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May 12, 2011 9:30 AM Lugar had a DREAM, but not anymore

By Steve Benen

Less than two months ago, Sen. Dick Lugar (R) of Indiana was still touting his support for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), and with good cause.

Every year, tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants graduate from American high schools, but are quickly stuck — they can’t qualify for college aid, and they can’t work legally. America is the only home they’ve ever known — in most cases, they were, at a very young age, brought into the country illegally by their parents — but at 18, they have few options.

The DREAM Act, which has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support, provides a path to citizenship for these young immigrants — graduate from high school, get conditional permanent residency status, go to college or serve in the military, and become eligible for citizenship.

In late March, Lugar, one of the strongest Republican supporters of the bill, not only boasted about being a co-sponsor of the measure, but said he hoped it will actually pass this year.

And then he got a primary challenger.

As the politics of the 2012 election heat up, GOP Sen. Richard Lugar declined today to join Democrats in reintroducing an immigration measure he’s long supported.

Lugar has for years co-sponsored with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a bill to let illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States earn legal status through college or the military.

But Lugar, who is facing challenges from both a Republican and a moderate Democrat in his bid for a seventh term, did not sign onto the latest introduction of the legislation, announced today by Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lugar’s spokesperson said the senator is no longer supporting the bill he helped write because Democrats “politicized” the issue. I’m not sure what that means.

In the bigger picture, though, I’m not sure whether to be angry about Lugar’s DREAM Act flip-flop or to feel sorry for him. The senator wants to do the right thing, and understands how worthwhile the legislation would be, but suddenly can’t be responsible because right-wing activists in his home state will kick him out of work unless he panders to them shamelessly.

We’re starting to see the same thing with Olympia Snowe (R) in Maine, who’s moving to the right, and Orrin Hatch (R) in Utah, who’s already dropped his strong support for the DREAM Act and is quickly becoming one of the institution’s most buffoonish hacks. Both are facing credible primaries, and so both have given up their decency.

Now, we see Lugar starting to do the same thing. It’s quite sad.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on May 12, 2011 9:39 AM:

    You know what stupider, but more frightening, than lemming followers following lemming leaders?

    It's lemming leaders following lemming followers.

  • Kathryn on May 12, 2011 9:54 AM:

    The GOP base appears to consist of uneducated or mis-educated people, encouraged and created by so called religious leaders and just pure evil media liars, this is no news to participants in our daily discussions.

    One wonders what would happen if a Lugar or Snowe dared to speak the truth to their foolish electorate. Presumably, both Indiana and Maine have closed primaries. The only answer I see is for states to allow the unaffiliated to vote in primaries. In Virginia, no one registers under any party and in primaries all can vote, but must choose either the Democratic or Republican ballot only. Virginia is far from a role model (Cuccinelli was elected) but this does seem like a better model than straight party line voting in primaries. The GOP base makes up, I estimate, less than 30% of voting public but they control the GOP in Washington and are ushering in the demise of our Republic.

  • Jim Naureckas on May 12, 2011 9:54 AM:

    You know, I've always found "buffoonish hack" to be a pretty apt description of Orrin Hatch. Not sure how much decency he ever had to trade in.

  • FRP on May 12, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Jim Naureckas
    Aside from his work with the late senator Kennedy , Seconded !

    Yes to Preview
    Ouch to Captcha

    And under the water there is water

  • DAY on May 12, 2011 10:15 AM:


    The New and Improved Tea Party slogan: "Hatred is our most important product."

  • oddjob on May 12, 2011 10:20 AM:

    "...quickly becoming...."?

    Don't you mean "is"?

  • whichwitch on May 12, 2011 10:25 AM:

    That's what happens when Fox & Limbaugh run the party. And they're increasingly shaping MSM talking points too. GMA reported on the Common "controversy" this morning. Disgusting, hate-filled tripe.

  • SadOldVet on May 12, 2011 10:28 AM:

    First, a correction to Benen's posting...

    But Lugar, who is facing challenges from both a Republican and a moderate Democrat in his bid for a seventh term...

    Should read...

