CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Date: Nov. 22, 2011
Location: Unknown

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BALDWIN: Without further ado, I go straight to our nation's capital, Washington D.C., because we have a candidate for president standing by for me, Republican Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah. He's live at the site of our CNN national security debate. Welcome, governor. It's nice to have you on.

And if I may just run down your resume here. You served as deputy U.S. trade representative, ambassador to Singapore, ambassador to China. So global affairs, national security, kind of your home turf here. If you can, governor, just give me one point that you're hoping to drill home tonight.

JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Brooke, that's most important of all, and, listen, I've lived overseas four times. I've been immersed in a lot of the issues of the day. Sometimes the more you know about the subject matter, the more difficult it is to compress it into 30 seconds.

But let me say, we don't have an effective foreign policy or an effective national security policy unless we are strong here at home. And our biggest problem today is we have a dysfunctional Congress. We're in need of term limits. We're in need of doing something about the revolving door with respect to lobbyists. We have a president who is not leading.

And the rest of the world is watching all of this play out. We should be in a position, Brooke, where we light up the world in terms of our values, in terms of liberty, democracy, human rights, and open markets. That's when the world is a better place. But right now we're not leading and I'm not sure we're able to lead until we get our house in order, and that means our economy. That means our debt, that means Congress that actually is doing the work of the people as opposed to being at the extreme ends politically and pointing fingers of blame at one another.

BALDWIN: Governor, speaking of values and also overseas, I just want to play something for you. This is actually just a tease of a story we played for our viewers this hour. I want you to listen, if you would. You're going to hear from our correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. This is part of his report from Afghanistan about a woman who is now in prison for being raped. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A rapist was the husband of her cousin, but in Afghanistan's draconian society this 19- year-old was also blamed. Her rape, sex with a married man, was seen as adultery by the courts and she was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: She was raped, she was blamed, sent to jail. Jon Huntsman, your Afghan policy aside, as a presidential candidate, are you willing to speak out against such an injustice? I mean, Afghanistan is a country where we're fighting, we're dying for. We've given them nearly $60 billion. Will you call out this injustice tonight at that stage that is behind you?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, this is an injustice and it ought to be called out. Moreover, we need to say that we have accomplished as a country what we can do in terms of our military involvement in Afghanistan. Certainly we'll have a very rigorous counterterror effort left behind. Certainly there will be a civil society strengthening exercise. And certainly there will be some sort of a system that works on rule of law and human rights and addresses the kinds of issues that you're talking about here. But we need to rescale what we're doing there. We should be not nation building right now at a time when this nation so desperately needs to be rebuilt. We've had 10 years in terms of strengthening and bolstering civil society, helping the police and military getting the government back on its feet again. We need to start worrying about our own affairs here in the United States.

But all the while that light needs to shine, that needs to shine our values that would speak to the issue that I just heard in my earpiece. There's nothing more powerful in this world than when the United States stands up and speaks by example and speaks with a loud and strong voice. That does hit the market on rule of law and basic human rights and individual dignity. It is always what we have stood for and that is, I think, leading by example, which we need to do.

BALDWIN: Before we go on, and I know this is the first time I have ever spoken with you, but I've seen you a lot, and you seem pretty unflappable, and if I may, governor, downright nice. Is there anything that makes red in the face angry? Just give me one thing.

HUNTSMAN: Listen, I'm not going to get into anger management. I try to be pretty much cool and collected for the most part. You can't be the dad of seven kids without having figured out how to be a little bit calm and collected. You can't have managed the U.S.-China relationship without being calm and collected. You cannot have been twice elected governor of a state without problem solving and becoming completely unglued.

BALDWIN: There's not one thing that --

I'm not going to talk about the dog at home because my wife would kill me for that. But, yes, there is one thing.

BALDWIN: OK. We'll get to the dad of seven part in just a minute. But I do need to ask about the race. We have a poll. I'm sure you've seen the numbers. The names that stand out to me if we all look at this, you have Gingrich and Huntsman, Gingrich first, Huntsman last. In a way, the first part of that equation should give you hope because it wasn't too long ago, just this summer, governor, when the former house speaker was - he was down in the single digits himself, right?

HUNTSMAN: Right. That's exactly right. This race is so fluid and so much in flux that we've seen everybody spike and go down. Everybody gets 15 minutes of fame. I don't 15 minutes of fame. All I want is a substantive, predictable rise like in New Hampshire, and then I want sustainability. I don't want to go up and down.

And sustainability is based upon putting forward ideas that are real, ideas that are tied to our biggest problems of today, which are economic and they're trust. We have a financial deficit and we have a trust deficit in this country as well.

And it's about sharing a vision that is tied to your background, which is being immersed in public service and private business in ways that have proven results. So I have no doubt about what's going to happen in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is moving up for us and will continue to move up for us by the end of the year. And that will be the market mover, Brooke. Once New Hampshire changes, everybody takes note and always is the case, and they say, something's happening here. I think we need to take note. And then you're in the game.

But listen, this is a fluid environment. And even in New Hampshire, you've got 80 plus percent of the voters who are undecided.

BALDWIN: Governor, before I let you go, I know you have a busy couple of hours ahead to prep for this debate. As you mentioned, you have seven kids, including three lovely women, Abby, Mary Anne, and Liddy, collectively -- I follow on twitter, the "John 2012 Girls." Let's watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need you to get involved to make sure our next president is based on substance, not sound bites.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Check out our dad at John2012.com and follow us on twitter at John 2012 Girls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Obviously, that's a spoof on the Herman Cain-Mark Block ad. Tell us about these three girls and their role in your campaign because I read the article in the "Washington Post," they're calling them the quote unquote breakout stars of the GOP primary trail.

HUNTSMAN: Now you know, Brooke, why I'm prematurely gray. Just take a look at those three girls and their antics. You talked about anger management. I've told them nothing that will embarrass the old man. Do what you want to do. You're free to speak out, but just don't embarrass your dad. So we hope we can get through the campaign cycle without that happening.

But I love them dearly. They're truly talented. They're proving to the world you can communicate in interesting and creative ways in the political world today. I'll give a speech on foreign policy or America's role in the world, and I'll get five hits on YouTube, and they'll put up some corny little spoof on someone else's ad and they'll get a half a million overnight. I say the world isn't fair, but that's the way the game is played these days. So are they my three best surrogates in politics? Brooke, they are my three best surrogates in politics, and they have a way of communicating that is unique and novel that provides a new window through which people get to see our family and understand our candidacy.

BALDWIN: Governor Jon Huntsman, nice to meet you, nice to talk to you, best of luck to you tonight. We'll be watching you and the rest of the group. The CNN debate on national security and the economy, tonight, 8:00 eastern right here on CNN moderated by Wolf Blitzer. Back in 90 seconds.

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