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MSNBC - Transcript

Interview

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MR. MATTHEWS: Joining me now, Republican Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman.

Let's look at these credentials, Governor: First-term governor; former White House staff assistant to Ronald Reagan; former ambassador to Singapore. You look at those credentials. I ask you. Are you qualified to be vice president?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: Well, I don't know. Was Harry Truman when he assumed the vice presidency and after three months, after FDR passed away, and in his position, with no foreign policy experience, the end of World War II, the Korean War, the creation of the United Nations, NATO, the Marshall Plan; never traveled, except his war years, basically unschooled on foreign policy?

I mean, if you look through history, you can find examples of people with decent experience and good judgment who rise to the occasion.

MR. GREGORY: Is the argument that you're making and you think the McCain camp is making is that she's indeed today prepared to be commander in chief on day one, should that be necessary?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: I think we're saying that John McCain's choice was to find the future of the Republican Party. He wanted to find somebody with the requisite experience and the right kind of profile to do what needed to be done to rally people within the party and give them a sense of what the future might look like.

MR. GREGORY: That's a really important point. However, that's not the point that John McCain made when he said what was the top criterion for picking a vice president. It was somebody who could assume the presidency.

GOV. HUNTSMAN: He has said that, but he's also said, "I'm going to find somebody who represents the future of the Republican Party." I've heard that over and over again.

MR. GREGORY: So the question is, is she ready?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: Well, I think she will be ready.

MR. GREGORY: She will be at one point. In other words, it's a learning curve for her?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: (Inaudible.) You've got weeks to go in the campaign and the vice presidency. And I have every confidence in the fact that somebody who today represents a state that has 24,000 employees, a $10 billion budget, she has 2,000 soldiers who are part of the National Guard, she has two wings of aircraft, including heavy- lift aircraft, who have deployed all over the world -- she's been mayor of a small town, she's a mother of five; special-needs child, a son about ready to deploy over to Iraq. I mean, look at the multiplicity --

MR. GREGORY: So your position is, in the course of this campaign, she will be ready to be commander in chief?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: Oh, I have every confidence that she's had the kind of experience that Americans are going to be looking for.

MR. GREGORY: Obama had Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, as you know, on his VP short list. And here is what Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President Bush, said about Governor Kaine's qualifications to be VP on "Face the Nation" last month. Watch.

KARL ROVE (former White House adviser): (From videotape.) With all due respect, again, to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years. He's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th-largest city in America -- (inaudible) -- Richmond, Virginia. It's smaller than Chula Vista, California, Aurora, Colorado, Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona, North Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It's not a big town. So if you were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, "You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with is this person capable of being president of the United States."

MR. GREGORY: Karl Rove is no longer in a position of power in the White House, but that view has been shared by you and others in terms of the qualifications of Governor Palin. And yet what he's saying there, is that to be cast off? I mean, isn't that the sort of criticism that could be leveled at Governor Palin as well?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: Well, I guess it could be, but I disagree with what Karl Rove just said. I know Governor Kaine. He's an excellent governor, and I thought he was perfectly qualified to assume the vice presidency and then the presidency if he had been called on. So, you know, Karl Rove may be speaking, you know, his talking points from wherever he gets them, but I happen to think that Governor Kaine is an excellent person and --

MR. GREGORY: (Inaudible) -- based on her experience, that her experience and Obama's experience are roughly equal, and they're equally prepared to be commander in chief?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: No, I think Governor Palin has much different experience. It's a much different set of circumstances when you're a chief executive of --

MR. GREGORY: How is it qualitatively better than Obama's experience?

GOV. HUNTSMAN: You are running a large organization. You've got a budget of $10 billion.

MR. GREGORY: Like he is. He's running the campaign. Is he --

GOV. HUNTSMAN: Come on, that's -- you can't even draw that parallel. You're running a major undertaking, a major enterprise. You've got budgets to prepare, you've got a cabinet you have to manage, you've got social services, you've got transportation, you have corrections, all of them under the purview of a government.

You have a tremendously complex management undertaking, not to mention the fact she oversees the largest geographic state in the United States. I mean, it borders Russia and borders Canada, if you want any foreign policy experience there. And think of the multiplicity of relationships you would have with the federal government to be able to do that successfully.

MR. GREGORY: But just to be clear, what you're saying, despite your excitement, is you're not saying she's prepared now. You're saying, over the course of the campaign, she will acquire the requisite experience to be able to assume the presidency.

GOV. HUNTSMAN: She has a level of preparedness now that leads John McCain and everyone around John McCain to believe that she has what it takes.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But voters are going to make this determination.

GOV. HUNTSMAN: They're going to make this determination.

MR. GREGORY: And she's not there yet.

GOV. HUNTSMAN: And I think they like what they see. I hear the punditocracy in New York and Washington. They're getting this one totally wrong. Families in America can relate exactly to what her family is going through in the Sarah Palin experience.

MR. GREGORY: And there's a lot of excitement, as you pointed out, in your delegation and on the floor.

Governor, thanks for your views.

GOV. HUNTSMAN: It's a pleasure.

MR. GREGORY: Appreciate it very much.


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