Remembering when Huntsman loved Palin

May 23, 2011

“Hockey Moms of the world unite!”

That was the opening line of Jon Huntsman’s nomination speech for Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican convention, and it was the only remotely memorable or exciting line he delivered. The Atlantic’s James Fallows resurrected the video of Huntsman delivering the address today, noting that it could strengthen Huntsman’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination, because it will serve as a “reminder that he has been willing to advance the straight conservative line when duty calls.” This is important for Huntsman because he was a relative moderate as governor of Utah and he committed the ultimate GOP apostasy — putting country ahead of party — by serving as President Obama’s ambassador to China for the last two years. (In March, Reuters published this profile of Huntsman’s experience in China and presidential aspirations.)

Fallows adds that getting the video out now will gets the embarrassment of Huntsman nominating Palin — who has more recently been exposed as perhaps under-prepared for the presidency — to be a heartbeat from the Oval Office out of the way now, before most voters are paying close attention. Fallows is probably right that the video will be largely forgotten, although for a reason that bodes ill for Huntsman. It is a terribly unmemorable speech. Platitudinous, generic, and substance-free, Hunstman is trying to lead a pep rally and it clearly does not come naturally to him. His biggest applause line? “She’s a hockey mom, a hunter, a hard-hitting reformer, and she’s not afraid in a little town called Washington, to raise a little Hell!” Cute, but even that didn’t generate any sustained excitement from the crowd. Notably absent is a single mention of any actual policy achievements by Palin or promises of what she would have achieved as vice-president.¬†Huntsman sounds pathetically half-hearted and unexciting when leading chants of “Sa-rah, Sa-rah,” as if he is reciting her name by rote. To be fair, Huntsman was suffering from a scratchy-voiced sickness of some sort at the time, making the video especially painful to listen to.

One hint that Huntsman had presidential aspirations of his own can be spotted, though: he had already started using that shopworn thumb on top of hand gesture that John Kennedy pioneered and Bill Clinton trademarked.

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Why are those folks waving the “Country First” signs? Strange for a political convention.

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