Oh my: Boston Globe endorses ... Huntsman

Dude, it’s time. No more delays, no more excuses.


Among the candidates, only two stand out as truly presidential, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. Both have track records of success, and both, through their policies and demeanors, have shown the breadth of spirit to lead the nation. But while Romney proceeds cautiously, strategically, trying to appease enough constituencies to get himself the nomination, Huntsman has been bold. Rather than merely sketch out policies, he articulates goals and ideals. The priorities he would set for the country, from leading the world in renewable energy to retooling education and immigration policies to help American high-tech industries, are far-sighted. He has stood up far more forcefully than Romney against those in his party who reject evolution and the science behind global warming…

Romney, of course, has taken pains to distance himself from much of his administration. Now, he campaigns in a way that gives little indication of the kind of president he would be. His attacks on Obama are so hyperbolic – the president favors European-style socialism, apologizes for America, doesn’t understand the vision of the Founding Fathers – that they say nothing about his own viewpoint; most likely, he’s trying to stir up enough dust to suggest a passionate denunciation of Obama without offering a disciplined critique or alternative course. When he vows to “get rid of ObamaCare” and trim programs like the National Endowment for the Arts he’s merely checking boxes on the GOP playlist. One has to look at his policy papers and speeches to try to glean a truer sense of his platform.

His detailed economic plan contains some good, if limited, ideas. One can imagine that he would be a hands-on steward of the national economy, with more than the usual presidential expertise. That counts for a lot, and is the core of Romney’s credibility. His foreign policy ideas, however, show none of the same wisdom. Backed by a team including many Bush-era hawks and neoconservatives, Romney offers bellicose language about Iran, forceful denunciations of Chinese currency manipulation, and unyielding – and entirely uncritical – support for Israel. At a time when most of Washington is inching toward bipartisan trims in defense spending, Romney is proposing an improbably ambitious expansion of the Navy.

Without personal experience to guide him, Romney is catering to the most vocal constituencies in the national-security wing of the GOP. As in other areas, such as his Robert Bork-led advisory panel on judicial policies, Romney’s ultimate intentions aren’t clear. Is this for real? Both his supporters and detractors suspect that behind the conservative scaffolding is a data-driven moderate who will make practical compromises. But the way Romney has run his campaign, it’s impossible to tell.

Follow the link for stirring passages about how wise Huntsman was to accept stimulus money for Utah, plus the big silver-lining conclusion where they seem to anticipate that he’ll lose in New Hampshire anyway but “could still make Romney a better candidate.” Way to sell him to conservative voters, Globers. Even so, this piece is big news simply because of the media buzz it’ll draw tomorrow. If anything’s going to get Huntsman a second look from undecideds, a day’s worth of “Romney’s hometown paper endorses rival!” headlines will do it. His biggest problem with voters generally — not with the base specifically, but with the entire electorate — is the sense that he can’t win. Having the biggest newspaper in the northeast go to bat for him might move the Overton window a bit.

Now, explain something to me. If they’re trying to sink Romney in a Republican primary, why would they go out of their way to speculate in that boldfaced part that … he might sincerely have moved right? You know exactly how Mitt’s going to spin that. The first question at the debate Saturday night will be, “Governor Romney, why did the biggest newspaper in the state you governed for four years endorse another candidate?” And the answer inevitably will be, “Because I’m far too conservative for a paper as liberal as the Boston Globe.” And, per this editorial, that’ll be … sort of true! I can only figure that the Globe thinks Romney’s already fatally compromised among conservative voters, in which case it’s more important to make the pro-Huntsman pitch to centrists and independents by suggesting that Mitt’s now a right-winger himself or will be captured by righties once in office. After all, if New Hampshirites are starved for a more conservative alternative, they’ve got Gingrich or Santorum. Might as well try to peel away votes from Mitt on his other flank too.

Exit fun fact: The Globe didn’t endorse Romney in 2007 either. They endorsed McCain, who did in fact go on to win New Hampshire.