There is nothing more important for a Republican presidential candidate than opposing everything that Barack Obama supports.1 In a way, this might actually be more important for Jon Huntsman than the others, since he spent some time working for Obama and is thus automatically suspected of consorting with the enemy. After reading Huntsman’s incoherent op-ed about banking reform, Matt Yglesias thinks this has caused Huntsman to completely lose it:
This is, I think, part of the problem with conservative discourse being so dominated by jeremiads against mythical Obama administration initiatives. What Huntsman wants to do, in essence, is repeal a made up provision of Dodd-Frank in order to replace it with what Dodd-Frank already does, add on something the administration already proposed adding on, and then do an unrelated tax reform. But he insists that he thinks Dodd-Frank is a “tragically” inappropriate response to the financial crisis. So am I supposed to think he wants to modify it in a minor way on the tax side, or that he wants to drastically alter this misguided legislation? There’s no way to infer from this op-ed what it is Huntsman is saying he wants to do, which is especially problematic because contrary to myth politicians rarely lie about which initiatives they’ll pursue in office. Paying attention to policy proposals is normally a great way to figure out what’s happening. But the proposals need to be grounded in some kind of reality-tracking account of what the status quo is.
The entire Republican campaign so far has been like this. It’s not enough to oppose the stuff that Obama has actually done, even though there’s plenty of it. You also have to oppose things he hasn’t done (apology tours, debasing the dollar), things you’re sure he wants to do if you take your eyes off him for even a second (raising taxes, selling out Israel), and things that you’ve just made up out of nowhere (taking away your guns, instituting Sharia law). It really makes for an Alice-in-Wonderland campaign season.
1Except for cutting taxes on the rich, of course. But that goes without saying.