Thursday, September 29, 2011

Red Sox sink like the great Titanic

Karl Marx believed that religion is the opiate of the masses. I have always thought that sports are the true “opium of the people.” What better escape has there been from the news about the European debt crisis, volatile domestic financial markets, quotidian social incivilities, and the self-destructive atmosphere of current politics, than a summer in which the Red Sox were one of the two best teams in baseball? The “best team ever?” Better than the 1927 Yankees, 1990s Bulls or 1960s Celtics!

Today’s morning- after headache and nausea ( worse than that in 1978), the need for sports talk-show grief counseling, take me back to all those decades of what it truly means to be a suffering Red Sox fan. My grandmother, at whose knee I learned to love the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Red Sox, never knew what a Red Sox winning season was, though she was thoroughly versed in local legends Dom Dimaggio, Ted Williams, Jackie Jensen and Jimmy Piersall. My 11-year-old grandson lives on another planet. He has never known the traditional hometown failures, the soaring only to plummet. And here I am, buffeted by the drama of the day, trying to understand.

The two highest payrolls, New York and Philadelphia, won their divisions. But shelling out over $157 million didn’t cut it for the Red Sox. And, as Brian McGrory wrote, the “overpaid underachievers” of the 2011 team never represented Boston. Going with the most lucrative contract doesn’t equate to being an authentic part of the home town. Rooting for the Red Sox (or any team) may well be, as my husband claims, merely rooting for the Hessians and cheering for laundry. But there’s something more at play.

J.D. Drew, John Lackey and Carl Crawford together earned more than the entire Tampa Bay roster. Despite the obsession with sabermetrics and the errant celebration of Billy Beane, his progeny and statistics-driven Money Ball, Tampa Bay, which gave up its top stars last year to free agency and concentrated on nurturing its young players, has become the feel-good story of the season. . They showed heart, energy, and determination. As the Wall St. Journal notes, it’s about more than numbers. Don’t forget about “gut instinct, tradition, money, mystery – and plenty of dumb luck.”

An organization can amass all the talent on paper it wants, but the team has to execute on the field. A big payroll team may well win the World Series, and the Rays can crash early in the playoffs. But clearly Sox salaries were inversely proportionate to their September performance. Jim Rice, in his NESN post mortem, decried the spa-like orientation of the team and said that, though Theo or Terry might become scapegoats , the players themselves were most culpable.

In recent years, parts of Red Sox Nation have taken on a narcissistic swagger more reminiscent of Yankee fans. It’s sometimes cheaper to fly to Baltimore and go to Camden Yards than it is to park and visit Fenway. And Red Sox fans in Baltimore have been known to behave offensively not only to hapless Oriole fans inside the park, but boorishly to others in bars and on city streets. Add to that the classless behavior of some of our pitchers who during the season threw intentionally at Baltimore batters. Bad blood existed between the two teams right up to the end, and the last series between the erstwhile juggernaut Red Sox and the Eastern Division cellar dwellers had the makings of a mini morality play.

Yet we hung on until the very last minute, inoculated by 2004 and 2007, and sure that, like the Titantic, the great ship promoted as that “which God himself could not sink,” we would be victorious in the end.

Rather than being an escape from day-to-day conflict and challenge, the historic collapse of the Red Sox seems to be a metaphor what’s happening in the larger world. In both sports and politics, events have challenged our understanding of the way things are supposed to work. Unlike baseball, however, government and politics offer an opportunity to confront old questions with new answers. It is the beginning of a Massachusetts Senate race and a Presidential season. We can still set right the course of the ship of state. There’s nothing we can do about the 2011 Red Sox. As my grandmother would say, wait till next year.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
photos AP, Getty, AFP

Friday, September 16, 2011

Elizabeth Warren: Senate race off to a good start

Elizabeth Warren is one impressive lady and may turn into a rock star candidate. She spoke yesterday at the University of Massachusetts Boston, invited there months ago by Steve Crosby, Dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, to speak as an advocate for “reasonable regulatory reform.” The fact that the ballroom had standing room only and the overflow crowd spilled out into adjacent areas speaks to Warren’s instant appeal as a just-announced candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

Watching her move among the crowd suggests what an effective candidate she may be. Warren is comfortable in her own skin, seeming to really enjoy shaking hands, taking pictures with and interacting with people. Unlike Attorney General Martha Coakley (brainy but stiff), Warren has the warmth and ease of a natural politician, and is anything but the Harvard elitist that Senator Scott Brown’s supporters will portray her to be. (Nor is she simply “the chick who just entered the race,” which is how an out-of-state Brown fundraiser who called our house offensively characterized her.)

