Huntsman: America is crying out for a 'big vision'

Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman on GOP primaries


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Well, drag it out and lose out? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says this race risks going on too long. Listen to this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N. J.: These RNC rules that turned it to proportional awarding of delegates, I mean, this was the dumbest idea anybody ever had. We voted against it at the RNC.

The reason we did was you’re running against an incumbent president who will not have a primary. So your idea’s make ours longer, so that we can beat other up even longer.


CAVUTO: Well, looking back at history, Governor Christie might be right. All four of these presidents locking in the nomination early. Is it too late for Republicans this year to do the same? And is that a good or bad thing?

Let’s ask a guy who was in that race, the former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. joining me.

Governor, good to have you.

JON HUNTSMAN JR. (R), FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Thanks, Neil. Great to be with you.

CAVUTO: Great to have you.

What do you make of what Governor Christie was saying, that this proportional thing and the dragged out race is going to be damaging?

HUNTSMAN: Well, you could make that argument.

On the other hand, you could say that we have unprecedented challenges that we face in this country and that if ever this was time for a debate and an airing of ideas and the vision stuff, so that the people could actually get out and participate, it would be now.

So, if you stop to argue that we’ve had, maybe, three or four different iterations of choosing delegates since the founding of this country and conventions have played a different role all the way up until most recently 1972, we’ll have to see how this one plays out.

And I’m sure...

CAVUTO: Well, what if it gets to the point you get a brokered convention? What he was saying was whoever is nominated is damaged goods.

HUNTSMAN: That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to have a brokered convention.


CAVUTO: But do you argue the nominee regardless would be damaged goods?

HUNTSMAN: No, I would argue that we are damaged not by the campaign process itself, but by lack of vision.

Two things are playing out in the party today that I think are actually harmful. One is the high level of negativity. I don’t think we’ve seen as much money as we’re seeing today spent on negative advertising. I think that’s harmful.

Number two is we’re not pitching the big vision stuff to American voters, such that we’re able to bring people around ideas. We’re breaking -- we’re destroying people as opposed to creating new ideas. And that in the end of the day, regardless of the mechanism in place to find and award delegates, is how elections are won. And I would argue that America right now is crying out for that big vision approach. We had the Cold War. Everyone kind of knew our place in the world. And that was followed by the War on Terror. We have been at that for 10 years. We’re pulling out of Afghanistan for the most part and Iraq is winding down. Where are we and what is next?

What is the role of the United States for its people and our place in the world? I think there’s a huge question mark around that. And that’s why getting out and debating and having the candidates air their big picture visions I think is a very helpful thing for the party and the American people.

CAVUTO: You and I were briefly chatting in the break. My biggest concern right now, Governor -- and this isn’t a Republican argument or a Democratic argument -- is that there’s no one interested, it seems, in just moving the ball forward.

They are not going to be able -- liberals will not get everything they want and conservatives will not get everything they want, so why not the Ronald Reagan I will accept 80 percent of loaf, rather than risk losing the loaf?

HUNTSMAN: Because no one wants to be on the losing side of an argument. It’s too painful in today’s political culture.

CAVUTO: But isn’t getting more of what you want better than getting none of what you want?

HUNTSMAN: Of course it is, but it’s too easy for the media and the pundits and the blogosphere to term you a winner or a loser. It’s always a proverbial horse race.

And because of that, there is less inclination to want to find a deal, get the work of the people done and move on. And that’s long-term harmful for the system.

CAVUTO: So, when you hear talk right now -- we opened the show, Governor, with this report that half the people in the country are not paying any income taxes, allowing, as I said, for those who are paying Social Security and other taxes, you could technically look at, if they have to pay tax, you would be raising their taxes. I guess that is technically the case.

But my argument’s, let everyone pay something. We don’t expect a poor person to pay a 20 percent rate or whatever, but something. But that is immediately demonized. What do you make of that?

HUNTSMAN: Having some skin in the game, we did that in Utah. We created a flat tax. It took us a couple of years to get it done, but we succeeded.

Just take a look at the Simpson-Bowles approach to tax reform. It’s bipartisan.


CAVUTO: But it was bi-partisanly dumped on by both parties.

HUNTSMAN: Well, that’s how all of these things start.

And then the president’s to use a little muscle to move it through the legislative process.

CAVUTO: But he didn’t. He didn’t. He abandoned it.

HUNTSMAN: And that was a mistake.

CAVUTO: And Republicans...


HUNTSMAN: Here’s what they stood up and said, Simpson-Bowles.

In the tax code today, we have $1.1 trillion in nonsense, they’re called loopholes, and they benefit 7 percent of our nation’s population, and they’re there year in and year out, and it keeps the lobbyists in business. There’s no oversight.

CAVUTO: Would you have unilateral withdrawal? In other words, take the subsidies away for oil, but unlike the president’s budget take them away for your green energy technologies? Or do you think there’s a place for government protections?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think all subsidies in today’s world ought to be gone, period.

CAVUTO: Everyone loses them?

HUNTSMAN: Everyone loses them.

I think corporate welfare, gone. Now, is there a role for basic research in government at the NIH level, National Institute of Health, and E-DARPA, the Energy Department basic research, and Defense Department basic research? Of course.

But in terms of taking those and then subsidizing their application to the marketplace, no how, no way. We shouldn’t accept that.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, Governor, you have supported Mitt Romney, but everyone says despite his relatively critically reviewed -- highly reviewed debate performance last night, he’s in a heap trouble. Do you still think he will get the nomination?

HUNTSMAN: Well, we -- I think he will get the nomination and I think he’s in the best position to bring the party together.

There are lots of twists and turns in these campaigns. Let’s just remember that we win as Republicans by being long on positive, visionary messaging, and by the big picture approach.


CAVUTO: What about Rick Santorum?

HUNTSMAN: Rick’s a great man. I love Rick Santorum.

CAVUTO: When you were on the dais with him in all these debates, did you think he would be at this point?


HUNTSMAN: Well, I could’ve said yes. I’d be totally lying to you.

But I have to say that he is an honorable man. And he was probably almost too truthful last night in describing his days and his work in the U.S. Senate.

CAVUTO: And why he voted for appropriations bills that included onerous things.

HUNTSMAN: Right. Of course, and his support for Arlen Specter, et cetera, et cetera.

CAVUTO: Right.

HUNTSMAN: He’s honorable guy.

Everyone on the stage is good. What I would like to see them do more of is the big, bold, visionary stuff. Where is this country supposed to be in the years ahead and how can we all move it forward?

I think -- this may be counterintuitive, Neil, but I think we are in a great spot as a country right now when I look at the world, when I look at our opportunities ahead, when I look at $15 trillion in liquidity in the marketplace, when I look at the manufacturing renaissance that I know can happen in this country, when I look at Europe going down and China losing a little bit of its luster.

That means opportunity for the United States. We can pull it together. We just need a little bit of leadership and a little bit of the vision thing.

CAVUTO: You’re way too optimistic.


CAVUTO: No, Governor, it’s a real pleasure. I wish you well in your new efforts.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Neil. Great to be with you.

CAVUTO: Quite in the demand on the speaking circuit and corporate boards.

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