CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Date: Dec. 18, 2011
Location: Unknown

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JOHNS: Jon Huntsman joins me now from New Hampshire. And, Governor, a lot of people say you send mixed messages. You're also openly courting independents while you say you're conservative. Which side are you on?

HUNTSMAN: Now, Joe, first of all of, it's an honor to be with you and I'm putting you on early notice that we're going to win the New Hampshire primary. Things are very, very exciting in the state and it's great to be here once again.

I am who I am. I have a track record. I have a history as governor. I've lived overseas four times. I've served three times as a U.S. ambassador. My record is what it is, so I'm not going to pander, I'm not going to sign pledges. People can look at what I've done and they can make their own decision on who I am.

But let me just tell you, early on I think there were a lot of people who may have glossed over me as a candidate because I'd crossed a partisan line to serve as U.S. ambassador to China which, by the way, is just part of my world view. I believe in putting my country first and I always will.

And now a lot of those folks are coming around, and they're giving us maybe a legitimate first look, and they're saying they forgot to take a look at my record, my history as governor. And as they reflect upon that, they're saying, he's kind of the conservative we were looking for. He's the consistent conservative, as opposed to some of the others in the race, who have been on both sides of the major issues of the day, who are running for panderer in chief more than they are anything else.

So that puts us in good stead, Joe, because with weeks left as we approach the New Hampshire primary, we're picking up the ground game here. We're now in third place. We've just overtaken Ron Paul for third place, while at the same time we've got a lot of folks in the party who are now looking at us, I would argue, giving us the first legitimate look.

And I think those two elements combined put us in a very, very strong position as we move toward January 10th.

JOHNS: Well, that's my next question. It seems that a lot of other candidates have really gotten their day in the sun. They've been, if you will, the flavor of the week or every two weeks or so. Why hasn't it happened to you, at least so far?

HUNTSMAN: Well, maybe because I don't light my hair on fire. You know, maybe because I don't sign pledges, and I'm just not going to do that. So what you're going to see happen, Joe -- and if this fails I'll come back on your show and explain why -- everyone gets their Warholian 15 minutes of fame. They go up and they go down.

And I'm getting whiplash watching all of my friends go up and down. I don't want that to happen to me. I want a steady, consistent, substantive rise, which is exactly what we are seeing in New Hampshire. We've gone from zero to now number three, which is a great place to be, and I think by the end of the month we're going to be in an even stronger position.

That speaks to sustainability. It means when the cameras are on, and when you're ready, you know, to do what needs to be done to carry over a victory in this primary state, you will have the ability to sustain that momentum as opposed to just going up and down.

I don't want the up and down. I want sustainability. We will prove the point that we are the electable Republican who can go on and beat Barack Obama.

JOHNS: Among those comments that some might characterize as hair on fire, the former speaker of the house, Newt Gingrich, has talked about the courts, and he's gotten a lot of attention for that recently.

He said he wants to subpoena certain judges for controversial decisions. He wants to abolish courts for certain decisions, or what have you. What do you think about that? Do you agree that the courts are out of control, as some conservatives would suggest?

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, that's going to be debated and argued for a very long time. As for me, this takes our eye off the ball of the -- of the core issues that are at hand, and that will ultimately allow us to win the election. Whenever we talk about that, it kind of takes the energy out of our economic deficit, which I think is the issue of this election cycle. It takes our eye off the trust deficit, which is, I believe, a driving issue of this election cycle.

So I'm not going to spend any time talking about court reform. That will be debated and discussed for a long time. As for me, when people see me, and when they consider supporting me, I want them to remember two things.

HUNTSMAN: One, I'm going to attack this economic deficit, because we need to start looking at it as a national security problem.

When you've got 70 percent debt to GDP, your economy just doesn't grow much anymore. And I want people to -- when they look at me I want them to know that we're going to deal with the trust deficit in this country, because, as you mentioned in your earlier segment, Joe, nobody trusts Congress anymore.

Everybody knows they need term limits. Everybody knows we've got to shut that revolving door that allows members of Congress to go into the lobbying profession. And everybody knows we need to dock their pay until they can balance the budget.

Nobody has any trust in our tax code. People don't have trust in our wars abroad. They don't have trust in Wall Street because we've got banks that are too big to fail.

And I'm going to focus on all of those, because I think, longer term, they are absolutely critical to allowing us to pull together as Americans based on trust, and tackling the issues that really do matter for the next generation of Americans.

JOHNS: But just to put a finer point on it, do you agree, as many conservatives do, that activist courts tend to rewrite the laws written by Congress?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, I don't like legislating from the bench. I don't think that is good. There is an impeachment process for those who are caught up in ethical violations. At the end of the day, these judges are appointed by people who were elected officials.

And I say if you don't like who's in there, then start at the grassroots level and elect the kind of -- the kinds of representatives, governors and presidents who will get the kind of judiciary that will do what needs to be done for this country longer term.

JOHNS: Now I have to ask you, because you were the former ambassador to China. Governor Romney has made some statements that people have seen as controversial. He's talked about currency manipulation and how China should be handled. If we could just listen to this sound bite, and I'll come back and talk to you about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will designate China as a currency manipulator. Under our law, that allows the president to apply tariffs where the president believes that Chinese currency manipulation has cost American jobs or is unfair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now you, Governor, have said you don't agree with that notion. However, what would you do? Are we just to allow China to continue to do what it wants and hope the situation gets better? How would you resolve the issue of currency manipulation by China?

HUNTSMAN: Well, like with all things dealing with the Chinese, you got to sit down and you've got to negotiate your way forward. You slap a tariff on China for currency manipulation, it's an egregious problem. There's no doubt about it. We've got to deal with it.

But the way you deal with it isn't by slapping a tariff on goods coming in from China, because they're going to take the same tack and they're going to put tariffs on our products. And that sends us into the kind of environment that is exactly what we don't need when this economy is trying to get on its feet again.

It punishes small businesses, it punishes exporters. And that, longer term, is a price that I don't think this country ought to be paying.

Instead, you sit down at the negotiating table, you put the issues before the Chinese, whether it's currency manipulation, whether it is IPR violations, whether it's North Korea, whether it's Iran, whether it's Burma, whether it's Pakistan, whether it's the South China Sea-related issues, and you negotiate your way forward.

That's just the way the relationship has run for 40 years, and it's the way things are going to be handled going forward.

So, you know, this speaks to somebody who clearly doesn't have any experience in dealing with the Chinese, because if you had any experience with the Chinese, you would know that it is a relationship these days based on what they like to say is reciprocity.

We slap a tariff, they slap a tariff, so you have no choice in today's environment, other than to sit down with real leverage in the -- in the negotiation. And we don't have that leverage today, Joe. We need a strong economy.

We need a strong core here at home in order to give us the kind of leverage this country desperately needs at the negotiating table. That's what I want to do in improving the U.S.-China relationship.

You can say all you want about tariffs this or tariffs that. We are in a weakened position because our economy simply isn't working as it should, and, therefore, we simply don't have the leverage of the negotiating table.

JOHNS: Former Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, out in New Hampshire right now, campaigning. And I'll probably see you out there real soon. HUNTSMAN: Joe, we'll look forward to it. Thank you.

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