Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman sharply criticized his own party on Sunday, decrying Republican rigidity on issues like taxes and science and unfavorably comparing Republican politics to China's political system.
In an interview at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan Sunday night, Huntsman offered a candid assessment of his unsuccessful foray into presidential politics. Huntsman was the only prominent Republican candidate to not receive a surge in attention as an alternative to Mitt Romney -- a process that saw Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum all get closer looks and a turn leading the polls -- but the former Utah governor said he was unimpressed by his rivals.
Is this the best we could do? Huntsman said in describing his reaction to his first Republican presidential debate, according to BuzzFeed.
Despite a reputation for fiscal conservatism, Huntsman broke with party orthodoxy on issues like the scientific evidence of a link between human activity and climate change. He chided his opponents for denying such a connection, saying that it put the Republican party on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.
I had to say I believe in science - and people on stage look at you quizzically as though you're an oddball, Huntsman said on Sunday.
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Huntsman also questioned the far-right positions staked out by the Republican party, saying that Ronald Reagan probably could not be nominated in the current climate. He said he regretted rejecting a hypothetical deficit reduction deal, proposed by the moderator at an Iowa debate, that would have included ten dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in new revenue.
What went through my head was if I veer at all from my pledge not to raise any taxes...then I'm going to have to do a lot of explaining, Huntsman said. What was going through my mind was 'don't I just want to get through this?'
In March, months after he had ended his candidacy, Huntsman was disinvited from a Republican National Committee gathering for having called on MSNBC for some sort of third party movement or some voice out there that can put forth new ideas. Huntsman drew a parallel on Sunday between the snub and the strictly enforced political order in China, where he served as the United States ambassador.
This is what they do in China on party matters if you talk off script, he said.