Wednesday 16 May 2012
I must admit that Dick Lugar wasn’t really on my radar until he lost the Republican Primary on 8 May 2012. After that setback, I think I need to throw the poor guy a bone. And what could be a better consolation prize than being featured on this fine blog!
Richard Green Lugar was born 4 April 1932 in Indianapolis. He was valedictorian of his high-school class (all the way back in 1950). He attended Denison University and then went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship (graduating in 1956). After Oxford he went into the Navy, then politics. He also manages a 600-some acre farm in Marion County, Indiana.
Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis before running for the US Senate. He first ran in 1974 but narrowly lost that election. In 1976 he ran again, winning by a large margin. Lugar was then re-elected five times: in 2006 (when he won his sixth term) he defeated his Libertarian opponent 87% to 13%. The Democrats didn’t even field a candidate! That, my friends, is the power of incumbency.
And yet… nothing lasts forever. In 2012, Lugar was handily defeated by another Dick (Richard Mourdock) in the Republican primary. This primary was basically a repeat of Lugar’s initial 1976 victory, except the shoe was on the other foot. Lugar was defeated 61% to 39%.
Although Lugar is (was) a Republican, he was a decent sort of Republican (aka he understood the meaning of bipartisanship). He also seems to have taken his job seriously – he had a 98% attendance record, which is pretty damn good. He got along well with President Obama and Vice President Biden, even remarking in 2008 that he approved more of Obama’s than McCain’s foreign policy strategies.
Lugar did not toe the line on all Republican policies, which possibly accounts for his primary defeat by a Tea-Partier. For instance, Lugar has an “F” rating from the NRA, which suggests he is a fan of moderate gun control. Furthermore, Lugar supported immigration reform, eschewing the more hardline policies of many of other Republicans. Lugar also voted for President Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court (he was the first Republican to announce his support for Sonia Sotomayor).
On the other hand, Lugar did not vote for Obama’s Health Care Reform and he’s not exactly in favor of abortion (although he’s not rabidly pro-life either, it seems). He also voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and supported the Federal Marriage Amendment. However, he was in favor of the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded federal hate crime statutes to include crimes based on sexual or gender identity.
As someone who is not a Republican, Lugar seems like the kind of Republican I could respect. I can’t expect him to be as liberal as a Democrat (otherwise, he would presumably be a Democrat) or as liberal as a young person (the dude is 80 after all). It is rather depressing that he lost his primary to a guy whose definition of bipartisanship is (I’m paraphrasing here) “Democrats doing what Republicans want them to do.” Somebody get that tea-bagging Dick Mourdock a dictionary!
But sad as it might be to lose a bipartisan Senator, Lugar is 80 years old. It just might be about time to retire. Give the kids a chance to run (or ruin) the country.