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Inside the Beltway: The rediscovery of Jon Huntsman

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It was inevitable. A few curious observers have placed Jon Huntsman Jr. on the ever-expanding list of potential White House contenders, citing his previous presidential campaign-trail experience, foreign-policy credentials and crossover appeal that could possibly counter Hillary Clinton in 2016. Oh, the speculation, the drama. Let the squawking begin.

But consider that Mr. Huntsman, 54, never left the public stage or the speaking circuit and continues his work with No Labels, a four-year-old grass-roots group "devoted to the politics of problem solving and consensus building" that he co-chairs with Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat. The pair, in fact, have just authored a new e-book titled "A Shared Vision for a Stronger America."

There are other factors: feel-good consensus talk is very popular with vexed or disenchanted voters. And oddly enough, Mr. Manchin hinted this week that he was tiring of Capitol Hill. Those with wild imaginations can picture this bumper sticker: "Huntsman/Manchin 2016."

Moving right along, however, Mr. Huntsman already has alluded to the political arena himself, via an upcoming broadcast of "Politicking with Larry King," to air Thursday on OraTV and RT America. The veteran broadcaster queries Mr. Huntsman on running once again for the White House.

"So you will do it again? You're thinking about it?" Mr. King inquires.

"I'm a public servant, Larry, and as a public servant, I found that politics is a lot about serendipity, you know. It's hard to be able to pre-plan where you might find yourself as a public servant. I never thought I would run for governor. I never thought I would be in China as the United States ambassador. Things happen," Mr. Huntsman replies in the segment.

"So you're open?" Mr. King asks.

"I'm open, but here's the deal. You have to be able to create a pathway from point A to point B. I can tell you how I'd get to the finish line from Super Tuesday, but I can't tell you how I get through those early primary states, having been there and done that once before," Mr. Huntsman says.

PIGLISCIOUS

Big spenders will draw powerful attention on Wednesday, when Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas; John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona; and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio will join "Pigfoot" — a feisty guy in a pig costume — plus two live pigs to introduce the 2014 Congressional Pig Book, a project of the Citizens Against Government Waste.

The nonprofit organization's annual expos of pork-barrel earmarks in Congress features a complete database of pork projects and profiles "the most egregious examples from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014."

Men and pigs will gather at a spiffy hotel in the nation's capital for the big rollout. See the event online at 11 a.m. ET here: Cagw.org.

BEWARE THE WEATHER DOOM

Introduced in the Rose Garden itself, the Obama administration's third annual National Climate Assessment takes 800 pages to predict weather-related doom and big costs from global warming. But such fare, released with grave handwringing, has met with critics.

The Republican National Committee, for example, has released its own "2014 Midterm Climate" assessment for Democrats. On the list of predictions: weather will be the worst in 20 years, voter enthusiasm is tepid, polls are trending south and the winds of desperation are blowing.

Then there are the experts.

"This laughably misleading report is the predictable result when hard-core environmental activists are chosen to write up a climate assessment for, and subject to the approval and revisions of, the Obama administration. It is like the punch line to a bad joke: How many environmental activists does it take to put together an alarmist global-warming report?" says James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environmental policy at the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank.

"Leading authors include staffers for activist groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, Planet Forward, the Nature Conservancy, and Second Nature. Few objective climate experts will take this report seriously," Mr. Taylor adds. "The only real surprise in the report is it didn't take the opportunity to trumpet the Union of Concerned Scientists' call for U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament."

WHERE'S RON PAUL?

There is much ado about gold, silver and canny investments these days. And Ron Paul is there. He will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Metals & Minerals Investment Conference, meant to showcase "the gamut of investment opportunities in the natural-resources sector — from mining company stocks to the hard bullion — gold, silver, more," organizers say.

The former congressman and presidential hopeful has red-meat commentary in store for his audience. He'll offer "a candid look at the dysfunctional American political system . His unwavering passion leaves audiences motivated to speak out, wake up and let politicians know what they want," advance event materials explain.

READ IT YOURSELF

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper has released 10 documents related to the "intelligence-gathering activities authorized by President George W. Bush shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11 and subsequently transitioned to authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," according to Mr. Clapper's office.

"Some information has been redacted from the declarations to protect information that remains properly classified for national security reasons and because of the great harm to national security if disclosed," says the advisory. Curious? Find all 10 documents here: DNI.gov, in the "newsroom" section.

HYSTERIA IS LOUSY STRATEGY

"Is manic-depressive freaking out a good marketing strategy for the Democrats? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seems to think the way to energize its base is to act desperate," says Simon Dumenco, an Ad Age media analyst who points out that the Dems favor excitable language like "jaw-dropping," "all hope is lost" and "whoa," among other things.

"They come fast and furious. On a single recent day, for instance, I got three emails — one each from Nancy Pelosi, Democrats 2014 and Democratic headquarters — with the subject lines 'doomed,' 'heart-wrenching defeat' and 'throw in the towel,'" Mr. Dumenco observes.

"The net effect is a political party that seems to be having an absolute meltdown. I'm sorry, does that sound judgmental? Well, for the record, Nancy Pelosi emailed me on March 30 and her subject line was "absolute meltdown," he says. "Really, all I want is some clarity on the Democrats' apparent rebranding-in-progress — from the 'hope and change' party to the 'kiss any hope goodbye' party."

POLL DU JOUR

94 percent of U.S. millionaires say the "American Dream" is still attainable.

83 percent say increasing educational opportunities for the less wealthy could lessen "the inequality of wealth" in the nation.

64 percent say that higher taxes on the wealthy is the answer; 78 percent of Democratic millionaires and 31 percent of Republican millionaires agree.

63 percent overall say increasing the minimum wage will lessen the inequality; 77 percent of Democratic millionaires and 38 percent of Republican millionaires agree.

51 percent overall say inequality of wealth is a "major problem" in the U.S.; 86 percent of Democratic millionaires and 20 percent of Republican millionaires agree.

Source: The CNBC Millionaire Survey of 514 U.S. adults with investable assets of $1 million or more, conducted March 1-30 and released Tuesday.

Cat calls, polite applause to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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