National Press Club

Huntsman lashes out at Obama, GOP rivals, offers reform plan

December 9, 2011 | By Ken Dalecki |

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (l) and candidate for Republican presidential nomination at Dec. 8 Newsmaker. Club President Mark Hamrick (r) moderates.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (l) and candidate for Republican presidential nomination at Dec. 8 Newsmaker. Club President Mark Hamrick (r) moderates.

Photo/Image: Rodrigo A.-Valderrama

Insisting that "the American people are getting screwed," Jon Huntsman Jr. took off the nice-guy gloves at a National Press Club Newsmaker appearance Dec. 8 to blast President Barack Obama and his chief rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.

The former Utah governor and ambassador to China tried to boost his low standings in the polls by taking direct aim at the leading GOP primary candidates, calling Mitt Romney the "panderer-in-chief" and Newt Gingrich "lobbyist-in-chief."

Appearing at a quickly arranged Newsmaker, Huntsman said Americans face two great deficits: A huge federal deficit and a trust deficit brought on by poor leadership, crony capitalism and financial institutions too big to fail.

"The American people have lost trust, first and foremost, in the president," he told a packed audience.

He called Obama "a president who, rather than focusing like a laser on fixing our economic core, wasted an entire year jamming through a health care plan the American people didn’t ask for and can’t afford. A president who brazenly ignored the bold and creative proposals put forth by his own bipartisan deficit commission – Simpson-Bowles – whose failure to deal honestly with our debt caused the first-ever downgrade in our nation’s credit rating."

He charged Obama with employing "the same crony politics he once decried; who has used public dollars to pay off campaign contributors like Solyndra; and who has been willing, through his National Labor Relations Board, to sacrifice American jobs to appease union allies."

Huntsman outlined a seven-point program he said would restore Americans' faith in their institutions. His agenda includes lowering tax rates and eliminating loopholes, making broad federal spending cuts, trimming the size of big financial institutions so they won't need taxpayer bailouts if they fail, eliminating energy subsidies, streamlining regulations, withdrawing all but anti-terror forces from Afghanistan, amending the Constitution to limit congressional terms and banning or severely restricting lobbying by former members of Congress and high-ranking presidential appointees.

He accused Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, of being willing to "promise anything for votes" and charged former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with being the ultimate "Washington insider" and an example of the K St.-lobbyist revolving door that contributes to the public's loss of confidence in government.

Huntsman said during a question and answer period that he supports civil unions and the right of states to enact defense of marriage legislation. He said he would impose a fee on banks as long as they are too big to fail.

He did not specifically rule out an independent run for president if he loses the GOP nomination but said "I'm running as a Republican and have nothing to fear."

He said a failure by Obama to show executive leadership with Congress has resulted in "mischief on Capitol Hill" that has added to American's cynicism. The former ambassador to China bantered with one foreign correspondent in Mandarin.

Huntsman was accompanied by his daughters, Liddy, Abby and Mary Anne, who have become campaign sensations with their colorful Tweets and a popular campaign YouTube video.

Speakers such as Huntsman normally receive a Club coffee mug as a token of appreciation, but Club President Mark Hamrick gave the candidate a newly available Club travel mug as more fitting for the campaign trail.