From yesterday morning's NBC debate, Jon Huntsman skewers Mitt Romney for attacking his tenure as the Obama administration's ambassador to China:
FMR. GOV. JON HUNTSMAN (R-UT): I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. And I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think--he criticized me while he was out raising money, for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They're not asking who--what political affiliation the president is. I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire in this country: I will always put my country first. And I think that's important to them.
MR. GREGORY: All right, well, why don't you get a response Governor Romney, and then I'll come back to you on the austerity question.
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama's agenda. I think the decision to go and work for President Obama is one which you took. I don't, don't disrespect your decision to do that. I just think it's most likely that the person who should represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.
FMR. GOV. HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like that. The American people are tired of the partisan division. They have had enough. There is no trust left among the American people and the institutions of power and among the American people and our elected officials.
It was a great moment for Huntsman—but New Hampshire is probably the one and only Republican primary state where his retort could have a positive impact. No other state will have as many crossover voters casting ballots in the Republican primary, and it would take a miracle for him to win the nomination, but if Huntsman manages a second place finish in New Hampshire, it will probably make his campaign seem like less of a joke for when he runs in 2016.
But as pleasing as it was to hear Huntsman skewer Mitt Romney, let's remember that it was in the context of a question about how he would cut spending—and his ultimate point was that he had the moral stature to be able to sell austerity. Perhaps he's right, but the fact remains that austerity is not something worth selling. The best way to fix our budget mess is to grow the economy, and cutting too much too soon will shrink the economy—and make our problems worse.
What we really need on the Republican side is somebody with the moral courage to admit that Keynesian economics work, but I wouldn't count on that happening anytime soon.