By Jennifer Keefe
Despite a lengthy resume that includes serving in the Reagan and both Bush administrations and as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore and later to China, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Wednesday his most important job has been as a father.
Huntsman appealed to voters during a meet-and-greet at the home of Fergus and Jenny Cullen as he painted himself not only as a family man, but as an experienced leader and businessman who could help turn the country around.
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate expressed to an attentive crowd his concern about what the current government is handing down to future generations.
"This country is in deep, deep trouble," Huntsman said. "We're about to pass down to the next generation for the first time in the history of this great country, a United States of America that is less good, less productive, less competitive than the country we got. I contemplate what we're about to do for the next generation."
Huntsman said a lot of people feel the American dream is less attainable now, but feels he's the man for the job of turning things around.
He stressed his knowledge of job creation and expansion of the economy, as well as his understanding of the world, saying he is running on his record.
With his experience in other countries, Doris Loomis of Dover said she found Huntsman to be "refreshing."
She said, "His experience is rather broad. We need someone with more experience."
Huntsman said a balanced budget is needed as an "important safeguard" for the nation, and there should be no "sacred cows" -- every program should be on the table. He voiced his support of the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., which included a plan to privatize Medicare.
"Debt and spending alone aren't going to allow us to restore the goodness of this country," Huntsman said, adding the recent down-to-the-wire debt ceiling and budget debates were an "embarrassment" to the country but overall beneficial as discussions surrounding the debt, a balanced budget amendment and tax reform have finally begun.
"I'm delighted by that," he said.
He drew on his experience as governor to demonstrate he would be able to pull both sides together to reach an agreement and make a deal, something that in light of the recent discussions in Congress is an important quality in a candidate for Lee resident Jim Griswold.
"I've done some research and I like what I see with Governor Huntsman," Griswold said. "He has the ability to be firm but be willing to compromise. You have to be able to make a deal -- you've got to reach out to both sides."
Huntsman noted two key actions in turning around the nation's economy: real tax reform and reducing regulation.
He said there is too much uncertainty within the business community, hampering its ability to grow and prosper.
Huntsman also supports energy independence as an important stimulator for the nation's economy.
"We have a heroin-like addiction to foreign oil," he said, adding using a transitional product such as natural gas would be a good first step toward energy independence.
On foreign policy, Huntsman said the U.S. should be "a little more skeptical" of foreign entanglements. He supports removing troops from Afghanistan and disagrees with the United States's involvement in Libya.
"We shouldn't be there," he said.
He said the 2012 election is going to be determined by someone who has a connection to real results with jobs and the economy -- two issues he said he heard most from residents during his travels through the Granite State over the past week.
"It all goes back to jobs and the economy," he said. "It's on people's minds."
He fielded a question about his stance on abortion, where he said that with the exception of rape, incest and the life of the mother, "That's where I am" on the issue. He did say tort reform would be an important part of real health care reform.
The problem with America, Huntsman said, is it doesn't have leadership and it doesn't have a plan.
"We're in a funk in this country," he said. "We're depressed, dejected. This is America and it's unnatural for us to be in this state."