Gingrich, Huntsman’s friendly foreign policy debate
December 13th, 2011
05:46 AM ET
10 years ago

Gingrich, Huntsman’s friendly foreign policy debate

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) – Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman participated in a dialogue devoid of “gotcha moments” and “efforts to trap each other” when the men teamed up for a Lincoln-Douglas-styled debate Monday at Saint Anselm College.

Former House Speaker Gingrich and the former U.S. ambassador and Utah Gov. Huntsman engaged in a friendly and subdued conversation about foreign policy. They were effusive in their praise of one another and largely supported each other’s positions.

Both candidates agreed that Iran’s nuclear program is the biggest national security threat of the next decade and that all options should be on the table. But neither Huntsman nor the moderator challenged Gingrich on one of his more provocative statements, alleging there is a movement in Iran in which children are being recruited to be suicide bombers.

“The Iranians are every month getting a little closer to producing a nuclear weapon. In my judgment they will use it,” said Gingrich. “A movement - which recruits its own children to learn how to be suicide bombers and sends them into a bus station, or into a mall or into a restaurant to blow themselves up in order to kill you - is a movement which with nuclear weapons, would use them in a heartbeat because there’s no effective deterrent.”

After the debate Huntsman was asked about Gingrich’s charges about Iranian children.

“I can’t speak to that. I think it’s more a hypothetical,” he said.

The bottom-tier candidate was asked why he didn’t challenge the former House speaker during the debate and Huntsman said, “We had a discussion on the issues and we laid it out for the American people and, you know, they can take from it what they want.”

Huntsman, who also served as the top diplomat in Indonesia and Singapore, touted his experience in the Asia-Pacific region. Just over an hour into the debate Huntsman relayed a quote in Mandarin.

Gingrich praised the “sophisticated” and “substantive” discussion thanks to the format of the hour-and-a-half debate.

Huntsman agreed, but poked a little fun at the upcoming debate that real estate mogul and reality show host Donald Trump is moderating. To date, only Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have agreed to participate.

“I can’t wait to compare and contrast this format with the Donald Trump debate with the speaker,” said Huntsman.

Huntsman injected a little humor midway through the debate when he pointed out his 12-year-old daughter in the audience.

“I can see my daughter nodding off over there, which means I’ve already gone on too long anyway,” he said, referring to Gracie Mei. “By the way, she’s also my senior foreign policy adviser so that’s not a good thing.”

Gingrich chimed in, “I just want to say, in her defense, she was nodding off while I spoke.”

The former speaker often says in his stump speech that if he wins the nomination, he will challenge President Barack Obama to a series of three-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debates. If the president doesn't show, Gingrich vows to chase him around the country.

"If they would rather have me chase him all the way to Election Day and have the country watch a man afraid to defend his own record, I think that will work equally well," Gingrich has said in recent weeks.

The Lincoln-Douglas debate style is only between two people and allows for longer questions. It received its name during the 1858 debates between Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln and Democratic presidential candidate Stephen Douglas.

Between August and October, Lincoln and Douglas debated the key issue of slavery over seven debates. The format was different then, though. One candidate spoke for 90 minutes, then the other for 60 minutes and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute response.

Apparently, Huntsman liked the format so much that he invited former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to participate in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate before New Hampshire’s Jan. 3 primary. Huntsman’s campaign sent a letter over to the Romney campaign Monday evening.

- Follow Shawna Shepherd on Twitter: @ShepherdCNN.

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman • New Hampshire • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Max

    This man is the epitomy of Washington D.C. Rode the wave of political career and reaped the financial rewards post-government, meanwhile cheating on his wife on multiple occasions. Promise for fidelity now? At the age of what 68? Thats kind of pathetic. I wish the media would paint this guy the way he should be rather than a "front runner" or "challenger". I pray Americans think for themselves and do not accept this trash as a "leader". I'd vote for my old t-ball coach as a leader first.

    December 13, 2011 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Lincoln and Douglas were running for the Senate, not the Presidency

    December 13, 2011 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  3. Dale

    fact check: The 1858 Debates between Lincoln(R) and Douglas(D) were for the office of US Senator from Illinois. These two men also debated in 1860 for the office of President.

