party look rabid and schizophrenic. What we get to see with the Huntsman appointment is what happens when he wants a perspective opponent to go away. What does he do? He sends him far away. This is just part of the larger problem for the G.O.P. which is facing a power vacuum so massive that Somalia is getting jealous. A new Rasmussen poll finds 37 percent of Republicans don’t think the party has a clear leader. The rest of the party is split a whole ton of different ways. McCain leads with 18 percent, followed by Steele at 14. Palin gets 10 percent, Limbaugh gets six. I don’t know where they go from here, and clearly neither do they.
This is why the ambassadorship is probably not a bad deal for Huntsman either. If he’s smart enough to scare Plouffe, he’s smart enough to know that the Republican party is so absurdly screwed that it might be better to hide out for a little while. Foreign policy cred is one way Republicans get to matter in their party without being extremists (McCain, Lugar, Powell, etc.). Huntsman is the former ambassador to Singapore, so he isn’t unqualified. All in all it looks like everybody wins. Except for the Republican Party. They lose. Again.