Tyler and I have written plenty of positive things about Jon Huntsman on the blog. We gave him credit for [occasionally] standing up to his party’s most extreme elements during his presidential bid. We even waxed poetic about the demise of his campaign.
None of that means that Huntsman is above rank opportunism. On Friday Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post quoted a Huntsman “family friend” that the former ambassador lobbied the White House for the open World Bank post. Huntsman’s daughter confirmed that he even discussed the matter with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), though there was disagreement over who initially brought up the topic and what was said.
I don’t like to pass judgment on rumor and innuendo, but Huntsman has a long history of pulling well-hung strings to get prominent jobs. His father, the billionaire Republican donor Jon Huntsman, Sr., was largely responsible for Huntsman, Jr.’s posts in the H.W. Bush administration, including his appointment as ambassador to Singapore, as well as funding his state and national campaigns. The most notorious example, however, was the clash of the scions that pitted the Huntsmans (Huntsmen?) against the House of Romney for the leadership of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Furious behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by both families ultimately resulted in Mitt Romney’s selection and subsequent reputation for “rescuing” the Games. (Hutsman’s consolation: being named CEO of his father’s Fortune 500 company.) After it became clear that Romney was going to be the choice but before it was announced, Huntsman withdrew his name from consideration — similar to his supposed track-covering once the President nominated Jim Kim to head the World Bank.
I don’t have a problem with Huntsman personally or — despite our disagreements — politically. It deserves mention that he has served capably in every position that he’s held, and I have no doubt that he would have run the World Bank competently. But like him or not, Huntsman’s near-effortless rise through embassies, boardrooms, and the governor’s mansion exemplify the entitlements granted by money and connections in our political system. [It would take an even rarer type of entitlement to ask your former boss for another job (a promotion, even) after resigning from your previous one to spend the better part of a year trying to take his.] I don’t begrudge Huntsman, Romney, or any of the myriad Democrats — a few named “Kennedy” come to mind — with financial and political advantages for using them. But I do think those details are relevant to the conversation about who our leaders are and how they achieved their status.
For the record, the White House says Huntsman was never under consideration for the job.