Warren’s personal story is as compelling as Brown’s. She was the child of Depression-era parents in Dustbowl Oklahoma. (In 1889, her grandmother, aged 15, had driven a wagon west in that year’s land rush. The family never had much, but her grandmother saw her children gain their places in the world as a policeman, house painter, typist and clerk.) Warren’s father had a heart attack when she was in junior high. Their car was repossessed, and they feared losing their home. She earned money by babysitting and waiting tables, got married at 19 and had a baby at 22. Her schooling was at public institutions, far from “elitist” Harvard, where she now is a professor of law.

But, she said, she grew up at a time when America invested in kids like her, in public schools, highways, power grids, the G.I. Bill, Social Security and Medicare, “a time when parents knew their kids could do better than they did.” That, she says, began to change 30 years ago, when the cost of necessities rose while wages flattened, and people turned to debt to finance their fundamental activities. Washington, she said, changed the rules on debt, and financial institutions were free to work against the middle class, using as their weapons opaque and unintelligible fine print contracts. To Warren, the current financial crisis happened “one lousy mortgage at a time,” and “family by family.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she conceived, advocated for, saw through Congress, and started to implement was up against “the largest lobbying force on the face of the earth.” Its goal was transparency for consumers and accountability by financial institutions. Ultimately, 200 citizens groups joined her David-versus-Goliath cause. But from the time she was a small child, Warren has been one to challenge authority and to stand up and fight for what she believes in. She is rousing when speaking of the need for Washington to “stop giving tax breaks to wealthy corporations, while asking college students to drown in debt and seniors to live on less.”

As it turns out, Warren’s talk of “reasonable regulatory reform” was overpowered by the larger themes she gave voice to, fairness, concern for the middle class, and, above all, opportunity. It’s a positive message. And, while she’ll have to flesh out her candidacy and answer more specific questions (as Margery Eagan warns in Thursday's Boston Herald ), it was still very exciting to see what Brian McGrory calls “a new kind of contender,”  with warmth, brains, inspirational story, guts and integrity.

Warren is unabashedly partisan, as noted in The Atlantic.  And, when asked after her speech who in history might be her Senate role model, she replied "someone between (Wisconsin’s) William Proxmire and (Ohio’s) Howard Metzenbaum," two legendary zealous consumer advocates. But, to those who doubt she can work pragmatically across the aisle, as our toxic times seem to require, the successful creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Exhibit A. Her vision is the kind of America many of us would aspire to. Elizabeth Warren’s entrance into the race has created a whole new dynamic in the Massachusetts Senate race.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scott Harshbarger for casino czar

It’s amazing that so much of the negotiation of a casino-and-slots bill has gone on behind closed doors. After proposals had sucked much of the oxygen out of the air last year, Governor Patrick and legislative leadership, especially House Speaker Robert DeLeo, collaborated secretly to reach agreement before a bill reached the legislative floor.

During the whole debate, there was precious little protest other than from former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. In the House, a good fight was put up by a handful that included Newton Representative Ruth Balser. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering had all the stench of former Speaker Sal DiMasi’s efforts to steer a technology contract to Cognos, which deal is on track to land DiMasi in jail.

As the Globe’s Dante Ramos pointed out on Sunday  , Harshbarger has a long list of “good government” causes, from campaign finance to probation department reform. He is a purist when it comes to government process, and this process has been anything but pure.

In any number of passionate emails and reports, Harshbarger has warned against the serious adverse impacts that this industry will impose upon our Commonwealth: increased crime, corruption, addiction, and the cannibalization of local businesses. The casino industry, for its part, has spent a fortune on lobbyists to make sure that Massachusetts goes along with three resort casinos and one slots parlor.

According to Tom Grillo of the Boston Herald , a group that includes the League of Women Voters, the Council of Churches, and the National Association of Social Workers is exploring ways to sue to stop casino gambling in Massachusetts. But the horse seems to have left the barn.

