MSNBC Touts 'Anti-Republican' Jon Huntsman vs Tea Party 'Patriotic Anarchists'

During Thursday's 12 p.m. ET hour on MSNBC, host Contessa Brewer, who is soon to be leaving the anchor chair, declared that moderate Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was "trying to turn things around with a new take-no-prisoners strategy, calling out his conservative competitors for their far-right views."

Brewer talked to Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the liberal Slate magazine, who wrote a fawning profile of Huntsman for Vogue magazine. She wondered: "Is Jon Huntsman sort of an anti-Republican?" Weisberg didn't agree with that description, but argued: "He's what used to be the mainstream of the party, he's the kind of Republican who could win a national election against Democrats....But for some reason, for various reasons, the Republican Party seems to have been taken over by the Tea Party movement, by these sort of patriotic anarchists."    

Brewer then asserted: "When he [Huntsman] goes on the record and tweets that he believes in science, that, you know, he's going to trust the scientists on global warming, he believes in evolution, it makes real waves because we're so unaccustomed to conservatives running for office being willing to embrace things like the science behind global warming."

Weisberg agreed and lamented: "...if you acknowledge basic reality on evolution or climate change, or say that you think it would be a bad thing for the United States to default on its debt, you know, that makes news, which is shocking. I mean, these should be the common assumptions of a responsible party that wants to compete for the votes in the center."
                    
Weisberg went on to insist that the Republican Party "is going to have to come back to someone like him [Huntsman] if it wants to recapture the White House."


Here is a full transcript of the August 25 segment:

12:51PM ET

CONTESSA BREWER: If the race to become the Republican's presidential nominee was, say, a beauty contest, Jon Huntsman's family could give everyone a run for their money. Look at this spread in the new issue of Vogue. But it's not a beauty contest. And a new Gallup poll shows Huntsman's getting just 1% of the vote. So he's been trying to turn things around with a new take-no-prisoners strategy, calling out his conservative competitors for their far-right views.

JON HUNTSMAN: I think, when you find yourself at the extreme end of the Republican Party, you make yourself unelectable.

BREWER: Jacob Weisberg is editor-in-chief at Slate. His article on Ambassador Jon Huntsman is in the latest issue of Vogue. It's good to see you today, Jacob.

JACOB WEISBERG: Nice to see you, Contessa. Thanks for having me on.

BREWER: Alright, so here's the question, is Jon Huntsman sort of an anti-Republican?

JACOB WEISBERG: I don't think he's an anti-Republican. I think he's a very traditional Republican, sort of a George Bush 41 or Eisenhower Republican. He's what used to be the mainstream of the party, he's the kind of Republican who could win a national election against Democrats. But for some reason, for various reasons, the Republican Party seems to have been taken over by the Tea Party movement, by these sort of patriotic anarchists. And someone like Huntsman in today's party really stands no realistic chance of getting the nomination.

BREWER: And so, when he goes on the record and tweets that he believes in science, that, you know, he's going to trust the scientists on global warming, he believes in evolution, it makes real waves because we're so unaccustomed to conservatives running for office being willing to embrace things like the science behind global warming.

WEISBERG: Well yeah, it's sort of come to this path were if you acknowledge basic reality on evolution or climate change, or say that you think it would be a bad thing for the United States to default on its debt, you know, that makes news, which is shocking. I mean, these should be the common assumptions of a responsible party that wants to compete for the votes in the center. And you know, I think Huntsman has sort of realized this.

I think he thinks of himself as conservative. He had a, you know, he had a strong tax-cutting record in Utah. He was, you know, he's pro-life, he's pro-Second Amendment, he's, in conventional terms, pretty down-the-line conservative, and I think he's been sort of mystified that someone like himself can't get a hearing in today's GOP. So I think it's sort of been pushing him to be – to run as this kind of outsider gadfly, kind of making the point over and over again that the party has to come back to its moorings if it wants to compete.

BREWER: Well, so why is he sticking to it? I mean, if this is his message and he's not even getting – I think the latest Opinion Research Poll that I saw was he was getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 4% of the support. If that's the case, then why does he feel like he can make a dent at all in the Republican primary race?

WEISBERG: Well, I think he fairly says it's early days. Nobody's voted yet. You know, we're months away from any actual votes. And you know, if he's still at 3% or 4% after the New Hampshire primary, then I doubt he will stay in. But I think it does – he's running in a way to make a point. I don't think he has a realistic hope of getting the Republican nomination. He's certainly a very slim chance. But eventually the party is going to have to come back to someone like him if it wants to recapture the White House. So whether that happens this time or whether that happens in 2016, I think just by running, he's making that point.

BREWER: The pictures of him and his family definitely fit in the pages of Vogue, I mean he has a gorgeous family. What role are they playing on his campaign?

WEISBERG: Yeah, I was going to say Annie Liebowitz took those pictures, and they're beautiful. This is the first time I've written a story, I think, that started on page 684 of any magazine. It's the September issue of Vogue, which is, you know, make sure you have your back brace on before you lift it. But you know, he's – it's – he has a very appealing family. He has seven children, the two youngest are adopted, one from China, one from India. It's clearly a kind of partnership with the whole family.

I spent some time with some of them on a trip last month to South Carolina. And it's funny, you know, politicians sometimes talk in the first person plural, and you think they're using the 'royal we,' but Huntsman uses what I would call the 'family we.' You know, when he says, 'We decided to run for president,' I think he really means that his family all liked this idea, all supported the idea of him doing it, as they did him going to China as ambassador. And I don't think he'd be doing it otherwise.

BREWER: Jacob, good to see you. Again, the article is in Vogue magazine. Thank you.

WEISBERG: Thank you, Contessa.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC