Huntsman, the former Obama administration’s ambassador to China, has been trading in on his experience with America’s chief creditor by hobnobbing with someone else who knows something about relations with the gigantic Asian nation — Dr. Henry Kissinger (pictured).
During a stop on his promotional tour for his new 530-page book On China, the former Nixon administration official told those gathered for the event that Huntsman is “intelligent” and a “very good ambassador to China.”
“I think he’s intelligent, well-poised. [Huntsman] did a good job in China. Certainly makes a good candidate,” added Kissinger.
How much more of an official endorsement from the Establishment itself could a candidate hope to receive? Henry Kissinger résumé includes a stint at nearly every significant Establishment organization. Kissinger was a member of the Faculty of Harvard University (1954-1969), in both the Department of Government and the Center for International Affairs. He served as Associate Director of the Center (1957-1960); Study Director, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (1955-1956); Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (1956-1958); Director of the Harvard International Seminar (1951-1971); and Director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program (1958-1971). Indeed, Henry Kissinger has had his hand in nearly every foreign policy pie since the early '70s.
What is troubling for the Huntsman campaign, however, is that a few of those pies weren’t sweet. Earlier this month, the Salt Lake Tribune recounted the history for the benefit of readers, perhaps for Huntsman’s staff, as well.
His fingerprints are all over the sabotage of Vietnamese peace talks in 1968, which prolonged American involvement in that bloody and pointless war for four more years; the secret bombing of Cambodia, unintended but clear precursor to the Killing Fields; Operation Condor, an unholy alliance of military dictatorships throughout Latin America designed to help one another eliminate all traces of opposition; Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, another prelude to genocide; and disgustingly cozy relations with despicable dictatorships in Iran and Pakistan.
Last week, Dr. James M. Lindsay, a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an article setting forth Jon Huntsman’s foreign policy positions, including an interesting anecdote about an earlier, much earlier, meeting between Huntsman and his mentor, Henry Kissinger.
Huntsman traces his interest in foreign policy and Asia in particular back to 1971, when he was an eleven-year-old visiting his father at the White House. He met Henry Kissinger, who was headed out of Washington on a trip. Huntsman helped Kissinger with his bags and asked the national security adviser where he was going. Kissinger answered:
“Please don’t tell anyone. I’m going to China.”
To his credit, Huntsman doesn’t view China through rose-colored glasses. In his last speech as ambassador to China, Huntsman pointedly criticized China’s record of human rights abuses. Referencing the detentions of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and Beijing artist Ali Weiwei, the outgoing ambassador said:
The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur.
As of now, there seems to be little doubt that Jon Huntsman is the Establishment’s man. He is basking in the glow of favorable media attention and he is making all the appropriate gestures: announcing his candidacy in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, for example.
There are a couple of unanswered questions. First, how will Huntsman distinguish himself from current frontrunner, Mitt Romney? Both are Mormon; both are successful businessmen; both come from politically well-connected families; both were Governors; and both elegantly recite the Republican party line.
The second question is why Jon Huntsman has gone from ambassador to China to media darling. In a whirlwind of praise and promotion, Huntsman has swept into town and drawn all the earned media away from his opponents without distancing himself whatsoever from the CFR Republicans who have the money, the clout, and the international influence to give a substantial boost to any candidate on whom it chooses to place its seal of approval.
There could be no stronger evidence of Jon Huntsman’s cherished position as Republican up and comer than the approving nod of one of the oldest, most respected faces in the Pantheon of the Establishment — Henry Kissinger.
Photo of Henry Kissinger: AP Images