It will take a significant regulatory bureaucracy to control and oversee what Harshbarger calls “this predatory industry.” We haven’t heard what the costs of that would be. The idea that it might be seeded by millions from the state’s rainy day fund is really perplexing. Nor has there been an airing of what kinds of revenues are likely to be generated by casinos, especially during a time of stubborn recession. I have yet to hear any thoughtful analysis from other would-be Commonwealth watchdogs, like the Auditor, Treasurer, Inspector General or legislative post-audit leaders.

If the bill goes through, and I wouldn’t bet against it, there will be a gambling commission to set regulations for the industry and monitor compliance with those regulations, but the parameters within which they can move are already circumscribed by the legislation. What’s to stop legislators from supporting this bill in exchange for employment when they retire?

Here’s a modest proposal: put Scott Harshbarger at the helm of that commission. He is about the only person I can think of who has the information, integrity and experience to represent the interests of the public when it comes to gambling.

Basically, it’s a roll of the dice as to whether enough jobs will materialize and revenues will roll in from the gambling industry. A good watchdog should be able to monitor whether the dice are loaded against us, and perhaps even mitigate potential damages.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembrance – Words are not enough

My daughter-in-law’s cousin Peter Goodrich, 33, of Sudbury died on Flight 175  that crashed into the World Trade Center South Tower. It seems that almost everyone in Massachusetts is connected in some way with one of the victims of that terrible day.  And today, ten years later, hearing the names of the 3000 victims read at the memorial observance, it seems as if we are connected to all of them. As New York Michael Bloomberg said, “Each had a face, a story and a life cut out from under them.”
My husband and I were scheduled to leave Boston later in the day on 9/11, bound on American Airlines for Paris for the wedding of a dear friend’s son.  Our bags were packed, and I was getting in a last-minute workout on the treadmill, watching the horror unfold on the morning news.
Our friend Barbara, her son the groom, and one brother were already in France awaiting wedding guests who were never to arrive.  When the ceremony took place a few days later in Normandy, there were five from the groom’s side and 300 from the bride’s.  The groom’s other brother was in New York, just exiting the subway near the World Trade Center.
Ironically, my husband was in a Boston hotel, at an early morning seminar on crisis communications, considering how best to respond to a simulated building disaster event, from legal, engineering, rescue and public relations perspectives. He left to the reality of people gathered at the hotel bar watching the first tower  under attack and arrived at his law office to watch the hit on the second. Cell phone service between us was impossible.
Our older son, practicing law in New York, was in his office near Rockefeller Center, and I, not certain exactly where he was, tried frantically to locate him.  His building was evacuated, and he and thousands of others were fleeing Manhattan on foot, walking hours to reach their homes. Again, cell service was impossible.
A month later, when my husband and I visited the stubbornly smoldering site, you could still smell the acrid odor of smoke and dust blocks away.
As with JFK’s assassination, virtually everyone can remember where he or she was at the time of the September 11 attacks.  As Brian McGrory    wrote in this morning’s Globe, “They are moments that were never meant to be memories, fleeting bits of life trapped in time.”
 It was more than the unspeakable horror of the moment.  More than the individual connections or associations.  In that moment,   America lost its innocence, and things changed forever.
The ceremony this morning at the beautiful  World Trade Center memorial was profound.  Coverage by the major networks was varied.  It was great to see Tom Brokaw involved in NBC coverage to remind us of a time that network news had real gravitas. But most of the media provided too much commentary.    CBS stayed longest with the reading , by a group of survivors, of the names of the victims, accompanied by the pictures of each.  The simplicity of the names, seeing pictures of their faces, amplified by some personalized tributes, was powerful and spoke reams about the loss.   And it reminded us of the diversity of this country, which is such an amazing source of strength.
CNN used graphics effectively, not only scrolling the names of the victims at the bottom of the screen but also printing out what was happening at that hour and minute on 9/11.
Touching in a different way was Paul Simon singing “The Sounds of Silence,” people talking without speaking.”  
Among the other powerful moments was Vice President Biden’s speech at the Pentagon, as good a speech as I have ever heard him deliver.      He spoke of American resolve, and the fundamental misunderstanding by the terrorists that they would buckle our knees and crush our spirits. But, he said, they didn’t know us.  Since 9/11, 2.8 million signed up for the military, showing up though they knew they would be in harm’s way.  And they took the fight to Bin Laden and his affiliates. This has been the longest military engagement in our history. “The 9/11 generation of warriors ranks among the greatest America has ever produced, and it was born on 9/11.” Over 6000 have died, many thousands more have suffered life-changing injuries.
And he said, “The true legacy of 9/11 is that our spirit is mightier, the bonds that unite us are thicker, and the resolve is firmer” than the millions of tons of limestone and concrete the terrorist targeted.”
Eighty American soldiers wounded yesterday in Afghanistan (and two Afghanis  killed) remind us that the changes in America - and the challenges it faces - endure.  Seeing President Bush and Obama together with their wives make us grieve for the bipartisanship that prevailed briefly in the immediate wake of 9/11. That loss can be repaired if there’s a political will to do so.  The losses sustained ten years ago cannot.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, September 9, 2011

