A Rough Welcome for the Professor



Lewis & Clark Law School professor James Huffman announced his candidacy for Ron Wyden’s US Senate seat yesterday, and the ink wasn’t even dry on his press release before the Democrats pounced on him.

The Oregon Democratic Party set up a one-page website titled “Meet Jim Huffman, Right Wing FreedomWorks Ideologue and Candidate for US Senator,” which rips into him for statements he’s made over the years.

Huffman used to write opinion pieces regularly for The Oregonian as well as other articles for conservative publications, and no doubt that will provide an inexhaustible mine of material for opposition research.

For example, the “Meet Jim Huffman” site reports that “[w]hen the Wall Street and bank executives who caused the financial meltdown started taking billions in taxpayer-funded bonuses, Huffman defended them in an April 2009 Oregonian essay titled ‘Outraged at Those Bonuses? Get Over It.’”

In fairness to Huffman the headline most likely was written by a copy editor, not by him, and he didn’t use the phrase “get over it” in his opinion piece. But he did defend the bonuses and opposed any government efforts to rein in executive compensation.

The site claims that “Huffman believes the only way to reduce health care costs is to restrict patients’ access to care, stating in an Oregonian essay that the ‘rationing of health care is unavoidable.’”

That’s a bit of a distortion. Huffman was only making the pretty obvious point that no government health care system can possibly afford to “fund every beneficial medical procedure or drug for every American.”

According to the site, "Huffman signed a FreedomWorks petition [in 2005] supporting President Bush’s risky scheme to gamble Americans’ retirement money on Wall Street." Bush's proposal -- which went nowhere -- was to allow people to voluntarily put all or part of their Social Security contributions into stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

"If history is any guide, these assets will grow over time, providing higher benefits than can the current system," the petition said. Whoops.

The site also says Huffman “joined a 2007 FreedomWorks letter arguing that federal action to avert the mortgage meltdown was unnecessary because ‘market corrections have already begun.’” That’s essentially true.

Oregonian political blogger Jeff Mapes said Huffman “seemed a bit disheartened to find that the Democrats are already digging into his archives. ‘I've got such a vast amount of stuff I've written, much of which, frankly, I don't remember,’ he told me.  He said much of it was part of an ‘ongoing academic conversation’ about issues, and he said he's sure he's contradicted himself at times.  ‘It's easy to take something out of context,’ he concluded.”

Welcome to politics, Jim. As Mr. Dooley said, it ain’t beanbag.

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