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May 16, 2009

Obama Names Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Of Utah To Be Ambassador To China

Sure Obama rolled Republicans on the so-called "stimulus" with an "I won" but now he's going to be hailed as Mr. Post Partisan again for this little bit of theater.

President Barack Obama reached across the political divide Saturday and named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a possible GOP White House contender and top John McCain supporter, to the sensitive diplomatic post of U.S. ambassador to China.

...Fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, the 49-year-old Huntsman is a popular two-term governor who served in both Bush administrations and was national co-chairman of Arizona Sen. McCain's campaign against Obama last year. Huntsman has made a name for himself advocating a moderate agenda in one of the nation's most conservative states.

Until this appintment, Huntsman had been considered a likely 2012 candidate for the Republican nomination for President (he recently had begun working with former McCain adviser John Weaver). David Ploufe recently identified Huntsman as the kind of Republican who could challenge Obama in '12.

"I think the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate is Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah,"

So, is it post-partisan or an attempt to sideline a challenger? Of course it's a little of both.

Given Huntsman's desire to move the party along a more a squishy, moderate path on issues such as 'cap and trade', I think conservatives owe Obama a big thank you.

Smart Play for Huntsman? [ace] Every governor running for President gets dogged with the "no foreign policy experience" thing. Not so anymore for Huntsman.

Also, an ambassador is a pretty non-ideological sort of post. One can imagine Huntsman getting in trouble with the base by carrying out Obama's policy in China... but one can only barely imagine it. You never hear about most ambassadors at all. Even in a crisis, because in a crisis, the President and his team tend to get personally involved and the ambassador becomes pretty much a glad-hander.

So the strong odds are that Huntsman will come out of this with the "foreign policy experience" box checked off on his c.v., and without too much damage suffered by being one of Obama's ambassadors. He'll be mistrusted for agreeing to work with Obama at all, but there probably won't be anything critics can point to specifically to say "You sold us out on that."

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posted by DrewM. at 11:33 AM

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