What is Chinese for 'apostasy'?

In the weekend debates, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman defended his service as U.S. ambassador and spoke some Chinese.

New York Times

In the weekend debates, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman defended his service as U.S. ambassador and spoke some Chinese.

In the modern era of American presidential politics, it always has been twistedly axiomatic that candidates should avoid saying anything that could suggest they might actually possess any semblance of intelligence.

See: Bachmann, Michele.

So former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may well have doomed any remote hopes of moving into the White House when he foolishly dared to demonstrate during one of the weekend debates in New Hampshire that he speaks a second language. Even worse, it was Mandarin Chinese, honed during his time as a Mormon missionary, which to the Occidental ear sounds like something out of the bar scene in Star Wars.

This, of course, set off a wild moment of one-upmanship as the other Republican rivals tried to exhibit their flair with foreign tongues, most notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who tried to speak English.

Bilingualism is fraught with political peril, since one's opponents will try to paint the offender as some sort of elitist who likes to run around conversing in "un-American" word play.

Huntsman found himself in his oratorical pickle when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accused him of betraying his party because he had committed the treasonous act of serving his country.

Oh, the Tokyo Rose moment of it all!

Romney took Huntsman to task for agreeing to accept President Barack Obama's appointment as the United States ambassador to China, which obviously is the first step toward communist domination.

By Romney's reasoning, Huntsman jetted away to Beijing to represent the diplomatic interests of the United States, while the rest of the candidates "were doing our best to get Republicans elected."

Instead of engaging the Chinese leadership on matters of trade, intellectual property, human rights and dealing with those crazy nuts with nukes down in North Korea at the behest of the Obama administration, Huntsman apparently should have been spending his time back home fawning over the pelts of the tea party.

So because he put country above partisan opportunism, by Romney's reasoning Huntsman is unfit to be the commander in chief, where presumably some familiarity with foreign affairs might come in handy. You never know.

Has it really come to this? That members of the party opposite are adjudicated unpatriotic apostates if they ever agree to take on a government post from a Republican or Democratic president?

If he ever considered running for office, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, would be considered unfit because he probably has a photograph of himself shaking hands with Obama.

So it was that Romney questioned Huntsman's GOP bona fides simply because he knows how to use chopsticks and can order off the menu at Yummy House.

Huntsman did himself no favors by attempting to deflect Romney's patronizing attack by responding in Mandarin, which translated means: "He doesn't quite understand the situation." At least that's what Huntsman said he said, although the governor could have just as easily replied to Romney: "I can't believe I have to prove my GOP loyalties to a guy who is so stiff he makes Generalissimo Francisco Franco look like Gallagher."

Who would have ever thought we would see a presidential debate requiring sub-titles? And that's just when Rick Santorum decides to say something weird.

This was a missed opportunity. In a naked appeal to the South Carolina goober vote, Huntsman might have said something along the lines of: "Me no likee what you said." But it could be worse. Huntsman could be fluent in Arabic, too. Uh-oh.

If briefly engaging in bipartisanship motivated by larger national concerns becomes a disqualifying act of political betrayal, it will certainly make it more difficult for faithful Republicans to ever agree to serve a Democratic president for fear of being ostracized.

So it would have been interesting if Huntsman had simply turned to Romney after being accused of being the Lord Haw-Haw of the Pacific Rim and said: "I'm reminded of an old Chinese proverb: The superior man cannot be known in little matters, but he may be entrusted with great concerns. The small man may not be entrusted with great concerns, but he may be known in little matters."

That Confucius would have made for a pretty good political consultant.

What is Chinese for 'apostasy'? 01/09/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 4:26pm]

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