President's jobs speech kicks off his 2012 campaign

Before President Obama’s much heralded jobs speech last night, NPR’s Scott Horsley called it a “Hail Mary pass.” The reason we remember Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary pass” is that it worked. Such last-ditch efforts don’t often result in touchdowns, and it’s unclear how we will remember what President Obama’s did last night.
Rhetorically, he made the most of it. Though we’ve heard most of it before, he was energized and forceful.  Dare I say, leaderly? Or, as consultant Michael Goldman observed, “Who was that guy and what did they put in his cereal?”  
To reinforce that the ball is in Congress’ court, he repeatedly exhorted it to “pass this bill and….,”  we’ll get the benefits of extending unemployment benefits another year, “pass this bill and….,” we’ll provide tax cuts to companies hiring workers, generate credits to companies hiring veterans (even John Boehner applauded that one). The rhetorical device, and urging the people to reach out to their Congressmen,  was effective …if people were listening.
Obama was also compelling in evoking the vision of an America that used to be, a nation that is tough and capable of meeting any challenge.  He showed “the audacity of hope.”
On the other side, the President was somewhat slithery in his promise that the new jobs proposed in transportation and education “will be paid for.”  He wants the $447 billion price tag incorporated into the mission of the 12-member “super committee” tasked with coming up with a deficit reduction plan by Thanksgiving. Obama will submit his proposal to that committee next week, but honk if you’re confident the committee will achieve what needs to be done. 
The President kept intoning that many, if not most, of the strategies he is calling for have, in the past, had bipartisan support. Maybe then, but this is now.  On this the Republicans were stone-faced. While we outside the beltway may agree that it is long past time to “stop the political circus,” it was chilling, but predictable, to see the Republicans sit on their hands when he spoke of traditional bipartisan support for such proposals or when he said “it’s time for us to meet our responsibilities.”
Obama did his best to create a sense of urgency. He reminded listeners that “the next election is 14 months away. The people who sent us here don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months.”  With that line, everyone applauded.
According to the Wall St. Journal, Moody’s chief economist says the plan would add two points to GDP growth, add nearly 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a point. But Republicans are dead set against a new stimulus package, despite the nation's flat job growth and even the desperate need for infrastructure repair. And they're unlikely to support raising revenue by closing tax loopholes. 
Some Democrats and independent economists believe the last stimulus wasn't big enough, and without it things would have been much worse. But, it's hard to prove a negative, and, in recent months more Americans have come to doubt the stimulus was the right approach. 
With even lower public confidence today, it's unclear to what extent this approach will get some traction. If it doesn't, Obama may have used an unusual forum to kick off his 2012 reelection campaign, mimicking Harry Truman's 1948 successful run against a "do nothing Congress."  Many of us have partisan conflict fatigue and want fresh faces and fresh ideas. But there's work to be done now. Meeting the challenge is hard, and the question remains as to whether the politicians are up to the task. 

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ART's Porgy and Bess is a worthwhile update

Forget the critics. The current Diane Paulus’ version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge (based on the Suzan-Lori Parks/Diedre Murphy adaption of the original) is wonderful. And Audra McDonald’s Bess is a stellar performance. McDonald, who has won Tony Awards for Carousel, Ragtime and Raisin in the Sun, has a huge operatic voice. Combining her not insignificant acting skills with magnificent music, superbly sung, this opera-turned-musical theatre is truly memorable.

Even before the opening, composer Stephen Sondheim wrote a scathing letter to the New York Times, excoriating director Paulus for shortening the Gershwin opera by half an hour and introducing some explanatory text to round out the characters. He was apoplectic that Paulus changed the ending to make it more upbeat.

