Huntsman, remember, is Obama’s former ambassador to China, a former governor of Utah and a former chief executive oficer of his multibillion-dollar family business. The Chinese post is his most obvious qualification — he has an intimate understanding of Chinese diplomatic channels that could help him navigate the rocky relationship with a country that is both America’s largest creditor and “adversary.” On top of that, his time as a governor (more a CEO of a state than a president is of a country) and business executive qualify him to navigate a global economy that is not automatically friendly to the United States. That Huntsman is a Republican—albeit a different kind than most — also satisfies Obama’s old (and perhaps now outdated) promise to fill his cabinet with at least one Republican.
I am not predicting that Huntsman will get the job — just that he is wellequipped to excel in the role. Whoever replaces Clinton is going to follow a remarkably impressive act. There is no question that Clinton was Obama’s most effective appointee, projecting American leadership in a leaderless world. Either Rice or Kerry would both be a fine successor, but if the administration’s calculus makes them untenable, or if they decide to turn away from the conventional depth chart, they should pivot to Asia — and Jon Huntsman Jr.