Tag Archives: Mourdock

Living in Indiana

Yesterday, a county election board ruled that Dick Lugar isn’t eligible to vote using the address of the house he sold in the 1970s. (The board declined to find criminal intent, since the Lugars had relied upon opinions issued by two Attorney Generals.)

I’m not about to delve into the question whether the board–which evidently relied on its own attorney’s analysis of the relevant statutes–was right or wrong. But it’s hard not to wonder what’s really going on with this particular line of attack.

This morning’s Star editorialized

Such is the state of politics in 2012. Instead of building a philosophical and intellectual case as to why Richard Mourdock is a superior candidate, the Republican primary challenger’s campaign and his supporters have instead chosen to wallow in side issues such as the status of Lugar’s residency.

The easy reply to that observation is that it would be pretty hard to build a case for Mourdock being a superior candidate; the man is a bad joke.

The attack on Lugar’s residency is obviously intended to drive home the argument that the Senator is out-of-touch. (Whatever the technical legal resolution, the “optics,” as the political types say, are awful–and effective.) Being out of touch, having been in Washington too long, are time-tested themes of many campaigns, and whether this one has taken the attack a step too far will ultimately be decided by primary voters who will either agree with the charge or recoil from the way it has been pursued.

I have been saddened by Lugar’s pandering to the ever-more-rabid GOP base, but I am even more saddened and appalled by what that base considers evidence that Lugar is out of touch. The list of complaints includes things like supporting nuclear arms negotiations, voting for the President’s Supreme Court nominees, and being willing to compromise with the Democrats from time to time in order to get the nation’s business done.

In other words, they want to remove him for being a sane (albeit very conservative) lawmaker who actually understands what elected officials in a democratic system are supposed to do.

I’m not sure that I live in Indiana any more. Politically, it feels more like the Twilight Zone.



The Sad Story of Dick Lugar

As Indiana’s Republican Senate primary unfolds, I can’t help thinking of T.S. Eliot’s famous line: “This is the way the world ends–not with a bang, but a whimper.”

One of my earliest forays into political life was during Dick Lugar’s first campaign for Mayor. I supported him as he moved into national politics, and even after I left the Republican party. I didn’t always agree with his positions–Tea Party rhetoric to the contrary, his career trajectory has moved him steadily to the right–but he was reasoned and reasonable, and clearly an expert in foreign affairs. I could and did differ with him on issues like gay rights and abortion, but I respected him.

It must be galling for someone of his stature and intellect to be the underdog against a candidate like Mourdock, a small man supported by the angry mob that currently comprises the GOP base. The fact that over 80% of Indiana’s Republican County chairmen support Mourdock not only explains current internal polls showing Lugar losing, it speaks volumes about what the Grand Old Party has become.

So Lugar has come to the sort of decision-point we all face at one time or another: to face the challenge with integrity–increasing the liklihood he’ll lose–or to grovel before the know-nothings and hope to salvage one final term.

He’s chosen to grovel.

This morning’s paper reported that Lugar has withdrawn his sponsorship of the Dream Act, a measure that would have been relatively uncontroversial in saner times. The Dream Act permits undocumented young people who were brought to this country as babies to gain citizenship by graduating college or serving in the Armed Forces. It recognizes that the charges of criminality leveled at adults who entered the country illegally are unfair when applied to children who had no choice in the matter. Most of those children have grown up as Americans, and have never lived anywhere else. Whatever one’s views on the larger immigration issues, punishing children for the acts of their parents is gratuitous and cruel and serves no purpose. But in our bipolar world, any recognition of complexity, any evidence of human compassion, is “liberal” and therefore unacceptable to those in the GOP most likely to vote in the primary.

The sad part of all this is that Lugar will never be able to satisfy the culture warriors and Tea Party voters who are enraged at his support for weapons reductions and treaties, for his willingness to follow the Constitution and vote to confirm qualified Supreme Court candidates with whom he might personally disagree. These are voters for whom any acknowledgment of nuance and/or complexity is “elitist” (or, if you are black, “uppity”). Rather than regaining their support, Lugar is disappointing the moderate Republicans who are left–the very voters whose larger-than-usual turnout for the primary is his best hope of prevailing.

Going into this primary, Lugar’s choice was simple, if painful. He could defend a long and illustrious career as a statesman, or he could try–desperately and probably unsuccessfully–to  recast himself as one of the current pack of radical ideologues.