    But Lugar, who is facing challenges from both the Tea Party and a DINO in his bid for a seventh term

    As a person residing in Indiana who used to respect Dick Lugar, it is very disappointing to see what he has become. Since Obama took the oath of office, Lugar has become another of the repuke sheep in the senate who vote according to the directions of Mitch McConnell.

    re day...

    I still believe that the correct motto of the tea partiers is I don't know what I want, but I want it now! And get rid of the n!gger!

  • blondie on May 12, 2011 10:33 AM:

    Dick Lugar will be 80 years old in April 2012, and he's served in the Senate for 36 years.

    In order to hold onto his seat, he will pander and grovel to the ignorant, fearful, and downright mean people in his party's right wing. (An aside: This must be why Congress wants to raise the retirement age - they can't imagine anyone not loving their jobs like they do!)

    Instead of using his credentials, experience, and gravitas to actually educate and inform his constituents, Lugar is trying to run to the head of the parade going off the cliff. Instead of making his stand, staking his career's reputation on doing what's right, being willing to risk retirement (at 80, remember!), he will in his last years repudiate everything he's accomplished.

    As a staunch liberal who's been around Washington for decades, I see the degeneration of Congress as an institution being the single biggest source of our woes as a country. Lugar's behavior is the latest demonstration - and one of the saddest.

  • TS on May 12, 2011 10:51 AM:

    @steve: "The senator wants to do the right thing, and understands how worthwhile the legislation would be, but suddenly canít be responsible"

    Can't? It is his choice. And as blondie pointed out, he is almost 80 years and has spent 36 years in the senate. What is he still pandering for? I guess staying in the senate until the very end is really more important than any actual policy positions.

  • Jill on May 12, 2011 12:31 PM:

    I would like to believe that there are politicians out there who will stand on their integrity and not pander shamelessly to the lunatics, just to keep their jobs. I understand the "but if I lose the election, someone who will be WORSE on this will be elected" rationale, but I'm not buying it -- when you continue to pander, you *become* that WORSE politician you think you're trying to defeat. It's pathetic.

    Yes, at this point in time, standing up for what's right, in the Republican party, will lose you the election. How can that be worse than losing your soul to stay in office?

    I have more and more respect for Bernie Sanders, as time goes by.

  • OKDem on May 12, 2011 1:51 PM:

    If Luger wanted one more term, couldn't he run as an Independent? I find it hard to believe he couldn't pull a plurality of the vote.

    What I really can not fathom is why Snowe did take the Independent route. Does anyone know if Maine has obstacles to third party candidates stricter than the rest of New England?

  • John on May 12, 2011 3:27 PM:

    Both are facing credible primaries, and so both have given up their decency.

    This is assuming the two of them, along with Lugar, had a basic sense of decency to begin with. That they tossed their previous (humane) positions out the window in the blink of an eye to pander to hateful, bigoted extremists shows what kind of low people they really are. Sad, indeed.

  • JS on May 12, 2011 3:36 PM:

    What would be sad would be to lose a good, thoughtful conservative of honor from a reliably "red" state.

    Hiney birds that turn tail and run to the base like McCain did deserve the ignominy that comes from proving that it was the 30+ years that were the fraud all along.

    At least Arlen Specter gets to go down in history for being a decisive vote for (near) Universal Health Care, and health care was an issue he'd been working on for many years. He lost his bid to stay in office after a party switch, but he held his respect. McCain held his office, but his respect?

    Let's just say that I'd hate to be Sen. Walnuts thinking about his legacy while trying to get to sleep at night.

    (Lugar does deserve a nod for his leadership on the new START treaty, but that's about it.)

  • josef on May 12, 2011 3:53 PM:

    Iím not sure whether to be angry about Lugarís DREAM Act flip-flop or to feel sorry for him.

    Really? You're not sure? I have nothing but contempt for his actions. Does he really think that a tea-bagging primary opponent won't beat him up with his support of the DREAM Act anyway? Idiot. Try showing some integrity, Lugar.

    Sidebar: Opera, one of the browsers that I use, crashes with your new comment system. This doesn't happen on any other site, and it didn't happen with the old Washington Monthly site. Loving the re-design...

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