News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 11, 2012

EDITORIAL: Sen. Lugar’s compelling message

We would be wise to ponder his words

The Tribune-Star

---- — Richard Lugar, no stranger to reading political tea leaves, undoubtedly knew for weeks that defeat was coming Tuesday night in his primary fight for re-election against a more-conservative-than-thou opponent. A statement Lugar released just hours after his loss of titantic proportions indicates that the six-term incumbent saw the reality even before he knew Richard Mourdock was to be his opponent this May.

Before tea partiers revel too much and before we as a state move on to the now quite compelling fall election between Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly, we owe Sen. Lugar the courtesy of considering his comments about the state of politics, political money and intransigence that ever more control Washington, D.C. You who align with the tea party especially owe Lugar, whom you say you respect, the courtesy to consider his points.

Consider, please, three excerpts from Lugar’s comments. (We are publishing the entire statement online at In the left navigation list, go to Opinion, then look for Flashpoint.)

‘Purification exercise’

... Analysts will speculate about whether our campaign strategies were wise. Much of this will be based on conjecture by pundits who don’t fully appreciate the choices we had to make based on resource limits, polling data, and other factors. The truth is that the headwinds in this race were abundantly apparent long before Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy. ... I knew that I would face an extremely strong anti-incumbent mood following a recession. ... I also knew ... I was a likely target of Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and other Super Pacs dedicated to defeating at least one Republican as a purification exercise to enhance their influence over other Republican legislators. ...

‘Unrelenting partisan mindset’

... If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. ... He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

... [H]e will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise. ...

‘Independent views, constructive compromise’

 ... Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues. ...

Some have portrayed Lugar’s election night statement as harsh toward Mourdock. In fact, Lugar was being direct, on point, instructive, accurate — even helpful, if Mourdock and the forces that propel him would but listen.

The Mourdock camp also needs to understand that he was nominated by just 9 percent of Indiana’s registered voters (roughly 400,000 of 4.4 million registrants), which is not the mandate tea partiers may interpret from Tuesday’s results, especially if the 262,000 who voted for Lugar were to vote for Donnelly in the fall. To win, Mourdock will need to turn at least some of those Lugar voters — which surely included Democrats and independents. And take the wrong nonpartisan position, Mr. Mourdock, and the tea party also will, ironically, come and take you away.