OTR Interviews

Jon Huntsman: 'You've Got to Pull Yourself from the Extremes and Get the Business of the Nation Done'

GOP presidential candidate explains jobs plan, predicts victory in the New Hampshire primary


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, did you hear what former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is saying? We're pretty certain Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are paying close attention to this one. Governor Huntsman says he is going to win in New Hampshire, the first primary state? Why is he so confident? Well, let's ask him. Republican presidential contender former governor of Utah Jon Huntsman joins us.

Governor, before we even get to the question, though, of New Hampshire, I want to ask you about something. "Wall Street Journal" online tonight, in the morning paper tomorrow, endorses your economic plan.

And it doesn't just endorse your economic plan, it has -- it says this. "Mr. Huntsman proposal is as impressive as any to date in the GOP presidential field and certainly better than what we've seen from the frontrunners. Perhaps Mr. Huntsman should be asked to give the Republican response to the president's jobs speech next week.

I imagine that you love this editorial tonight.

JON HUNTSMAN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Greta, thanks for having me. It's big. It's bold. It speaks to job creation in a country that desperately needs it. It gets us into the game here, the second decade into the 21st century. And I'm very proud of it.

But more than anything else, it draws heavily from what we did in the State of Utah. So as a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America, all I want to be able to do is say, I have been there and I have done that. We reformed our tax code. We flattened the rate. We basically made it a whole lot more competitive in our state, and that's exactly what we want to do for this country of ours.

It's time that we look at the tax code on the individual income side and on the corporate side and say, We've got to clear out the cobwebs. We've got to clear out the deductions and the loopholes and the corporate welfare and we've got to buy down the rate. We've got to buy down the rate so that everybody benefits from that and it's more competitive for the 21st century. And that's exactly where we're headed.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, that's a biggie. This is -- this endorsement of your plan, I agree it's a big one. Then you look at the polls, and you're polls are, like, you know, down around, like, you know -- you know, really low. They're really bad. You're at the bottom. So you got to figure out how to get your plan noticed so that you get noticed. That's the first question.

The second question is, is that The "Wall Street Journal" is a very sort of elite big corporate-type newspaper, lots of money. What about the little guy? Let's take the guy who's unemployed in Detroit, in -- where -- a city of 25 percent unemployment. What are you going to do for him in your plan?

HUNTSMAN: This plan, Greta, is all about jobs. That's what it speaks to. It makes our economy that much more competitive. It speaks to job creation. You've got 14 million people out of work. You've got millions more who are so dispirited by the situation, they're not even looking anymore.

And so our tax reform basically looks at the bottom line being jobs in this country. We want to give people the dignity of a job. That's the most important thing we can do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you inspire them?...

HUNTSMAN: So when people say, What are you -- when people say, What are you...

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you...

HUNTSMAN: ... trying to do...

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you inspire them?

HUNTSMAN: ... our bottom line is we're trying to create more jobs in this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't -- I don't think necessarily inspiration's the answer to everything, but can you talk to someone in a community who -- you know, where there's been an incredible amount of unemployment? You know, you've been a successful businessman. But I mean, can you walk those streets and inspire those people and get jobs to them?

HUNTSMAN: You know, we had a town hall meeting here in New Hampshire. This is a state that I think we're going to do exceptionally well in. We talked about the human tragedy that is 14 million people out of work. This affects moms and dads. It affects families. There's a real human dimension here beyond the numbers. We've got to look at it as such.

We as Americans can do a whole lot better. We are an optimistic blue sky people. We need a tax code that is going to get us back in the game. So on one hand, we have to make sure that we message it and articulate it as the human tragedy that it is, over 9 percent unemployment. The other half has to be, we must be very hard-headed about what it's going to take to be in the game competitively in the 21st century. We can't take half measure. We can't do a little stimulus here, a little stimulus there.

