During the years my desk was not outside his office door, hed call on the telephone and say, Mark, this is Dick.
Yes, sir, Id reply. I never addressed him by his first name. I called him The Senator. I always will.
Richard Green Lugar, Indianas longest-serving U.S. senator and member of Congress, is the most uncommon of common men. He is not pompous or vainglorious. He is the classic Hoosier – down-home, calm but focused.
Many elected officials want to be addressed by their first name. This informality never fit The Senator. He was, and is, something different: a public servant who embodies the role of a selfless representative of the American people and our republican Constitution. The Senator never required staff to use his honorific; he earned it.
The Senator is a throwback. Hes from a time when public service was important. After working for him in the 1980s in Congress, I answered the siren song of K Street and the lobbying world. One day at lunch in the ornate senators dining room, I detailed how he could make millions of dollars consulting. The Senator smiled with a wry grin. No, thank you. Money was not his motivation.
Many members of Congress used their positions to make millions. Check the ethics reports to see who enriched themselves while in office. Not The Senator.
The Senator is not cashing in now either. His long career cut off, he will teach and continue to serve.
The Senator embraced other Hoosier and American traits. He works long and hard. He excels on five hours sleep and his daily running regime. At 80, The Senator is as sharp as ever, still working out and dealing with the worlds challenges.
The Senator rarely raises his voice in anger. I heard him curse only once or twice, and never with a word stronger than damn. Thats when he was really angry. This confused many staffers attuned to stronger language. They wrongly concluded they got off easy when he said, I dont want to belabor this point, or That is too clever by a half.
I cant forget his punctuality. As a young naval intelligence officer, The Senator every other morning briefed Adm. Arleigh Burke, a World War II hero and chief of naval operations, then the premier intelligence-gathering organization in the U.S. government. Ensign Lugar, in his dress whites, stood outside Burkes Pentagon office at 7 a.m. when Burke opened the door.
During his tough first re-election campaign in 1982, I told The Senator I would knock on his hotel room door at such and such an hour before going to a breakfast meeting. I calibrated my wristwatch. I stood in front of his door until the appropriate time and knocked. He opened the door immediately. He was standing there ready to serve.
While a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, England, in the post-World War II era, The Senator debated other students whether it was noble for a gentleman to serve God and country. For an Eagle Scout, this was a no-brainer. He went to the U.S. Embassy in London and enlisted in the Navy.
Thats The Senators way. It confused and confounded his opposition. When he was elected mayor of Indianapolis in 1967, a political cartoon depicted him in a Boy Scout uniform wearing shorts walking up the steps to City Hall. Cigar-smoking opponents to reform hid with knives drawn. Im still here, The Senator said many times. Theyre not.
The Senator has an extraordinary inner drive and competitive determination. He learned to control his emotions in college. Youthful displays of temper or frustration were tamed long before he entered public life. He stopped wrapping golf clubs around trees and smashing pingpong tables.
His calm temperament confounded political opponents and charmed Hoosier voters. Cable TV pundits claim this no longer works in a political culture of hot words and sharp elbows. I hope not. The Senators style needs to be embraced by future generations, not rejected by mean-spirited, self-serving political consultants and media hounds.
The Senator, as a political alchemist, melds patience, calculation and determination. In the 1985 debate over sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, The Senator concluded the bill was headed for defeat. He pulled it. Opponents on both sides went nuts. The Senator was calm. The next year he passed the same legislation, famously overrode a veto by President Reagan and made history.
As his spokesman, I found The Senators focus on nuances hard to promote. News is the cutting edge. The Senator rounds every political edge to ensure progress and results.
During the Philippine democratic revolt in 1986, The Senator did not want to call the election he had been asked to monitor for fear Ferdinand Marcos would cancel it. He met with President Reagan in the Oval Office. I sat in the West Wing reception room until summoned upstairs to the White House political directors office. My old Lugar colleague, Mitch Daniels, who had hired me, was not happy. I did my best to explain the situation.
Later that day, President Reagan said at a news conference there was fraud on both sides. The media went crazy. Did Senator Lugar tell President Reagan there was fraud on both sides? No, I said. The president is mistaken. Mitch yelled at me over the phone. I saw my career pass by. I was road kill.
Then The Senator held a news conference in South Bend. He backed me up. My career flourished. Who could ask for more? Thank you, Sir.