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HUNTSMAN: We're in a deep funk in this country. CROWLEY: He looks, walks and talks like a presidential candidate. Why isn't he? We tracked down former Governor Jon Huntsman Friday after a getting-to-know-the-candidate house party in North Salem. So the big question is, why is taking you so long?
HUNTSMAN: Well, we've only been at it about a month, a little over a month. And when you consider --
CROWLEY: But at it with a vengeance.
HUNTSMAN: With a vengeance. So if you look at our zero to 60 speed, I think we've -- we've broken some land-speed records in getting to where we are. I think we've been to about 12 separate states, some of them multiple times over that month and a bit.
CROWLEY: Thirty-six times in less than a month in New Hampshire, someone told us -- 36 events.
HUNTSMAN: That's -- that sounds -- I've lost count.
CROWLEY: Yes. Well, someone counted it for you.
HUNTSMAN: Yes. So that -- that sounds about right. And we have a lot of --
CROWLEY: So why not just go, yes, I'm running, you know? I'm talking to donors, I'm getting money, I'm -- we just got finished with a house party. What do we -- what's the, you know, where's the balloons and the band and the speech?
HUNTSMAN: Yes, we're -- we're -- we're about a week and a half out.
CROWLEY: A week and a half. OK. Here?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I'll keep that for another time.
CROWLEY: You're not playing.
HUNTSMAN: But we're right at the end point.
And is your family supportive? Yes, check that box.
Do you think you can rally enough financial support to make it happen? Yes, you check that box.
Do you think on the ground in the key early states -- New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida -- you can create the presence and the excitement and enthusiasm that will work? You can check that box.
That's -- we've basically checked all the boxes, and now we're kind of moving towards a --
CROWLEY: Now you got to write the speech.
HUNTSMAN: Well, yes, and have probably another meeting with the family just to say, here's where we are --
CROWLEY: Speak now or forever hold your peace.
HUNTSMAN: That's right. That's right.
CROWLEY: Well, when you -- let me ask you like a hometown question for CNN, which is, we've looked at the polling, 70 percent of folks nationwide, as well as in New Hampshire, don't know enough about you to say whether they approve or disapprove. So why not just get into a debate and do it?
HUNTSMAN: Well, there will be plenty of debates. We'll be in more debates than I think anyone will be able to stomach at the end of the exercise, when we have finally checked that last box, and we're ready to go.
We've only been at it five weeks, and we've moved about as fast as you can move. And then you cross that -- that -- you pass that mile barrier, and then you're in, and then you do everything that needs to be done from there.
CROWLEY: And then it's 24/7.
HUNTSMAN: That's right.
CROWLEY: Do you think, looking at -- looking way down the line, do you think that Barack Obama has had a failed presidency?
HUNTSMAN: On the economic side, there are no signs of success, very little. You look at unemployment, you look at the environment in which jobs supposedly can be created, when you look at the debt level, you look at all the economic indicators, and it would suggest that we're in bad shape.
And certainly, over the course of two years, there's been insufficient movement. And now people kind of back away, and they say, let's look at and assess the last two years and make a judgment about that.
I found in politics, you've got about two to two and a half years after you've been elected to get something done and to move out in a positive direction on something as important as the economy. And here we are.
CROWLEY: And so you -- you think it has failed on the economic side?
HUNTSMAN: Failed on the economic front.
CROWLEY: How about on the foreign policy front? How do you think he's done?
HUNTSMAN: Well, we -- we have different world views. I worked the China relationship, which for 40 years has been a bipartisan relationship. It's been America's interest, there's security, they're economic, they're cultural. And it was a great honor to serve my country in that capacity. But when you look at Afghanistan, can we hang out until 2014 and beyond? When you look at the Middle East -- CROWLEY: Can we?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I would argue you can if you're willing to pay another quarter of a trillion dollars to do so. But if it isn't in our direct national security interest and if there isn't a logical exit strategy and if we don't know what the cost is going to be in terms of money and human lives, then I think you have to say it's probably time we reevaluate this if we can't make that strong argument with the American people.
CROWLEY: So President Huntsman would want to be out of Afghanistan earlier than 2014?
