The Huntsman-Gingrich debate verdict: Take a second look at Huntsman

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Speaker Newt Gingrich met Monday in a one-on-one debate in a Lincoln-Douglas style format where each candidate was given five uninterrupted minutes on each topic related to foreign policy and national security during the 90-minute debate at the St. Anselm Institute of Politics, in New Hampshire. 

The debate flew along in terms of time and was brilliantly insightful.  I was extremely impressed with Huntsman’s grasp of the major threats facing the United States and his interpretation on how to deal with the challenges. The format enabled both men to explore each topic headline in depth and it was centred on substance no cheap shots were dealt by either man during the entire debate. The discussion points allowed both men to demonstrate a remarkable depth of knowledge on matters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Iran to China.

Huntsman who wasn’t involved in the ABC debate at the weekend and has recently been involved in a spat over deciding not to be involved in the Donald Trump debate excelled throughout.  Huntsman jokingly said, “I can’t wait to compare and contrast this format with the Donald Trump debate,” Huntsman said. Huntsman was relaxed, natural, and humourous but displayed a knowledge and vision which even the most partisan onlooker could not help but admire. There can be no doubt, the former Utah Governor came off looking like one of the most intelligent, experienced people running for office possibly with the exception of Gingrich himself.

Huntsman said Iran posed a bigger problem than any other country right now, calling it the “transcendent threat” and saying all options are on the table in dealing with the regime there. He continued saying a nuclear Iran would lead Turkey and other nations to build nuclear programs. “I think all options are on the table, and I do believe we’re going to have a conversation with Israel” when Iran goes nuclear. Huntsman also said the Obama Administration missed a huge opportunity to get a foothold in the region with the Arab Spring.

Gingrich put on another masterful professorial display, he managed to speak in clear and simple terms about all the issues showing the audience the vast amount of knowledge he’s picked up and retained over decades of foreign policy work. He controversially said that the next president would most likely be put in a position to choose between assisting Israel in a ground war against Iran or standing by as nukes were unleashed from one side or the other (if not both) which could result in a “second holocaust” for the Jewish people.  One thing you have to admire about the former speaker and his campaign is that he is prepared to speak on the controversial topics that most people think privately but avoid speaking publicly on. It is refreshing to see a presidential candidate being prepared and willing to discuss them on the campaign trail

On the topic of China, Gingrich said the Chinese will be the United States’ most important relationship for decades to come. “The most important relationship of the next 50 years is the American people and the Chinese people,” Gingrich said, differentiating that from the relationship between the governments. “If you don’t fundamentally rethink what we’re doing here, you cannot compete with China,” Gingrich added. “If we do the right thing here, China can’t compete with us.” This was well received by the attentive audience.

On Afghanistan Huntsman said the United States has had success in Afghanistan, and that it should bring the troops home. “I think we’ve done the best that we could do, but I think we’ve done all we could do,” he said, repeating his past statements on the topic, which differ from his GOP opponents. Huntsman said the time has passed for nation-building and counter-insurgency, and that the new mission should be focused on counter-terrorism.

Huntsman went on to say that the United States’ relationship with Pakistan is too “transactional.” “Pakistan, sadly, is nothing more than a transactional relationship with the United States,” Huntsman said. “For all the money we put into Pakistan, are we in a better situation? The answer is no.”

During his closing remarks, Gingrich highlighted how important it was for the public to see meaningful, in-depth discussions of the policy matters which will shape the future. “This is not a reality show. This is reality.

As the moderator was wrapping up he joked with both of the candidates and the subject of doing a two person format with Mitt Romney came up. He said, “I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars he doesn’t show up.”

Following the event, Huntsman said he’d consider Gingrich as a running mate, and added that he’d like to participate in other similarly-structured debates and challenged other candidates, specifically Mitt Romney, to one-on-one issues-focused discussions.

“Based on Speaker Gingrich’s excellent performance, he is now definitely, on my short list for people to consider for vice-president of the United States,” said Huntsman, immediately following the debate.

“We’re always looking for winners and losers in these things, but I think the winners might be the American people because they actually got a sense of the world views on display by these candidates,” said Huntsman. “I think that’s a good thing and a rare opportunity in these formats … as opposed to always defining things by who is up, who is down, who wins, who loses, they actually get a little good information, which they can use to assess and analyze what the candidates are made up of, and what they may then pursue in terms of policies.”

Overall, it was a brilliant format and anyone watching cannot help but notice the quality and depth of knowledge of both men. Both men were winners merely by their participation in the debate and the quality uninterrupted time afforded by the format. Huntsman was perhaps the winner in terms of debate result, as it allowed anyone watching to see how intelligent this man actually is; he articulated his points throughout in a very polished and accomplished fashion.

I’ll go on record now and say, if Romney & Gingrich destroy each other in the primaries. Voters looking for a capable, knowledgeable alternative to President Obama would do no harm giving Huntsman a second look regardless or whether people consider him too moderate, too liberal or too conservative at present. People should be elected on ability and have the confidence that their vote could be valued as an investment in America’s future. Jon Huntsman on the evidence would represent a very sound investment for any Republican, Democratic or Independent voter.

Definitely the most enjoying debate of the election season to date, it is a pity one of the networks don’t organise a head-to-head between two candidates each night in the lead up to the Iowa caucus. This would enable all ten candidates to be afford quality time talking about the issues and not throwing out cheap shots at each other.

One Response

  1. Finally, someone cared to appreciate the only decent debate. Huntsman was brilliant. I’m a progressive and I couldn’t vote for any republican because they’re all for little or no safety net. If Huntsman got the nomination he might win and I would still be able to sleep. The best part of the debate was that both recognized that we need to re-industrialize our country to compete with China. Good stuff there. Too much saber rattling on Iran. We probably can’t stop them. Scary.

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