If Huntsman Is "Proud To Run On My Record," Why Is He Distorting It?

August 12, 2011 1:32 pm ET — Kate Conway

Among the many falsehoods and distortions in last night's GOP presidential primary debate in Iowa, candidates' misrepresentations of their own records were perhaps the most flagrant. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) tried to whitewash his time in office, during which his state ranked 47th in the nation in job creation. Likewise, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) refused to own up to accounting gimmickry that masked his state's financial problems and left Minnesota with an enormous budget deficit once his tenure ended.

Few struggled harder to reconcile their relatively moderate political past with the present GOP base's demand for extremity than the Obama administration's recent Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. Asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace about a litany of prior positions at odds with the Republican Party's expectations, including his support for the 2009 stimulus package, Huntsman insisted, "I am proud to run on my record" — yet he was unable to defend himself with the truth. Instead, he claimed, "What I talked about with respect to the stimulus" was "the need for more tax cuts."

WALLACE: You supported a stimulus package in 2009. In fact, you said the Obama stimulus package was not big enough. ... Some people have suggested that maybe you're running for president in the wrong party.

HUNTSMAN: [...] In terms of the stimulus you talked about, it was failed. And let me tell you what I talked about with respect to the stimulus. I talked about the need for more tax cuts in the stimulus. We didn't have enough of it. And why did I talk about the need for tax cuts for business? Because we had done it in the state of Utah. We had done historic tax cuts. We created a flat tax in the state of Utah, exactly what needs to happen in this country. We got the economy moving. We became the number one job creator in this nation, and the best-managed state. That's exactly what needs to happen in this nation. I am running on my record, and I am proud to run on my record.

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Huntsman earned a reputation as one of the few Republicans defending the Recovery Act when it was being debated in 2008 and 2009, but he wasn't solely focused on "the need for more tax cuts." In fact, after its passage he explicitly criticized the stimulus for including "too little focus on meaningful and relevant infrastructure that would have enhanced our entire nation and our ability to compete," and argued that a full 75 percent of the package should have been infrastructure spending, with tax cuts included somewhere in the 25 percent comprised of "all the other categories."

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