We fundamentally must take the tax code and reshape it. We've got to clear out the cobwebs, the deductions both on the individual side and on corporate side and we've got to -- we've got to buy down the rate. That's exactly what we're doing. I like where it takes us. You combine that and regulatory reform, getting the regulatory monkey off our back, and we can turn this thing around. We can position ourselves for 21st century competitiveness and job growth. I've been there and I've done that, and I think we can do it for the nation.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I want to talk to you, if we have enough time, on that because there's a lot of attraction to the Bowles-Simpson commission, at least in terms of the revision of the tax code.

But let me ask you about New Hampshire, which you say is so important. Tonight, news came down that the state party chair, Jack Kimball, has just resigned. And now, he's a member of the Tea Party, and it looks like, you know, that the Republicans really didn't like him. They pushed him out. Is there no place for the Tea Party in New Hampshire? That's the first part of my question. He's been called extreme. And is the Tea Party extreme, in your mind?

HUNTSMAN: The Tea Party, of course, has a place in New Hampshire. The Tea Party has very effectively framed the debate on debt and spending. The Tea Party is a very natural manifestation of our democracy.

You know, I lived in China the last couple of years. They don't do that. They're not allowed to organize at the grass roots level. We do that. That is part of our tradition here in the United States. It is a manifestation of the issues that are affecting the people of America right now, the enormous debt, this cancer called debt we have in our country. The Tea Party has helped frame that. They're going to be a factor here in New Hampshire, and of course, they're a factor nationwide.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they extreme? And I think that's a term you might have used against some of your Republican colleagues in the race that are more conservative than you. You know, I think -- and correct me if I'm wrong, but you called them extremists. I'm curious, do you consider the Tea Party extreme?

HUNTSMAN: I think what they're talking about on the debt and spending side is exactly what this country is concerned about. I don't consider that to be extreme at all. I consider that to be right on.

What I'm saying politically is, so often, we find ourselves at the political extremes in terms of the debate. The whole debt ceiling debate, for example -- I thought we were yelling past one another. We were assigning blame one party to the other without actually moving the business of the nation forward. I stood up and said, We can't allow this nation to default for the first time in its history. It would have been absolutely catastrophic for the marketplace, for people's retirements and 401(k)s.

At some point, you got to pull yourself from the extremes and you've got get the business of the nation done. That's what I had to do as governor. That's what they expect the United States to do. And that requires a little leadership.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, I asked you a question about someone who's unemployed for a number of years in a community that has been -- has really suffered from unemployment, you know, a lot of these urban areas. And I've asked you about "The Wall Street Journal" and (INAUDIBLE) the corporate elite, the people with a lot of money.

Let me ask you about your plan. Under your plan, which is like Bowles-Simpson, you're going to get rid of the mortgage deduction, which is a lot of economic planning for most Americans. That's how they figure out how -- how to live day to day, year to year, how they send their kids to school. What are you telling them? If you're going to take away the mortgage deduction, what do they get in return so that they're not terrified of your plan?

HUNTSMAN: I think a lot of people would gladly give away certain deductions in exchange for a lower rate. But the bottom to this whole exercise, Greta, is the fact that we're preparing this nation for a new era of competitiveness and job growth.

I want to see the hollowed-out carcasses of old manufacturing plants here in New Hampshire filled again with manufacturing. And the only way we're going to be able to recreate the manufacturing muscle in this country is by fundamentally looking at our pillars of competitiveness. That's our tax code. That's regulation. That's looking at greater energy independence, for example.

That's strengthening the core of our nation, which today is weak. And that's our economy. We've got to get back on our feet, and it's not going to happen through half measures.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now I'm going to pull a fast one on you, Governor, because we're live on the air. "The Wall Street Journal" says that perhaps you should be giving the Republican response to the president's jobs speech next week. Will you come back next week on Thursday on "On the Record" and talk about the president's speech?

HUNTSMAN: I'll certainly join you, Greta, any time, anywhere unless I'm asked for -- by some larger authority to speak elsewhere. But I know...


VAN SUSTEREN: Unless you can do better! Unless -- unless O'Reilly calls. He gets better numbers. Anyway, Governor, thank you.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you, Greta.