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Mormon Inquiry

The big news over the weekend was the announcement that President Obama has nominated Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a Republican and a practicing Mormon, as Ambassador to China. Here’s from the Salt Lake Tribune, “Crucial role for Huntsman in China“:

“I can think of no one better suited to take on this assignment than the governor of the great state of Utah, Jon Huntsman,” Obama said. “I hope the people of Utah will forgive me and understand how proud the nation is for their governor’s willingness to answer his nation’s call.”

Interesting. In the wake of the Romney candidacy it is clear a good chunk of the Republican base thinks of Mormons as the ugly stepchildren of the party, and here is the leader of the Democratic Party oozing praise for a Mormon politician from Utah, that most Republican of states.

Of course, Huntsman is uniquely qualified for this post and has had his eye on it for years. From the same article:

The governor, now serving in his second term [as governor of Utah], is also fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has an adopted Chinese daughter, Gracie Mei. During his first term, Huntsman led a trade delegation to China and was scheduled for a second trip next week before it was canceled because of swine flu fears.

So Obama’s appointment of Huntsman deserves praise for putting the best available candidate into a key position. This looks like another move from the Team of Rivals playbook, moving a potential political opponent into a key position within the administration.This, plus his steady appropriation of Bush foreign policy positions despite opposition from the zealot left wing of the Democratic party, shows that he is quickly learning how to govern.

But there’s always the shadow of politics, and here it is Huntsman’s perspective that is the most interesting angle, I think. It would be overstating it to say that in the wake of Romney’s experience on the national stage, Huntsman now sees the Republican Party as a dead end. At least he would never say that in public. Here’s from another Salt LakeTribune story, “Huntsman couldn’t resist allure of China“:

And after being passed over eight years ago for the same job by a president from his own party, Huntsman stood in the diplomatic room of the White House Saturday, his shy and long-traveling wife, Mary Kaye, at his side.

“I never expected to be standing here under the inquisitive gaze of George Washington and under the equally inquisitive gaze of my wife,” Huntsman said. “I wasn’t looking for a new job in life, but a call from the president changed that.”

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