Lugar’s Opponent: Republican Straw Men

An op-ed in the Indianapolis Star claims that US Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN)’s major opponent is the Republican base, not challenger Richard Mourdock. Let’s clear up some of the silliness that Matthew Tully passes off as argument. Actually, Tully’s arguments are fine, it’s his carefully engineered premises that are the problem. He lists 5 points supposedly brought against Lugar, managing to cast each in such a way that it is easiest for him later to bat down.

  1. That Lugar’s willingness to work at times with (egads!) Democrats, and his inability to see the world strictly through a simplistic partisan prism, make him an unsuitable Republican.
  2. That the U.S. senator’s interest in working on the United States’ biggest problems — and, yes, they include global issues — is a sign that he has forgotten about Indiana.
  3. That he is a bad Republican because, while helping to reduce the nuclear threat from the former Soviet Union, he hasn’t spent enough time pandering to the Hoosier GOP on the chicken-dinner political circuit.
  4. That “compromise” — until recently the trademark of a statesman — is now a bad, bad word.
  5. That the senator is too old.
  1. It’s not that the Senator doesn’t see things through a “simplistic partisan prism”, it’s the impression that he has abandoned the GOP and adopted the Senate’s “Mod Squad” as his own quasi party. When votes come up in the Senate requiring Republicans to show discipline, Lugar is as likely to side with the bloc of moderate Republicans and Democrats against the conservative Republicans. The tougher the vote, the more likely he is to break ranks. By exploiting the absence of solid Republican minority, the Mod Squad leverages Senate rules to exercise control over how things are done.
  2. Our Constitutional system of checks and balances, the Framers even balanced our interests as citizens in terms of our Federal government, the People, and the States against one another. In that balance, the Senate is supposed to represent not the U.S. Government or the People, but the interest of the States.  Dick Lugar should be fighting for the institutional interests of the people of Indiana, not for those of a certain group of moderate Senators.  And claiming condescendingly that Senator Lugar has been working on “global issues” may sound good on the surface, but if Senator Lugar wants to work on “global issues” he should seek an appointment to the State Department or United Nations, where his decades of experience could be put to use.
  3. Though Senator Lugar supported the Reagan policies that ended the Cold War, having been a reliable if philosophically weak political ally of a Republican President in the 1980s doesn’t grant one a permanent right to a Senate seat. Lugar has long since lost touch with the values of the pe0ple who put him in office.  And dismissing relations with the GOP grassroots  — the people who put him in office — as “pandering to the Hoosier GOP on the chicken-dinner political circuit” reveals Lugar’s cynical attitude about the people he expects to support him.
  4. It isn’t compromise per se  that is the problem, it is Lugar’s habit of preemptive surrender. In the recent battle over the 1-year extension of the payroll tax holiday, for instance, Lugar was one of the first Senators rejecting the House GOP position in favor of the Democrats’ unworkable 2-month extension. The people need to know what the laws are going to be, and do not want to have to look to Washington every two months to figure them out. But mainly, Lugar’s pathological elevation of compromise over standing firm on the right policy caused, as it so often does, a bad policy to triumph.
  5. It is not the Senator’s age, but his overextended term in Washington, that is the issue. Casting it in terms of his age may play well with older voters, but a man decades younger who had been away from Indiana as long as Lugar has would be just as prone to the same weaknesses as he is.

Dick Lugar has been around a long time. That’s not so awful for a Senator, but neither is it really very good for Indiana.

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