In statement, Lugar defends campaign while criticizing partisan environment
May 8th, 2012
09:45 PM ET
9 years ago

In statement, Lugar defends campaign while criticizing partisan environment

(CNN) - Six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, who CNN projected would lose his bid for the GOP Senate nomination in Indiana, issued the following statement shortly after his concession speech Tuesday night:

I would like to comment on the Senate race just concluded and the direction of American politics and the Republican Party. I would reiterate from my earlier statement that I have no regrets about choosing to run for office. My health is excellent, I believe that I have been a very effective Senator for Hoosiers and for the country, and I know that the next six years would have been a time of great achievement. Further, I believed that vital national priorities, including job creation, deficit reduction, energy security, agriculture reform, and the Nunn-Lugar program, would benefit from my continued service as a Senator. These goals were worth the risk of an electoral defeat and the costs of a hard campaign.

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. They also will speculate whether we were guilty of overconfidence.

The truth is that the headwinds in this race were abundantly apparent long before Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy. One does not highlight such headwinds publically when one is waging a campaign. But I knew that I would face an extremely strong anti-incumbent mood following a recession. I knew that my work with then-Senator Barack Obama would be used against me, even if our relationship were overhyped. I also knew from the races in 2010 that 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.

We undertook this campaign soberly and we worked very hard in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to overcome these challenges. There never was a moment when my campaign took anything for granted. This is why we put so much effort into our get out the vote operations.

Ultimately, the re-election of an incumbent to Congress usually comes down to whether voters agree with the positions the incumbent has taken. I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.

These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I also advanced several propositions that were considered heretical by some, including the thought that Congressional earmarks saved no money and turned spending power over to unelected bureaucrats and that the country should explore options for immigration reform.

It was apparent that these positions would be attacked in a Republican primary. But I believe that they were the right votes for the country, and I stand by them without regrets, as I have throughout the campaign.

From time to time during the last two years I heard from well-meaning individuals who suggested that I ought to consider running as an independent. My response was always the same: I am a Republican now and always have been. I have no desire to run as anything else. All my life, I have believed in the Republican principles of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and trade expansion. According to Congressional Quarterly vote studies, I supported President Reagan more often than any other Senator. I want to see a Republican elected President, and I want to see a Republican majority in the Congress. I hope my opponent wins in November to help give my friend Mitch McConnell a majority.

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. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. 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.
This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he 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.

Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. 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.

Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.

Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.

I don't remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.

I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that.

As someone who has seen much in the politics of our country and our state, I am able to take the long view. I have not lost my enthusiasm for the role played by the United States Senate. Nor has my belief in conservative principles been diminished. I expect great things from my party and my country. I hope all who participated in this election share in this optimism.

Filed under: Richard Lugar
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. NameDem4Lugar

    Bravo Dick Lugar, most excellent observations that should be taken to heart by partisans on all sides. I often disagreed with you but always respected you. Thanks so much for your many years of patriotic service. Best wishes for whatever lies in your future.

    May 8, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  2. Name. jkuehn

    Very well stated. While I lean Democrat, the loss of such a well respected centrist is our national loss.

    May 8, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  3. JDills

    A win for the Tea Party in May will guarantee a win for the Democrats in November. For the past year, the TeaPublicans have shown that they cannot govern because they will not compromise. This is not what Americans want, we want a government that comes together to do what is best for the country. We do not want a government that goes out of its way to do nothing.

    May 8, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  4. T. Sees

    Heroic, dignified, and Brave!!! I would expect nothing less from one of the last great statesman. Enjoy your 6 years away from the senate and please consider running again next time. Principled moderates are the only thing that will restore this country to Her greatness. Well done mon frere!!!

    May 8, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  5. mike

    i am glad he got beat...democrats want to see america diminished....a true american wants us to be the everything....obama has redistributed the wealth....destroying our military...the democrats want to control every aspect of ur life...they do not think we can think for ourself...but we can and are watch out in november....eliminate the rinos....

    May 8, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  6. T. Sees

    Dignified, brave, and dare I say heroic!!! Principled moderates are the only hope for restoring America to Her greatness. Your mind and energy are still in tip top shape, so please consider another run in 6 years, after the gold rush. In the interim, enjoy every breath of life. You've earned it!!!

    May 8, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  7. Ken

    No, what we want is someone who will stand by the principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense. Usually when establishment republicans talk of bipartisanship and comprise true conservatives lose far more than they get! Go Tea Party Go!

    May 8, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  8. George

    "....the principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense." Ken, the military is a prime example of a large and powerful federal government! More the 50% of our discretionary spending goes towards the military. Where have you been since 2001? You can't cut taxes while invading countries and not expect you deficits to go up, unless you live in a fantasy land.

    May 8, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  9. ABQ

    I agree. It's a sad day when a statesman such as Sen Lugar is defeated in a primary by an opponent who has pledged to bring a higher degree of partisanship to one of the most revered American institutions, and one which affects us all very closely. Hats off to a tremendous career, Sen Lugar.

