TOPICS > Politics

The Morning Line: Huntsman Gets Ready to Rumble

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  June 15, 2011 at 8:52 AM EDT

Jon Huntsman will announce his candidacy for president next week. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has been on the sidelines for the first two Republican presidential debates of the 2012 campaign.

He won’t miss a third.

“I intend to announce I’ll be a candidate for the presidency a week from now,” Huntsman said Tuesday during an appearance in New York.

Paul West and Geraldine Baum of the Los Angeles Times have the details on the announcement site, and its significance: “Sources later said he would kick off his campaign at New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, just across New York harbor from lower Manhattan. The site is a nod to Ronald Reagan, the last Republican to defeat a sitting Democratic president, who kicked off his general election campaign there in 1980.”

Huntsman is expected to make New Hampshire his first stop on his inaugural campaign swing, followed by South Carolina, Florida, Nevada and Utah, reports Time Magazine’s political blog, The Page.

Noticeably absent from that itinerary is Iowa. Huntsman has said he will bypass the first-in-the-nation caucus.

By joining the field, Huntsman adds a moderate voice to the mix of GOP contenders. He continues to voice support for civil unions for same-sex couples. In the past, he has supported cap-and-trade programs to address climate change and comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. He also served two years as the U.S. Ambassador to China for President Obama.

Since returning to the States in late April, Huntsman has been making the rounds to some of the early nominating states and carefully picking his spots when it comes to drawing contrasts with the president he most recently served. (Huntsman also served as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore for President George H.W. Bush.)

For instance, at Tuesday’s discussion on China policy in New York, Huntsman connected the country’s current economic troubles to its position around the world.

“As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said. “We sit diminished and discounted at the negotiating table and everybody knows that. So if you want a strong U.S.-China relationship, I would argue that we probably have a little bit of work here in our own backyard.”

Huntsman has advocated for a major drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a more significant reduction than the president is likely to call for later this summer.

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reports the former governor said Tuesday that he would leave behind a force of about 15,000 troops for anti-terrorism operations.

“There’s the desire on the part of most Americans to begin phasing out as quickly as possible,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman also suggested cost might be a factor. “This would mean that the very expensive boots on the ground may be something that is not critical for our national security needs,” Huntsman said. “Nor is it something we can afford at this point in our economic history. I think most Americans would say it’s probably a good transition point.” 

Be sure to read the full story from Zeleny on the split between the Republican contenders when it comes to national security and foreign policy — a departure from the party’s unified front in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

LIBYA AND THE LAW

House Speaker John Boehner is turning up the heat on President Obama over U.S. backed NATO military operations in Libya.

“It would appear that in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission,” Boehner wrote in a letter sent to the president Tuesday.

Since neither of the options Speaker Boehner put forth is likely to occur, an inter-branch rhetorical battle over the proper interpretation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 is about to begin.

There is little doubt that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will be taking several questions on this Wednesday at his 12:45 pm ET press briefing.

AFP’s Olivier Knox provides a preview of the White House pushback:

“With key deadlines looming, the White House vowed to answer critics of the conflict in Libya who have demanded detailed explanations of the cost, legal rationale, and goal of the operations.”

“‘We are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya,’ national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.”

“Vietor said the response to escalating criticisms of the nearly three-month conflict, which is broadly unpopular with the U.S. public, would include a legal analysis showing the administration acted properly with regard to a 1973 law designed to curb presidential war-making powers.”

“Two congressional sources said the White House was expected on Wednesday to provide what one called “a big report” to run “over 40 pages” defending President Barack Obama’s handling of the conflict and answering his critics.”

The president’s handling of Libya also came in for some criticism from a couple of the Republicans seeking the presidency at the debate in New Hampshire on Monday night.

“First of all, we were not attacked. We were not threatened with attack. There was no vital national interest,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

“We to this day don’t yet know who the rebel forces are that we’re helping. There are some reports that they may contain al-Qaeda of North Africa. What possible vital American interests could we have to empower al-Qaeda of North Africa and Libya,” she added.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked if the cost of the war in Libya is a worthy consideration for U.S. involvement. Gingrich said that cost must be a part of the calculus in any decision to send U.S. troops into combat. He then followed Bachmann’s lead and slammed the quality of U.S. intelligence on the rebels.

“Ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are, in fact, al-Qaeda,” he said.

IS RUDY RUNNING?

Per Maggie Haberman of Politico, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to have lunch with Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., later Wednesday.  That meeting comes on the heels of Giuliani’s planned meeting with Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, this morning. 

Giuliani has been telling confidants that he is eager to make a second bid for the White House. He sees a GOP field about which voters have not yet become all that enthused and believes there is an opening for him, despite his disastrous showing in the GOP nomination contest four years ago.

His meeting with Perry offers him a chance to size up a potential opponent in the race. Gov. Christie has once again asserted he will not be a candidate for president this cycle.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.