This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The GOP primary field has another contender. Earlier today, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman officially threw his hat into the 2012 race. I sat down with him for a cable exclusive interview following his big announcement. And we're going to have that for you in just a minute.
Bur first, standing in the shadow of this Statue of Liberty, here's how the governor rolled out his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: I'm from the American west where the view of America is limitless with lots of blue sky. I've lived overseas four times where the view of America, from 10,000 miles away, is a picture of liberty, opportunity and justice.
I'm Jon Huntsman and I'm running for president of the United States. Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Now Governor Huntsman joined me after his announcement to discuss his candidacy and why he thinks he's best qualified to knock off "The Anointed One" in 2012. And here's the first part of this interview.
HANNITY: Governor Huntsman, great to see you, thank you for being on "Hannity."
HUNTSMAN: Sean, it's an honor. Thank you.
HANNITY: You know, it's pretty historic place. There was a predecessor ran for the presidency, Ronald Reagan, same backdrop. Why did you choose here?
HUNTSMAN: This is a pretty historic place. Remember, in 1980, at the beginning of the fall general election campaign, the president came here, it was a time of difficulty and trouble in our nation. And he basically promised people that we could restore greatness again and he did. So, today, I totally stand in his shadow.
HANNITY: Why -- it is a big jump. Why did you decide to get into the race? Some speculation is that you saw an opening, that maybe there was a void you could you fill. Why did you decide to run?
HUNTSMAN: Because I love my country. And I can't stomach the thought that we are passing down to the next generation, a country that is less viable, less good, less competitive, less compassionate than the one we got. You have a choice then, you can either stand on the sidelines or you can do as Teddy Roosevelt used to preach, and you can get in the arena and do something about it.
HANNITY: You had some pretty harsh words in this. In less than a decade, every federal penny is going to be used for Medicare, Social Security and pay down the debt. Our influence in the world will wane, our security is more precarious. The 21st century will be known as the end of the American century.
HUNTSMAN: I never thought I would live to see that time or ever been in the position where I had to talk about that. But for those of us who have lived abroad and seen our nation in a highly competitive 21st century and kind of see where this world is going. Unless we are able to strengthen our core, we are going to see the end of the American century, and that is totally unacceptable.
HANNITY: You even go a little bit further. And, you know, you talk about Americans feeling that the debt is stacked against them now. We lost faith in ourselves. We are about to pass on a country to our next generation, less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive, less confident. You said it is unacceptable and you said it's un-American. What do you mean? What's happening specifically that makes you say that the conditions now are un-American?
HUNTSMAN: We have lost that which has made us great over the generations. And that is the sense of individual and personal responsibility that we can come up. We can pursue our dreams and our aspirations and we won't be blocked by government regulation, by the inability to get a loan as a small business. Make your dreams come true. And the minute Sean that that happens is when we the United States of America, we become like any other country out there. This is the magic that has made us great. And right now it is blocked. And when people look to the future, they wonder how on earth they'll going to be able to do the things that earlier generations did? That created the building blocks on what we stand on today.
HANNITY: Now, one of the things that I'm sure is going to come up in the campaign is that you worked for President Obama. And you actually had written him a letter and you said he is a remarkable leader. But yet, you are going to run against somebody that you called a remarkable leader. What did you mean by that when you said it? And do you believe today -- would you characterize President Obama as a remarkable leader?
HUNTSMAN: No. I think he has failed in a number of ways. Both in terms of economic governance and stewardship and also internationally. I wrote that after I was appointed. I thought he was a remarkable leader for appointing a republican to a position as important and sensitive as a U.S. ambassadorship to China.
And listen, during a time of war, and economic hardship, I'm the kind of person that is going to stand up and serve my country. I'm going to take that philosophy to my grave. And I hope my sons do the same thing. It's something I've always believed in and where you can get in a unique and in a sensitive position, make your country a little bit better.
HANNITY: So, it was remarkable because he picked the Republican and reached that across.
HANNITY: But it wasn't -- you weren't talking about his economic policy or his foreign policy?
HUNTSMAN: It was early in his administration there was nothing to comment on at that point.
HANNITY: Yes. Let me ask you because, you went out on your way to say you are going to conduct this campaign on the high road. And you said you don't think you need to run down your competitors, ruin their reputation in order to run. That you respect the president, you respect your Republican opponents. And you talk about that the political debate in the country is corrosive. Maybe, is it negative to point out that the president's economic policies have failed? Is that negative?
HUNTSMAN: Of course not. That's not a personal assault. We are talking about how personal politics has become. Ripping down, tearing down, shredding individuals. Sticking to the issues, sticking to the record is absolutely appropriate.
But the reason I mention this is because I care what my kids are seeing, listening and hearing. They developed impressions and they develop approaches in terms of how they deal with their fellow Americans by what they see and hear. They take those attitudes into the classroom, and we wonder sometimes why our kids aren't showing authority figures proper deference and responsibility.
HUNTSMAN: And I also care, Sean, because the rest of the world is watching. The rest of the world cares about how we conduct our affairs, because they then take that lead. We are the only leader in the world today. Some are wishing us well. Others think that we are down and are not going to get back up again. But they are all watching with great interest to see how we conduct our business over the next couple of years.
HANNITY: Yes, I agree with that. But let's look at the president's record in particular. Because when you look at the high deficits he's creating every year. The debt that he's accumulated since he's been in office. The health care bill which is going to be very expensive. Your prediction that we are headed for this bankruptcy within a decade.
HANNITY: You know, has he failed the American people on the economy? Would you grade him, or how would you grade him on the economy for example?
HUNTSMAN: It has failed. You have, as governor or as president, about two to two-and-a-half years to do what you can do in order to fix the economy or to do what the American people elected you to do. We are now roughly at the two-and-a-half year mark. Look at the indicators. Look at unemployment. Look at the debt which is gone from 10 trillion to 14.2, 14.4 trillion with no relief in sight. It isn't even as if that level of confidence is moving up. It's not as if the private sector is saying, we have belief in our overall direction, they don't. And that perhaps the most dangerous thing of all.
HANNITY: How would you grade the president on foreign affairs issue? We went through a whole series where he wouldn't refer to a war on terror. Called it overseas contingency operations. Man caused disasters. Referred to America as arrogant. Went on an apology tour. As all those events were occurring, what were your thoughts, especially at a time when you were working for him?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I was in the line of the U.S.-China relationship. Proud of the work that I did throughout the rest of the world, this is a time when the United States should be standing tall. There is no other leader in the world today. We are not -- we shouldn't be approaching conflicts as a team sport. We either get in and we lead and we do the job or you don't get in at all.
I also think that we are in parts of the world where we don't need to be. We are spending resources on conflicts that I think we need to begin winding down. And I happen to think as well that there isn't a good sense in the world today as to who our alliances, allies and friends are. Remember, some years ago, everyone knew who America's allies and friends were, it was very clear. And it was very clear to people would have meant to be an American ally and friend.