Understandably, anti-war libertarians and traditional conservatives watching the Senate races have focused on Kentucky’s Rand Paul. But there are good reasons to look at Oregon’s Jim Huffman as well. He’s a law professor and served as Dean of the Lewis and Clark school of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law.
He has given reasons for conservatives to feel slightly uneasy. He is a moderate on social issues: he is pro-choice and supports same-sex civil unions. On immigration he supports funding efforts to enforce current immigration law, but also a guest-worker program. And he is wary of the populist turn in the conservative movement. He told FrumForum, ““My campaign people, when I started, wanted to turn me into a tub-thumping firebrand, and that’s not just in my personality. Nor do I like where that ultimately takes us.”
But in his last debate with the incumbent, Senator Ron Wyden, Huffman was asked about spending on the National Guard and and the military generally. He responded this way:
I, too would be a strong supporter of the National Guard, I think it’s a very critical part of the community and of the state. As for funding I think it has to be part of a larger examination of military funding in this country. I think it’s a mistake as we found way back we found before the base closure act to have members of Congress constantly lobbying to keep bases open or military installations open or funding in their states just because its funding in their state, it needs to be part of a comprehensive national review of how we spend money in defense. I have no doubt there’s a vast amount of money wasted in defense, but at the same time I think it’s the most important thing the federal government does, and it has to be something it does all over the country. So I would be a very strong supporter of the National Guard but I’d also take a very sharp pencil to looking at the defense budget, because I think Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said there was a military industrial complex, and this continues to be a problem we have to deal with.
Huffman’s answer demonstrates the best of the conservative tradition, and the Republican one as well. He acknowledged that defense is the most important function of the federal government. But he seemed to recognize what TAC contributor Andrew Bacevich calls “the limits of power.” It is vital for traditional conservatives to recognize that pork isn’t just about bridges and statues, but military bases and war spending as well.
Whereas other Republican candidates are playing up fears of faraway threats in their campaign materials, Huffman’s stated foreign policy positions are about restraint. He says military interventions should be undertaken “only where serious American interests are at stake, and only with the advice and consent of the Senate.” He mentions words like sovereignty and independence, two concepts overlooked by the right’s internationalists, but that should be the twin pillars of a sensible conservative foreign policy. Traditional conservatives should encourage Huffman to keep up this line of thinking.