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D.C. Notebook: Huntsman on 2012 GOP field: This is the best we have?

Published August 11, 2013 8:45 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As was pretty clear to those who watched, Jon Huntsman wasn't thrilled with the presidential race last year. The one-time candidate was critical of his own party after he dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination and has since had choice words for the entire process.

In Collision 2012, a new book by The Washington Post's Dan Balz, Huntsman makes it clear he wasn't a big fan of the Republican field.

"What went through my head — and I hope this doesn't sound egotistical — what went through my head was in this country of 315 million people, Nobel Prize winners, university presidents, CEOs, creative class leaders, innovators, great people, this is what we get to run for president? This is it? … They're all good people, but they're not the best that this country has to offer."

Huntsman, of course, didn't say that during the race, but it would have made for one heckuva debate line.

Poll: NSA good, spying bad • Most Utahns support the National Security Agency setting up shop in the state, though nearly half of residents believe the spy agency is violating constitutional protections by snooping on Americans, a new poll shows.

Some 54 percent of those surveyed by the libertarian Libertas Institute last week say they strongly or somewhat support the NSA's new Utah Data Center set to open this fall, while 33 percent oppose the mammoth center near the Point of the Mountain.

Meanwhile, 46 percent of the same group surveyed said they believe the NSA has violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Only 26 percent said the agency wasn't doing that.

Connor Boyack, president and founder of the group that set up his own calling system to conduct the poll, said the results were a bit shocking.

"We were stunned to see so many Utahns oppose the NSA's activities on Fourth Amendment grounds, yet express support for their facility in our backyard where the results of these activities will evidently be stored, harvested, and used in ways that further violate the Fourth Amendment," Boyack said. "To us, it suggests a bit of a disconnect."

On another survey question, it's clear that Utahns aren't fans of the anti-terrorism policies instituted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some 48 percent say the policies go too far while 18 percent say they don't go far enough.

Reality TV? • HBO's The Newsroom is treading into the 2012 presidential campaign in its new season and Mitt Romney's campaign isn't shown in the best light so far.

In a recent episode of the fictional show, TV producer Jim Harper is covering the Romney express as it winds through New Hampshire but is twice rebuffed on his attempt to board the press bus by a Romney aide who isn't a big fan of Harper's news outlet. When he finally gets on, Harper presses Romney spokespeople for answers that go beyond their talking points and ends up getting kicked off the bus with two other reporters.

A former 2012 Romney spokesman says that is obviously pure fiction.

"You all would have heard about that if it had happened" in the real campaign, says Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman who traveled with the former Massachusetts governor. The show "doesn't seem to be very close to the truth," he adds.

If there was space, Williams says, legitimate news outlets — even those who were super-critical — were welcomed aboard the campaign's press bus or on the campaign planes. At one point, some reporters covering Romney had to take a separate press plane but that was only because so many journalists were traveling with the Republican candidate, Williams notes.

The show's creator is left-winger Aaron Sorkin, who also created The West Wing series wherein Republicans were often the butt of jokes, so GOPers aren't shocked to see the Obama campaign so far immune from the show's jousts.

On another front, Williams says that several in the Romney press shop were trying Monday to figure out if certain characters are based on real-life people — is Romney's sharp, female mouthpiece supposed to be national press secretary Andrea Saul? — but there isn't likely to be a big following among the Romney alum.

"The whole concept seems a little silly to have a fictional account of a campaign that happened in real life," Williams said.

The HBO show rankled Utah Sen. Mike Lee when it debuted last year and referred to the freshman tea partyer as wanting to jettison the constitutional amendment that allows anyone born in the United States to be a citizen. Lee phoned the president of HBO asking for a clarification, though none was apparently broadcast.

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.