Monday, 02 January 2012

Jon Huntsman Grasping for Straws in Attacks on Ron Paul

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Jon HuntsmanFormer Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is making some desperate efforts to wrest independent voters from the surging Rep. Ron Paul in New Hampshire. The latest salvo in that effort is Huntsman's "The Ron Paul Chronicles," a Web-based video series of out-of-context quotes from Paul and other observers designed to make Paul look like a conspiracy nut, complete with a Twilight Zone-themed introduction.

The first installment of what promises to be a weekly series has clips of Ron Paul discussing the Civil War, where the Texas Congressman dismisses it as a case where "600,000 Americans died in a senseless Civil War." Huntsman's video subsequently includes a second clip of Rep. Paul suggesting that an alternative to the Civil War would have been less costly: "You buy the slaves and release them, how much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans?" This, apparently, represents an outside-of-the-mainstream view to Hunstman's campaign, though the Huntsman video doesn't explain how not killing 600,000 Americans could be a bad or crazy thing — particularly considering the evil institution of slavery was ended elsewhere in the Americas without the horrific bloodshed that occurred in the United States.

The video also includes a clip of Paul saying that "President Bush said that the New World Order was in tune, and that's what they were working for." Of course, President Bush did famously call for what he called a "New World Order" back in 1991, on the eve of the Iraq war, saying in a nationally televised speech:

We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order — a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations. When we are successful — and we will be — we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.'s founders.

Again, the Huntsman video doesn't explain why Paul's accurate summary of the elder Bush's quote merits the Twilight Zone-themed intro for the video.

The presentation also has a choppy video of Paul discussing a "Skull and Bones" society, a real Yale University fraternity whose members included half a dozen Presidents, including both Bushes, Bill Clinton, and William Howard Taft. Paul then goes on to say that "the proposition is that people are there groomed for the Trilateral Commission and the CFR and therefore they will be in positions of great influence in our government." But there's no context as to whether Rep. Paul was simply describing someone else's views or his own, though it is clear from the historical record that members of the Skull and Bones fraternity have exercised political influence disproportionate to their numbers, and many of the fraternity members joined both the CFR (the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations) and the Trilateral Commission, including Bill Clinton and the elder Bush.

Finally, the video takes some shots at Paul's views on the Middle East, including a statement by Paul that Israel created Hamas: "If you read the history, you'll find that Hamas was encouraged and really started by Israel." The statement appears false on its face, as it seems unlikely that Israel would create what has become a serious terrorist enemy. But the reality is that the Israeli government did promote Hamas as an alternative to the secular and explicitly terroristic PLO in the 1980s, a fact verified by many mainstream sources, including the Wall Street Journal.

Huntsman has pinned his campaign hopes on a strong showing in New Hampshire, all but ignoring Iowa. But Huntsman has struggled in the polls; he's currently fourth in New Hampshire with about 10 percent in the polls. His campaign does not appear to be especially well-financed, as he had raised just $4.5 million in donations through the end of the third quarter of 2011. It's unclear if the YouTube video will have much impact on the race, or what proportion of Huntsman's finances he's devoted to attacks on Rep. Paul, but it isn't the first Huntsman ad aimed at taking Rep. Paul down a notch.

Huntsman's $4.5 million in campaign donations came largely from big donors, including employees of a number of Wall Street banking concerns. Huntsman has styled himself as the moderate in the GOP primary. He's touted his role as Obama's Ambassador to China, has been less eager to declare in favor of new foreign wars than any of the other Republicans (besides Paul), and has not protested the "moderate" label. His campaign strategy seems to be to attract the same kind of independent and moderate voters who have instead been flocking to Paul for his anti-war and pro-civil-liberty positions.

Photo of Jon Huntsman: AP Images

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