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Huntsman’s Folly Revisited

Jon Huntsman’s campaign has been drowning, and today Dana Millbank throws him an anchor:

It’s probably too late for Huntsman. His campaign is in debt and he’s getting 1 to 2 percent in national polls. But in New Hampshire, Huntsman has finally found a compelling message. He has shifted from his initial dubious theme — the need for civility — to the worthier goal of fighting for the political center [bold mine-DL].

Millbank may not realize it, but “fighting for the political center” is practically identical to the other dubious theme. The cult of centrism and the festishization of civility are closely linked, and in both cases they usually amount to endorsing whatever the Washington consensus happens to be. This message is not very compelling. Indeed, as Huntsman’s poor showing in polls suggests, it means nothing to most people.

Huntsman is most interesting and relevant when he breaks with the prevailing consensus, as he has on the question of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and he is most disappointing when he embraces it, as he has on Iran policy. Huntsman remains enough of a foreign policy “centrist” that he cancontemplatestarting a war with Iran, but enough of one to be considered reliable by the Republicans who previously accepted or at least tolerated McCain. This is why a candidate whom Leon Hadar has correctly identified as being in “the Republican tradition of a prudent foreign policy and a strong role in the global economy” can be so readily dismissed as a would-be McGovernite without winning much support from the natural constituency of Republicans and conservatives who agree with him on many things.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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