Friday, May 11, 2012

Great no longer good enough

In Indiana's primary election Tuesday when Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana lost the U.S. Senate seat he held for 36 years, the rest of us lost a scholar and a statesman to another tea party ideologue.

Sen. Lugar thought he could do what he had always done. He would speak of his accomplishments; party regulars would vote to continue the seniority and political skills that meant good things for their state. But these are different times.

Lugar has to be dumbfounded. The last time he ran, the Democrats did not even bother to put up a candidate against him. This is not to say that Lugar was some political babe in the woods. Yet he was never an ideologue. He picked the battles he was willing to fight.

His top priority for over a decade had been to destroy the stockpiles of nuclear weapons that had become accessible to rogue nations and individuals with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Lugar thought he could do what he had always done. He shared all that he had accomplished as a U.S. senator and assumed that would be enough. He had even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

His reactionary opponents saw this unique honor as just one more character flaw. Nor were they pleased that he worked with the other side of the political aisle, especially with a then-junior senator from Illinois, helping Barack Obama begin to understand the labyrinth that is foreign affairs.

Lugar was and is a conservative and a faithful Republican, but in this era of political bloodletting that was not enough.

The tea party folks were right about Lugar. He would never be one of them, and for that, as well as for his service to the nation as a whole, he deserves our admiration.

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