It was the first one of these I’ve attended. I went because the guest was Asa Hutchinson, and I’d been wanting to hear him speak since reading a favorable column about him in The Boston Globe, after he had met with that editorial board recently. The headline was “New Hampshire, please consider Asa Hutchinson.”
I don’t live in New Hampshire, but I’ve considered him now, based on little beyond that column and hearing him this evening. So I’m just getting started, but I will say that he is now my favorite Republican candidate for president. Which, of course, isn’t saying much, but if Chris Christie wants to recapture the top spot on my Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates list, he’s going to have to do a lot better.
Of course, you know Joe Biden’s my guy, and nobody else comes close. But Hutchinson is the least objectionable Republican, and that’s important to me. I keep dreaming of having another No Lose election like 2008, when I would have been happy to see either McCain or Obama in office. (I can dream, can’t I?) That involves, and the very least, having someone unobjectionable run against Joe.
And I must say I kind of actually like Hutchinson. I have a few objections to him, but the thing is, he seems to be a real Republican, a normal human being who isn’t out to destroy America. He talks about his admiration for Nixon and Reagan — neither of whom is a fave of mine, but I’d give a lot to have either of them before You Know Who, or any of his many imitators.
So I’ll be watching. In the meantime, I shot a few random minutes of video near the start of his conversation with Schuyler Kropf and Caitlin Byrd, and you see it above. Caitlin asked him for his “stump speech,” but they either got off-track on that, or he has the shortest stump speech I’ve ever heard.
Beyond that, a few points from the few notes I took:
- When I mentioned that I had objections, that mostly came from when Caitlin asked him to rattle off in 30 seconds what he would do first if elected. He immediately mentioned some please-the-base stuff, starting with immigration. Of course, maybe she should have allowed him more than 30 seconds, so he could branch out more. Whatever, that was the low point.
- One of the best things was that while he wasn’t shouting “I’m a Never Trumper!,” it’s fairly clear he comes pretty close, saying things like “Is that who we want to lead our country into the future?” He sees his mission as making the case that we need to go in another direction. As for the multiple indictments, he was very mildly critical of the case against Trump in Georgia, but that’s mainly because, as a former U.S. attorney himself, he thought Georgia should have sat back and let the federal indictments run their course.
- Another fave moment for me — possibly because I’m still plodding through, but enjoying, Theodore Rex (I just moments ago finished reading about the Perdicaris affair in 1904, which “The Wind and the Lion” was very roughly based on) — was when Caitlin asked him to name his favorite president who was not named Reagan. He picked TR without having to think too hard. So bully for him!
- Asked about Mitt Romney’s retirement and his copout comment about stepping aside for the “next generation,” Hutchinson — who is three years older than I am — had pretty much the same reaction I did. I didn’t get the whole quote, but he has the same impression of the GOP’s “next generation” that I do. He specifically mentioned Matt Gaetz, so….
- I could have used a lot more talk about world affairs, beyond his discussion of drug trafficking from south of the border (based on his having headed the DEA — yeah, this is a guy with actual experience in federal government) and some generally positive statements about Ukraine. That is, that he’s for “standing with freedom against oppression.”
- When Schuyler asked him what non-religious book he had on his bedside table, he said on this trip he’d been reading Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Not exactly a book, I guess, but much better reading than anything certain other people have ever tackled.
- Being in South Carolina, he said some nice things about Nikki Haley. A bit too nice, I thought, when he praised her international experience.
- On the other hand, I liked what he said about Henry. As you may know, Hutchinson got his bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University. (Asked why, he said his pastor back in Arkansas had recommended it.) Then, he had intended to get his Juris Doctor from USC Law School, but ended up at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He speculates that had he stayed here, he would be governor of South Carolina, not Henry. I mean, he was just joking around, but it struck me as a fairly pleasant idea.
- And while I don’t want to completely destroy his already-slim chances, he even sounded a bit like a Democrat a couple of times, for what it’s worth. For instance, he said some folks want to raise the age for receiving Social Security, but he thinks “how about the construction worker,” whose strength is not likely to hold up until 70? Bottom line is, he sounded overall like a center-right pol, from in the non-crazy days when the two parties weren’t all that far apart. In other words, he’s a Republican. And with Mitt Romney, John McCain and Lamar Alexander out of the picture (and Lindsey Graham now living on the far side of Alice’s Looking Glass), that makes him rare.
That’s it for now. I’ll be watching this guy as things progress.