Jon Huntsman on Clinton dissing Obama's foreign policy

Former presidential candidate speaks out


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," August 11, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Fox on top of a dis to obvious to miss, Hillary Clinton's not-so-subtle zinger that the president's failure to help build a credible force in Syria helped trigger a vacuum the bad guys are more than happy to fill. Is she trying to find a little distance between herself and the big guy?

To former presidential candidate, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who is watching all this quite closely, ahead of the president, who will be addressing the nation in about 20 minutes on the latest of these Iraqi developments.

Governor, good to have you.

What do you make of what Hillary Clinton was saying in this interview?

JON HUNTSMAN JR., R-FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Well, I think she is trying to make fairly simple point.

And that was if the president had taken her advice on more lethal assistance to the nationalists in Syria back in 2012, then today, we'd probably be looking at a much different situation, both in Syria and Iraq.

And truth be told, she is probably correct. And since these issues are playing out in a very critically important part of the world, she obviously wanted to go on the record, probably a lot politics. And do you gain some from differentiating yourself from the president, as Republicans tried to do at the end of the George W. Bush administration?

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

HUNTSMAN: That probably not too unusual at this point in a political cycle.

CAVUTO: But does she take her base on the left for advantage -- or to advantage here? In other words, assuming she has got that locked down, because those same folks, the Elizabeth Warren loyalists and all, might say, well, that is not how we feel.

HUNTSMAN: Well, she is going to have to draw upon her experiences the secretary of state. She has got a record. She has been around the world. She has been involved in these policy discussions.

She is going to have to work very hard over the next year or so, if she is in fact going to run for the presidency -- I assume she will -- in coming out with her own approaches to the issues that are separate and aside and distinct from President Obama's.

And they will be international economic policy, and they will be security policy, how to deal with Russia, in light of our failures there, how to deal with China in light of zero strategy there, a Middle East that clearly is in flux and in need of definition.

So, she has got the whole world to look at. She's going to have to say, where am I basically identified with bad policies, which basically is worldwide, and how can I begin to define some new territory that's uniquely mine?

CAVUTO: I have talked to a number of generals and the like, Governor, who said that whatever the president says today -- this is ahead of the planned remarks -- that the president has already made it clear that this -- these airstrikes throughout Northern Iraq are going to continue for a while.

But to a man and one woman, they kind of were telling me, it is too late and that this might jar the rebels, but it won't dislodge them. What do you think?

HUNTSMAN: Well, so airstrikes in and of themselves really don't constitute a strategy.

You have got to isolate ISIS politically. And you do that by bringing in a more unifying, inclusive government in Baghdad. Maliki has been an absolute disaster in scaring people away from him, and governing like a partisan Shiite. And then you have got to isolate ISIS from a military standpoint.

And that would be by giving more in the way of support, both from an intelligence standpoint and equipment, along with the airstrikes, to those in the north, including the Kurds. It seems to me that if you don't have a strategy that speaks to political isolation of ISIS and military isolation of ISIS, you're not going to go anywhere.

CAVUTO: You know, knowing that you would be coming today, Governor, I would be remiss if I didn't play back this clip from the president in a New York Times interview and how he looked at various extremists, including, tellingly, from your own party. This is the president.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: House Republicans, as we speak, are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere.


CAVUTO: Well, that wasn't the one I was looking for.

It was from that interview with Friedman in The New York Times in which he said Republican extremists, those with extreme views, are making it next to impossible to get anything done -- paraphrasing here, sir -- that they -- they are -- are as much a threat to our system as anything.

What did you make of that?

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, he has the bully pulpit, which is the most powerful weapon in politics.

I think he has used it very ineffectively, particularly in his interaction with Capitol Hill. The president fundamentally is not a deal-maker. He doesn't know how to sit down with people either in this party or in the opposition party and cut any deal.

And I'll tell you, one of the biggest problems, Neil, we're having on the world stage is that he doesn't know how to cut deals with international leaders. So our problems in many of the hot spots of the world really do stem from the fact that he doesn't know how to cut a deal.

I mean, foreign policy is really about choices, and choices carry consequences. And in making choices, you have got to sit down you have got to negotiate with people who sometimes...


CAVUTO: No, no, but I think what he is saying, Governor -- and I'm sorry I wasn't more clear in my question -- is that it's the obstructionists on the far right who are making progress next to impossible. He didn't say anything about obstructionists on the far left. In fact, if anything, he said nothing approaches that on the far left

Do you agree with that?

HUNTSMAN: Well, he is a partisan Democrat. And of course he is going to say that. And we have some duly elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

We're about to have another round of elections. And I think the people are about to speak up on how they feel about the president and where he is taking this country.

CAVUTO: Sir, I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that there is a movement within your party to look to Mitt Romney again, because a lot of the things he warned about, including the growing instability in Iraq and the reemergence of Vladimir Putin, were things he was quite prescient about.

And there's this argument that maybe he should go for the hat trick, a third try. What do you think?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think he is -- he is -- Governor Romney is a good man. I think he has already been abundantly clear about his desire to seek the presidency for the third time.

I don't think that's in the cards. But I will tell you this. I think we're on the cusp of having a very important debate within the Republican Party on America's role in the world. To be sure, we have not had any kind of meaningful or comprehensive debate on national security or our national interest probably in over 10 years, when we went into the Middle East, following 9/11.

We have taken some body blows in those years, 9/11 included, and certainly the economic calamity that has ensued. The only discussion in politics has been about jobs and economic revitalization. And we left the whole world open in terms of really defining what America's strategy should be.

So I think we find ourselves -- and, you know, you're going to get a whole lot of people who are going to run for president in 2016. And out of it...

CAVUTO: Are you, by the way? Are you?

HUNTSMAN: I'm not here as a candidate. I told you that before, Neil. I'm not here as a candidate.


CAVUTO: I thought I might get you on a weak moment when you're not thinking, or that you're on TV and you might....


HUNTSMAN: Thank you so much for your constant needling.


HUNTSMAN: But I think -- I think out of -- out of this is going to come a very important and needed debate on America's role in the world, something we haven't had, and I think that's going to be a critically important central debate going into 2016.

CAVUTO: Governor Huntsman, thank you very much, sir.

HUNTSMAN: Great to be with you, Neil.

CAVUTO: I tried. I did try. All right.

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