WASHINGTON – In an age that worships whiz kids from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is widely described as a man ahead of his times, a thoughtful leader in the international arena who valued cooperation over partisanship.
Thats what made the 80-year-old Lugars decisive defeat – after 35 years in the Senate – in Tuesdays Indiana primary so painful for Republicans and Democrats alike.
Im just devastated, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview Wednesday. He is such a fine person and has made so many contributions to this countrys security and to the security of the entire world through the work hes done on nuclear non-proliferation.
I just cant imagine the U.S. Senate without Dick Lugar, so Ill miss him terribly.
In 1991, he collaborated with former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn on landmark legislation to help the former Soviet states destroy and secure their weapons of mass destruction, a program still going full bore today.
Nunn, the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, described a working relationship that seems rare in contemporary Washington.
We developed a sense of trust, and we developed a sense of cooperation, Nunn said in an interview. Trust in politics is misunderstood today. Some take it as meaning you compromised your principles. Dick Lugar never compromised his principles in anything we did together, nor did I.
We found ways to work together because we examined the facts and let the facts have a bearing on the conclusions, and Im afraid in todays political world too often people start with the conclusions and then hunt facts to justify them.
Lugars loss was a blow to the diminishing center of the Senate that has searched for compromise. Moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, stunned her party this year when she announced she wouldnt seek another term. At least a handful of moderate Democrats and one independent wont be back next year – Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jim Webb of Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. All opted for retirement.
Two other moderate Democrats – Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana – are the most vulnerable this election cycle.
Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who easily beat Lugar, is unapologetic in his scorn for compromise. He simply wants to beat the other side, an approach Lugar dismissed in his concession speech as ineffective.
In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said Lugar refused to allow this march to an orthodoxy about ideology and partisan politics to get in the way of what he thought was the responsibility of a senator and ... the need of the country to have people come together and find the common ground.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said of Lugars defeat: Its a sad day on both sides of the aisle.