Evidently, he’s chosen to go out, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Beyond Redemption

According to Political Animal , a few weeks ago, former senator and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth (R) expressed some concern about the direction of his party. “If Dick Lugar,” Danforth said, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

I think we’ve crossed that threshhold.

Only in an alternative universe would Dick Lugar be considered liberal, or Richard Mourdock–the troglodyte running against him–be considered credible.

When Lugar was Mayor of Indianapolis, he governed from the middle, but since his first term in the Senate, he has moved steadily to the right. He has routinely voted against equal rights for gay people, including most recently against repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and he has been on the wrong side (in my view) on health care reform. He carried a lot of water for the  Bush Administration, despite the fact that he had to know how misguided its foreign policies were.   If he seems “liberal,” it is only by comparison to people who are certifiably insane–the people who want to build fences along the (southern) border, want to put women back in the kitchen (barefoot and pregnant), and want the U.S. to withdraw from all international treaties.

Mourdock is best known for an embarrassing lawsuit arising out of the Chrysler bankruptcy. After making an ill-advised investment in Chrysler stock, he was Indiana’s representative to the creditors committee–the group of creditors who negotiate in the bankruptcy proceedings on behalf of those owed money. Mourdock signed an agreement to abide by whatever agreement the committee reached; nevertheless, he made a lot of noise objecting to the agreement after the court approved it, and he brought a lawsuit to overturn it. The suit was thrown out, as any first-year law student would have anticipated, but the most ironic aspect of the whole mess was that Indiana would have received less had his lawsuit been successful than it received under the creditors’ agreement. Now this clown is playing to the Tea Party wing of the party–where he clearly belongs.

In a sane world, Lugar would have no problem winning a Republican primary, but this isn’t a sane world. There are a lot of frightened, angry voters out there, and most of them are members of the GOP. Plus, friends who are privy to the party’s powers-that-be tell me that the once-vaunted Lugar office staff no longer responds to constituent contacts or party requests the way they used to. (The words “insulated” and “arrogant” come up fairly routinely.)

I hope the Democrats field a strong candidate–something they haven’t done for quite a while–because we are witnessing the implosion of a once-powerful political party that may indeed be beyond redemption.

As the World Turns…

My very first “official” political position was as chair of something called “the 71 Committee for Lugar for Mayor.” It was a Jewish community group supporting Dick Lugar for Mayor back in 1971.  I continued to support Lugar over the years, even as he became more and more conservative, and even after I left the GOP, partly because he is so solid on foreign policy and partly because the Democrats have thus far failed to offer any strong candidates as alternatives.

The recent Tea Party opposition to Lugar’s re-election is a perfect example of what has happened to the Republican Party. As the party has become more radical, officeholders have found it necessary to pander to a base that is increasingly composed of rabid ideologues. Highly intelligent people like Dick Lugar have had to choose between playing to the sensibilities of that base and losing elective office. Thus far, Lugar has managed that balancing act pretty adroitly; he’s been sufficiently right-wing on domestic issues to placate the crazies, and that strategy has allowed him to pursue the sensible, nuanced international policies for which he is known.

However, the right wing of the party has gotten steadily more intolerant of any deviation from their “agenda” of bumper sticker platitudes, and increasingly suspicious of anything that looks like intellect. The continued “Palin-ization” of the GOP can be seen in its increased hostility to complexity, its dismissal of science and rejection of empirical evidence, and its absolute opposition to anything that smacks of “elitism”—which apparently is defined by actually knowing what you are talking about, or (God forbid) having a degree from a decent university.

So now we have Richard Mourdock, our intellectually-limited State Treasurer, announcing a primary challenge to Lugar. Mourdock’s last foray into public policy was his lawsuit to withdraw Indiana from the Chrysler bankruptcy settlement negotiated by the creditors—despite the fact that he had previously signed a binding agreement to abide by whatever settlement the creditors’ committee negotiated and despite the further fact that Indiana did better financially under that settlement than it would have if he won the lawsuit.

In a sane world, Lugar would make short work of someone like Mourdock, and the odds still favor that result. But given the current mindlessness and anger of the Tea Party folks, and the fact that they are far more likely to come out to vote in a primary than the party’s dispirited moderates, I would be reluctant to place a very big wager.