I love opera, but I didn’t miss the recitative. For my part, the half hour left on the cutting room floor was not missed. The glorious, emotional arias nearly roll one into the other, which is fine with me. The story was told. It established context but didn’t interfere with the music, which, with Porgy and Bess, is why I go.

As for the controversial new “happy ending,” Paulus appears to have bowed to Sondheim and her other critics. In the August version Porgy and Bess leave Catfish Row together singing “I’m on My Way.” A real Broadway musical finale. In the current version, the drug-addled, anguished and morally weak Bess has left Porgy to pursue a new life in New York, and he, using his cane and a new leg brace, limps off to follow her. In the original Gershwin production, Porgy calls for his goat and goes off in his cart. The latest Cambridge ending is hardly upbeat. At best, it is ambiguous and delusional, and poignant. Its closer to Lincoln Center than the Great White Way.

Other critics have faulted Norm Lewis, ART’s Porgy. Curiously, Sondheim praises him, perhaps because he has worked with Lewis on Broadway. If anything, Lewis is simple outshone by McDonald in their duets. But Lewis’ performance is, at the very least, competent – and often much more. I’m more troubled by some of the ensemble numbers, where one voice dominates and the other two become an unintelligible blur.

Ben Brantley of the NY Times called ART’s Porgy an “anxious and confused production” that can’t decide whether it is opera or musical theater. Nor is he happy with the sparse set. But Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design saves the set with numerous dramatic effects and helps advance the story. And, however much of a hodge-podge Brantley apparently felt Porgy and Bess to be, he still said the Audra McDonald “made me understand ‘Porgy and Bess’ in a way I hadn’t before.”

Notwithstanding Sondheim, most of those who have seen the original opera or even the movie of Porgy and Bess will not feel betrayed by the ART production. Many will enjoy it thoroughly for the magnificent music, the emotional impact and the memorable performance of Audra McDonald.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A tale of two cities: Boston and San Francisco

 Going to two baseball games, a week apart, in San Francisco and Boston, invites comparisons between the two cities, and random thoughts how, in recent years, each has moved beyond its postcard personas.

AT&T Park

AT&T Park, with its views of sailboats and kayaks in the bay has a beautiful setting, and, as one of the newer parks, it comes close to Safeco in Seattle at the top of that list. Its seating and sightlines are better than Fenway’s, and its ballpark food, - from Ghirardelli ice cream, to redolent Gilroy garlic fries, to freshly made, hand-cut sushi - dwarfs Boston’s offerings in quality and often at a fraction of the price. Although AT&T is not as bad as the nearby wind-freezing Candlestick Park, when the fog rolls in you’re sitting in mist by the sixth inning. And despite winning the World Series last year, Giants management still feels the need to stage half-inning hokey “amusements” which makes the fan experience more like that at a minor league game. Give me the tradition, sights, smells and sounds of overpriced, even uncomfortable Fenway anytime. [BTW: I wore my Red Sox cap at the Giants game and received only positive comments,]

The San Francisco transit system is very user-friendly, clean, well lit, with up-to-the-minute information about how many minutes until your train arrives (usually just a few). Its employees are professional and eager to help you find your way. They are not condescending just because you don’t know your way around. On the T to the Red Sox game, the fare machine was going out of order, but still deducted my ticket. The conductor impatiently (and rudely) ordered me to pay a second time.

San Franciscans for years fought efforts large and small to improve both driving and public transportation. They have yet to have their Big Dig, and driving in the city is a mess. Most of the day is “rush hour.” Thank goodness it’s still a great walking city, like Boston, albeit one more challenging to legs and lungs.

When it comes to being green, S.F. may be a little more environmentally sensitive. Instead of hotels just having waste baskets in each room, hotels have waste baskets plus recycling bins in every room. And, in tourist areas like the Ferry Building’s farmers’ market, there are waste baskets, recycling bins and containers for organic waste. Bicycling is very big, and the last Friday of each month, cyclists overflow the bike lanes and virtually take over the main thoroughfares. And a few of them, as a protest against fossil fuels, do it buck naked. It’s a bit much, I must say.

I do feel that, while I can’t prove it, there seem to be fewer fat people in San Francisco. And I’m not referring to the naked cyclists. I do know that there seem to be a lot of options for healthy food. And, oh yes, there are, happily, many, many more Peet’s Coffee shops, along with the usual Starbucks dishwater to drink. Boston has come a long way as a dining city, but it still is no match for San Francisco. Where in Greater Boston can you get really great Greek food, like at Kokkari’s? Here lovers of authentic Greek cuisine have to rely on Greek Orthodox Church suppers and invitations to private homes.

