(Scott Audette, Reuters )
Reporting from Manchester, N.H. — Voicing his support for the debt-ceiling compromise as an imperfect but necessary step to avoid default, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman chided his opponents during a campaign trip to New Hampshire – arguing that rival Mitt Romney had waited on the sidelines instead of taking a position during the negotiations, while candidates like Michele Bachmann had embraced a "crash and burn" approach to the debt-ceiling debate.
Huntsman addressed the negotiations in Washington during a stop at FIRST, a nonprofit organization founded by Inventor Dean Kamen that tries to engages children and young adults in the fields of science, engineering, technology and math. After testing remote control robots under Kamen's guidance, the former Utah governor told reporters that the chaotic eleventh-hour deal illustrated "zero leadership in Washington out of the White House" and "essentially zero leadership on the part of my opponents."
"You are not going to get a perfect deal, but you've got to have the leadership that brings people together so you can address cuts, so that you can address meeting our financial obligations so the marketplace doesn't crater, so that you can address a balanced budget going forward, which is something this country desperately needs," he said.
Huntsman said the deal fell short by not moving toward "a real focus on entitlement reform" and a balanced budget amendment. But he said it "gets us part of the way there," by avoiding default: "We're the largest financial services leader in the entire world and for us not to meet those obligations, I think would have been irresponsible and the international marketplace—the markets of the world—they would have responded very negatively."
Huntsman criticized the position of several opponents including Minnesota Rep. Bachmann, who had vowed to oppose any increase to the debt ceiling. Huntsman described Bachmann's position as "crash and burn."
"I don't consider that to be a policy," Huntsman said. "We live in the real world—you've got to recognize our commitments; you've got to step up and meet our commitments and in order to do that you've got to work as a leader in Washington to bring Congress together in fashioning a package that allows us to cut and to meet our financial obligations as we raise the debt ceiling."
"So to dodge the debate or to wait until the debate is over effectively and to take a side, I don't consider that to be leadership," Huntsman continued, directing his comments at Romney. "I have yet to see someone who is standing up, taking a responsible position that allows us to meet our obligations."
Romney, who had been under fire from Democrats for remaining largely silent about his views during the monthlong marathon of debt negotiations, rejected the deal Monday, stating that if he had been president he would have produced a budget "that was cut, capped and balanced – not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table."