Huntsman in 2009: Stimulus "Probably Wasn't Big Enough"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 23 2011 1:21 PM

Huntsman in 2009: Stimulus "Probably Wasn't Big Enough"

Steve Benen fact-checks Jon Huntsman's claim that he favored tax cuts, not spending, during the 2008-2009 debate over the stimulus bill. The bill that eventually passed consisted of tax cuts and spending, and Huntsman supported it. But what would his ideal stimulus have been?

Huntsman was already becoming a favorite of national reporters in 2008 and 2009, but it was as one of the few Republican advocates for a stimulus bill -- him, Schwarzenegger, Crist -- that his star really took off. He gave numerous interviews about that, but let's just look at two from Fox News. On January 19, 2009, Hunstman defended the stimulus even though, as he admitted, Utah wasn't in terribly dire straits compared to the rest of the country.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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CAVUTO: For you to look at some of the stimulus, even though you and your state don't need it...

HUNTSMAN: Well, if stimulus money is going to be invested in the U.S. economy, why don't those dollars follow projects that are ready to go? Our state has more shovel-ready projects than any state in America right now. And you got to remember, we're now the fastest- growing state in America, which surprises a lot of people, a lot of infrastructure projects that take people right through the West which is growing very, very rapidly. 

CAVUTO: So you're intrinsically answering, you're saying, look, if the money is going to be out there, we want dibs on this, too. 

HUNTSMAN: We want to electrify. We need to move toward renewable opportunities. We need highways. We need everything that the rest of the country is talking about, but we need it sooner because of the way in which we're growing demographically and economically.

One month later, once the stimulus was passed over the opposition of every House Republican:

CAVUTO: Were you against the stimulus , Governor?

HUNSTMAN: Well, if I were in Congress, I probably would not have voted in favor because it didn't have enough stimulus and probably wasn't big enough to begin with .

At the same time, in a CNN interview with Rick Sanchez:

Well, let me just -- let me just shoot straight with you on this. We live in a political world where politicians are going to take sides on issues. And we live in a world where the media are going to take these differences and they're going to enhance them from time to time and make them the story of the day.  So here we are. You've got one side talking about 1 percent of the bailout package and our friends in the media, who are basically making this a cause celebre day after day. And in actual fact, we have real people out there who are expecting governors to lead and solve some of these problems. And we're doing our best to do that.

Seems pretty clear what his position was, and how important it was, in his view, not to politicize it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.