As they’ve moved into the 21st century, the cities have become similar in many ways and have lost certain distinguishing characteristics. Just the way our North End is far less an Italian enclave today, so too would S. F.’s North Beach area be unrecognizable to the late Joe DiMaggio, who grew up there. While the two cities are noted for their cultural activities, sense of history, tourist appeal, and progressive politics, I am relieved that the Hub has never – and, I hope, will never, put a referendum on the ballot to outlaw circumcision (It was overturned in court.)

A generation or two ago, San Francisco had a distinct magic, which could make a Bostonian envious of its cosmopolitanism and self-conscious about our parochialism. I don’t feel that way any more.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Photos by Jim Barron

Friday, September 2, 2011

GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman: Obama’s nightmare opponent

Former ambassador and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is working New Hampshire hard to win next year’s Republican primary there as a linchpin of his presidential campaign. He still registers a scant two percent in national GOP polls, but he is far and away the most impressive of the Republican field. Were he to capture the nomination, he’d give President Obama a run for his money.

He is informed, articulate, reasonable, practical and, contrary to how he sometimes projects on television, quite forceful and “presidential.” Best, he doesn’t march in lock-step with his party.

Some examples. Had Huntsman been able to, he would have supported unequivocally the debt ceiling compromise. He agrees we may be experiencing global warming. He supports civil unions. He believes in evolution. And still he thinks he can prevail in the Republican primaries because, he says, people are sick and tired of the side show – they want substance.

That’s what he delivered when he spoke yesterday to a packed NH Institute of Politics/New England Council crowd at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, NH. His plan for the U. S. economy is clearcut. He attacks our debt – equaling 70 percent of GDP – as “a cancer metastasizing in the country.” He calls for a balanced budget amendment, going after all sacred cows, favorably looking to solutions like those offered by the Simpson/Bowles Commission or the Ryan plan, and growing manufacturing. To do the latter, he’d reform the tax code, lowering all rates, eliminating all loopholes and deductions, cutting corporate welfare (while lowering the business tax) and undertaking regulatory reform. His targets there would be outright repeal of Dodd-Frank and “Obamacare,” and serious rollbacks at the EPA and FDA.

No one would ever mistake Huntsman for a Democrat or even a Republican in the Rockefeller-Nixon tradition. I disagree with him on many issues. But he is not blindly locked into the narrow, reflexive, doctrinaire ideology of the other GOP candidates.

And he brings a lot more to the foreign policy table than do his primary opponents. He has served under four U. S. Presidents—under Ronald Reagan, as part of the White House staff; under George H.W. Bush as ambassador to Singapore; under George W. Bush as trade representative; and, with that in his portfolio, as ambassador to China in the Obama administration.

While he is glad that Libya may be throwing off the shackles of Muammar Gaddafi, he doesn’t believe that Libya is or was a core U.S. concern. Nor does he believe we should be doing nation building in Afghanistan or Pakistan. “We need to shore up our own core,” he said, Pakistan and Afghanistan should take care of themselves.

China is probably the nation of greatest concern to the United States, especially in the global economy. As Ambassador to China, Huntsman lived there for two years, speaks fluent Mandarin and interacted with Chinese people from the highest officials to the people in the street. Imagine a president with that facility!

Before he took on that ambassadorial role, he served two terms as Governor of Utah, cutting taxes and earning accolades for his management of government. He left office with an 80 percent approval rating. Somewhere along the line, he was CEO of his family’s company. (And by the way, quite charmingly, he also rides a motorcycle and played keyboard in a band.)

Prevailing in the Republican primary is a stretch for him. Huntsman has already had to temporize on some long-held positions, especially in the area of green energy. He has not performed particularly well jumping through hoops in GOP debate situations, and his campaign is dogged by staff turmoil and reorganizations.

In a reasonable primary environment, he might have a chance. But GOP voters this year are out for raw red meat, or so the candidates believe. Huntsman may not be enough of a feral creature for them. That’s too bad, because a Huntsman-Obama race would be fascinating to watch and could lead to an informative public dialogue. Maybe this is just a national introductory tour, with the expectation that the party will select an unelectable purist, go down to ignominious defeat and leave him to pick up the pieces four years from now.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.