On Tuesday evening, a peppy Jon Huntsman strolled through Radio Row at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester to do several radio interviews. He appeared quite pleased. His aides were noting they were confident of a strong showing that night in the New Hampshire Republican primary, looking toward possibly hurdling over Ron Paul into second place. (As it turned out, Huntsman would fall far short of leapfrogging Paul.)
On his way toward a microphone, I asked if he had time for a question. “Sure thing, David,” he said. The following exchange occurred. Please pay attention to the sentence in bold.
Corn: I’m intrigued by the argument you are making about restoring trust which runs counter to the emotional narrative that the other candidates are talking about. But in what way do you think the current occupant in the White House has failed on the trust level?
Huntsman: Well, an example would be that when given the first two years to lead out on the economy, he failed to do so. When given a chance to address Afghanistan–drawing down troops when we’ve done everything we can do—he has failed to do so. When he had an opportunity to embrace a bipartisan deficit spending proposal called Simpson-Bowles, it hit the garbage can. You get enough of these, and a kind of a pathology emerges here. People say, there’s no more trust in the executive branch. There was an opportunity to lead, and it wasn’t taken.
Corn: But are these trust issues, or are these policy differences? There was the stimulus. Afghanistan was a long [policy] review–whether you agree or not—
Huntsman: They’re all corrosive on the overall trust issue. When you run against crony capitalism and you have the Solyndras of the world pop up. There’s enough there to raise the issue of trust.
Was the former Utah governor calling Obama pathological—as in pathological liar (the common usage)? It sure seems close. Though he has repeatedly maintained that the nation’s political discourse has gone off the rails in terms of nastiness and divisiveness, Huntsman, in his mild-mannered way, was twisting policy disputes into a question of character and suggesting that Obama, for whom he once worked, was fundamentally dishonest. That’s an odd way to improve the debate and boost civility.