HUNTSMAN: Well, my -- my hunch is the American people want to be out of there as quickly as we can get it done. You're going to have to leave behind some presence, probably not 100,000 or 120,000 troops, but some presence.
CROWLEY: Bringing you back to the race, when you -- if -- when you get in, in a week and a half or so, you'll be number eight -- well, there will be about number 138, but of those, you know, that show up in the polling. What do you bring to the table that Mitt Romney doesn't bring to the table?
HUNTSMAN: First of all, you have to look at our records as governor. Every governor governs a little differently. They all have different track records. Some speak to economic success, some speak to education or healthcare success. We all try to do what's best for our state. All you have to do is compare and contrast.
Second, I think the citizens of this country are going to be very interested in a president who understands the world for what it is. It's complex, it's confusing, it is uncertain, and it's not going to get any -- any better in the years to come.
CROWLEY: So foreign policy experience?
HUNTSMAN: I think foreign policy and national security experience will be -- will be in -- in great demand in years to come. No question about that.
CROWLEY: A lot of people -- and I -- I know you'll interrupt me when I say these things, and I'll -- I'll let you explain. But a lot of people look and they say, OK, Jon Huntsman, at one point he looked favorably upon mandated healthcare insurance; at one point he favored cap-and-trade. He is for civil unions. He looks a heck of a lot like a Democrat.
HUNTSMAN: Well, look at -- look at my record in the state of Utah. Healthcare reform without a mandate -- of course you've got to talk about all the options. Any --
CROWLEY: Did you ever favor it? Because there have been stories out there that you did. That you wanted it-- HUNTSMAN: You'll -- you'll read in here everything. What is important is you look at what you put your signature to. We debated it enthusiastically as a state, private sector, public sector. We've looked at every conceivable option. We came up with a model that I think deserves some national recognition, I really do.
When you look at economic development -- historic tax reform, flattening the tax, creating a state that was the number one economy in America, the best managed state in America according to the Pew Foundation -- there's a lot there that I think anyone on the conservative side would look at and like.
Now, am I perfect in all the categories? Do I favor civil unions? Yeah, I favor civil unions. I don't think we have done enough in the name of equality in the area of -- or reciprocal beneficiary rights. Will some people --
CROWLEY: Hospital visitation, and --
HUNTSMAN: Sure. Sure, it's -- whatnot. Will some people hold that against me? It's OK. You got to be who you are and march forward. Some people will like it.
And I believe that in the end, people will look at the totality of what it is you stand for, the totality of what you've done, and then make an informed decision.
CROWLEY: Couple of other quick policy questions. You -- I know you're opposed to ethanol subsidies, which helped frame your strategy going forward. Are you also against oil and gas subsidies? Would you phase those out as well?
HUNTSMAN: I think phasing out all subsidies. Some will have to be done on a faster track than others. But moving towards a phase-out of all subsidies is going to be very important for budgetary reasons in this country.
When you look at the -- the tens of billions of dollars that we've built our economy on that create artificiality in the marketplace, they have to be addressed at some point. And I know they're politically sensitive, but we're at a point in time where for budget reasons we can't wait a whole lot longer.
CROWLEY: And finally, Haley Barbour, who as you know, is a pretty good strategic thinker, was on TV the other day and said, listen, Ronald Reagan was very good at taking 80 percent of what he wanted and calling it, you know, a good deal.
CROWLEY: So he, Haley Barbour, could see supporting a candidate who said, fine, if I could get 80 percent of the spending cuts I wanted, I could see some tax increases. Can you say a similar thing? Could you see a deal as a President Huntsman where you would say, I'll give you this much in spending cuts, I can see a tax increase? HUNTSMAN: I don't think the nation is ready for that and I think it would be the worst possible thing we can do when our nation needs to begin to grow. That is not a pro-growth strategy. We found that in our own state of Utah.
I mean, all around us we can see the carcasses from the last industrial revolution. We've been good at launching industrial revolutions in this country. You grow your way out of it, you create jobs, you expand revenue, and you pay your bills by doing that.
I think tax increases would likely stand in the way of that kind of positive economic growth that we so desperately need now.
CROWLEY: Jon Huntsman, thank you for spending some time with us.
HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Candy.
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