    May 8, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  10. f'd by 8 yrs of the shrub

    "I am a Republican now and always have been."

    yes, perhaps. but the rest of them seem to be something else now.

    May 8, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  11. Rob Rubin

    Well said by Sen. Lugar. And he makes an extremely valid point in noting that Reagan compromised with Democrats on tax increases to get things he wanted. Where would Reagan stand today?

    I'm sorry, but today's GOP is completely the ones responsible for the stalemate we have. You don't see Democrats signing silly pledges and boxing themselves into a corner. They are the ones constantly willing to compromise – even Obama put Social Security and Medicare reform on the table if he could get concessions from Republicans, but they said no.

    Now, the GOP is going to let student loan interest double because they don't want to give up wealthy tax breaks.

    Have people not learned from 2010 till now that the GOP of today has no interest in helping anyone who isn't a millionaire?

    May 9, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  12. Ken

    George.............We need to keep our nation strong. I personally agree in that we don't need to be stationed in every foreign country in the world. We should pull out of all of the countries that we don't have any business being in and they hate us anyway. But....At the same time there are some battles worth fighting. These cost money yes but the problem is that there is so much we could cut from the federal budget without cutting defense it is beyond belief. We could as the department of education for one. I'm a strong proponent of states rights. The federal government needs to worry about national defense and perhaps our interstate road system. Cut the vast majority of programs the fed is into and give that money back to the states. You as a citizen have a lot more pull in your state and local governments than you do with the politicans in washington. Our founding fathers would roll over in their grave if they new what we have allowed our government to get into. I believe the answer lies not in increasing taxes but in cutting the massive overspending in government by slashing it's power. And give that back to the states.

    May 9, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Name Freddie

    Good news for Dems-more extremist on the Republican ticket will see more swing voters move to Obama. Dems may likely win Senate, House and Whitehouse! I am so happy!!!!!

    May 9, 2012 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  14. Miller

    I never gave mr. Lugar much credit while he was in the senate. That being said my opinion of him changed with this passage. I don't think that he could have said it better. He speaks as though he's not worried about running again or what the republican party has to say about him. He's right about if the republican party as a whole trends to the tea party radicals side they will reduce their own party to irrelevance. Nothing could be better for democrats than to see more tea partiers win primary elections

    May 9, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  15. well

    I dont belong to any party. When I vote, I vote whoever will do the best job. To often people become wrapped up in voting for one party or another. Im sad that my children will grow up in a land where our leaders spend more time arguing than solving problems. Barrack could have done a better job if he was not blocked so hard from doing so. Instead of opposing him at every turn compromise would have gotten alot more done. I wish I could write Bill Clinton on my ballot and have everybody do the same. God Save America

    May 9, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  16. acajunthatsagun

    A thoughtful essay by Senator Lugar. With his reasonableness no wonder he lost in an age of 'my way or the highway".

    May 9, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  17. Name Ernest Sullivan

    Senator Lugar expressed wisdom and has shown a great deal of leadership as he discussed the Tea-party's motive. I applaud him for standing by his principles and leaving the Senate with Dignity.

    Ernest Sullivan

    May 9, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  18. CRW3

    What a refreshingly unfiltered perspective. I am a democrat who has watched with utter shame the bipartisanship that has torn apart this country for many reasons, but most unforgivable is perhaps the bent on so-called "party principals" at the expense of actually governing for the people. By "cleansing" the political conclave of moderates, the system is self-governing like a snake eating its own tail. Few issues in life are absolute. Its a shame that the brightest minds can't use their differing ideologies to innovate rather than destroy. Bravo Mr. Lugar. Thank you for helping me fathom the notion that rational discourse is possible with the other side.

    May 9, 2012 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  19. Name

    Wow! Our country has just now lost one of its most articulate and dedicated public servants.

    May 9, 2012 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  20. Làns danga

    We need moderates law makers to come together to do right right for the country. The fewer moderates we have, the more disfunctional our Congress becomes.

    May 9, 2012 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  21. Truth001

    There is no republican party anymore. It has become the party of extreme too bad that a small percent of the country is to the far right.

    May 9, 2012 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  22. BrianA

    Strong Nat'l Defense = BIG Givernment. Can't have both.

    May 9, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  23. Michael Stout

    This is a perfect example of why Lugar should have won over Mourdock who is a poor choice to say the least. And I'm a Democrat. The GOP is becoming more and more out of touch with the real America every day. Lugar is the latest casualty. Too bad for the country.

    May 9, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  24. john

    thank you for your service,but you make too much sense so your party gives you the boot Democrat in TX

    May 9, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  25. Wow

    This democrat thinks this republican just made one of the most thoughtful, clear statements about the political climate he's heard.

    May 9, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
1 2