    December 13, 2011 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  4. shelbyanne

    The GOP is a disgrace.

    December 13, 2011 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  5. Sandy

    Did anyone even watch this? Huntsman is inviting Romney because this is the only way he can debate, considering his poll numbers didn't allow him to attend the last debate.

    December 13, 2011 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  6. Eric

    The odd thing was he failed in his attempt to win that Senate seat, but then edited and published those speeches into a successful Republican nomination for the Presidency.

    December 13, 2011 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  7. Corey T.

    Both candidates did an exceptional job last night, and I am saying this as a Democrat. However, Gov. Huntsman won the debate with his foreign policy expertise that he has had the opportunity to improve over the years. He is second to none when he talks about China and the rest of Asia. He would make a good President, and I would vote for Gov. Huntsman if he receives the GOP nomination.

    December 13, 2011 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  8. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Newtron, the history professor, (or is it hysterical professor) wanted to have as many presidential debates as Lincoln and Douglas had. The seven debates were not presidential debates, but senate debates in 1858. There weren't any presidential debates between Lincoln and Douglas. I swear in the arrogant Newt does not shut up, he will lose the primaries.

    December 13, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Huntsman has been dissappointing to me lately. He might be smarter than most of the field of dreams, but he ain't savvy. I thought some fire and ice might emerge during this one-on-one but it didn't Huntsman had all to gain, and Gingrich had much to lose. I would have tossed the 11th Commandment out the window, and drilled into Newt Gingrich shifting positions because consistent conservatism is Huntsman's edge over Newt.

    His campaign has been at the "make a break" precipice for at least a month. So far, he has been less restrained than what the base is looking for, even when he has cranked it up a notch. Not going after Newt was a grave mistake because Newt has the name recognition over Huntsman. Newt has shown savvy by trying to do this to all of the "anti-Romney" choices.

    December 13, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  10. Indy

    We confide in our strength without boasting about it; We respect that of others, without fearing it
    Thomas Jefferson 1793

    Republicans always beaking off and promoting the fear factor

    December 13, 2011 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  11. Starr Cash

    I watched and I thought is was very informative. I learned a lot about the issues and at the same time gained a better understanding of each candidates point of view which I feel was useful in helping me choose who to vote for. I hope that after the primary we will see more of this style between the 2 presidential candidates – give them time to make their point fully instead of trying to trade zinger sound bites!

    December 13, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. papanez

    Huntsman is the only sane republican running for the GOP nod. Sadly for him, the GOP has no place for Ambassador Huntsman.

    December 13, 2011 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  13. Elizabeth

    I think that overall Huntsman is also more organized in his thinking and has a better grasp of the importance of a strategy consistent with our values in international affairs, His ideas are bolder and fresher with consistent themes running through all the policies, national and international.

    Newt is more scattershot and anecdotal with a depe understanding of bureaucracy but ideological underpinnings all over the map. Jon presents a faster, more energetic approach that shows he has spent much time thinking deeply about how to prioritize and resolve complicated world/domestic problems. He is so much more knowledgeable, with a far superior command of language, culture and customs especially of Asians.

    Of course the debate is predictably getting little national attention from a liberal media that has an agenda-keep Huntsman, the candidate who can clearly defeat Obama, out of the limelight.

    December 13, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    Huntsman is auditioning/interviewing for Secretary of State. He knows he won't win, and he wants a job now that he's burned his bridges with Obama.

    December 13, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. Greg

    I tuned in while flipping channels in my hotel room. Again I was very impressed by Former Governor Huntsman (the whole term) grasps of the global challenges that we face. Its hard to believe that he has been left behind by the GOP as he is their only credible candidate who could challenge Obama and gain swing voters.

    December 13, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  16. Lee

    Huntsman will make a great Sec. of State in the Romney administration

    December 13, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  17. miraj

    Try Ron Paul, he's honest and genuine. He's a leader and will do what's right for the country even if his positions aren't 'popular.'

    December 13, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  18. Pat

    It was boring. I cant blame Huntsmans daughter for dozing off. They could have made the same points in 2 minutes. Repeating the same thing for 90 minutes. What a drag.

    December 13, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |