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Jon Huntsman: Everything “Reagan” Except the Substance

June 27, 2011

How is it that in 2011 every aspiring Republican presidential contender seeks to cast himself as the new incarnation of Ronald Reagan, a president who in his time was maligned like no other? The reality of the Reagan legacy that ultimately endured is that of a pillar of strength and conservatism. Ronald Reagan was responsible for the awakening of America to its looming fiscal crisis, along with his pivotal role, abetted by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union. But to his contemporaries, even including many who called themselves “Republicans,” he was regularly characterized as everything from bumbling idiot to bellicose madman.

Clearly, Reagan’s unwillingness to bend to media and Democrat pressure on key issues of principle, along with an inspired understanding of world affairs and economic forces, resulted in an eight year stretch in which America resurrected itself from the devastation of the previous dozen years. And that was no small feat, considering that the period had encompassed Vietnam and Watergate, followed by the disgrace and dysfunction of the Carter presidency. Yet from out of it Reagan led the way to a renewed and unprecedented American status on the world stage, accompanied by unrivaled economic growth and prosperity at home. Amazingly, even against this stellar backdrop the many current pretenders completely miss the real attributes and appeal of Ronald Reagan.

Nor is this a singular and isolated phenomenon, limited only to Reagan and his time. In like manner, throughout the 1990s, and even into the new millennium, every coalescing liberal political cabal sought to counter the enormous impact of radio talk show giant Rush Limbaugh. Big name Democrats, from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo to Colorado Senator Gary Hart as well as many others, were regularly unveiled amid great fanfare as the newest liberal talk radio phenomenon, and antidote to Limbaugh. “Air America,” an entire network devoted to far leftist propaganda, put forth a plethora of such programming, in hopes that at least a few of their “rising stars” would capture a sufficient number of listeners to provide a remedy to Limbaugh’s “Excellence in Broadcasting Network.”

Yet despite their pathetic counterfeiting of Limbaugh’s format, including his bravado and satire of political opponents, they could never gain any traction with the American public. This caused them to caterwaul about some imagined unfair advantage on Limbaugh’s part, even to the point of demanding government intervention in the form of the “Fairness Doctrine” by which they might stifle his dominion of the airwaves. Never were they able to comprehend that it was not his value as an “entertainer” that drew the country to him, but the ultimate substance and sincerity of his commentary that endeared him to real America.

It is no less amazing that the perennially shallow among us can witness the power and impact of so gifted an individual as Reagan, and only glean some relatively secondary attributes of personal style and charismatic appeal as the invaluable traits needing to be emulated. Meanwhile they remain oblivious to, or even contemptuous of the actual qualities of Ronald Reagan that set him apart from the rest of the political field.

Yet for the past several years, virtually every one of the insipid and invertebrate Republican “moderates” could be quickly identified by their assurances of being the new Ronald Reagan. Not surprisingly, former Utah Governor John Huntsman, on announcing his intention to run for the presidency of the United States this past week, descended to a new low of pandering in his shameless effort to ride once again on the legendary coattails of the “Gipper.”

In making his announcement, Huntsman set a scene that was visibly as much a reflection of Reagan’s own 1980 campaign kickoff as possible. Yet the similarities completely ended there. As the nation suffers grave devastation at the hands of far-leftist Barack Obama and his gaggle of equally liberal minions, Huntsman professes his “respect” for Obama and belief in Obama’s “love” for this nation. He further derided any on the right who might castigate the current administration for the disastrous course it has charted. Characterizing Obama’s critics “corrosive,” he promised to rise above their politicking.

Claiming to be conservative (as they all do), Huntsman is a supporter of such countercultural keystones as same-sex “marriage.” Not surprisingly, those on the left view him as the ideal Republican candidate, sufficiently “centrist” to keep the liberal agenda on track in the remote possibility that he could ever be elected. More essential to their interests however, his lukewarm “conservatism” represents a critical flaw to any Republican presidential campaign, thus providing a virtual guarantee that none of his sporadic “conservative” quirks would ever become a bone of contention since he could never rally the America people to him, even if facing off against the likes of Barack Obama.

Perhaps most telling of all, the liberal media machine has been fawning all over him ever since word leaked out that he might throw his hat into the ring. With the “mainstream” punditry having been devastated by the refusal of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to enter his own bid for the White House, they have since been abuzz with anticipation over Huntsman’s impending announcement. And now that he has made it official, they are predictably assuring America that this is indeed the right kind of “Republican” around whom the nation can rally. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-NV) has given his blessing to the Huntsman candidacy. No doubt this is as close as he believes the Democrats can come to a rerun of the ’08 McCain debacle.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry has shown that he understands the dire condition of the nation, and the drastic course correction it will need if real restoration is to ensue. In a speech to the Republican Leadership Conference on June 18 that contained no mutual admiration between right and left or insipid deference to phony liberal notions of “civility,” Perry touted the greatness of America and the promise of its future if the appalling current policy is strenuously rebuffed, and constitutional principle unapologetically reinstated. This he offered with no attempt to “find common ground” or “reach across the aisle.” Such ideals represent the starkest of contrasts to the nation’s regular humiliation and denigration by Barack Obama (who, we must remember, Jon Huntsman assures us he “respects”).

With seventeen months remaining before Election Day 2011, conservative America can take heart. Not every Republican candidate has officially declared.

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Copyright ©2011 Christopher G. Adamo

Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, and has written for regional and national magazines. He is currently the Chief Editorial Writer for The Proud Americans, an advocacy group for America’s seniors, and for all Americans. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.