Political Animal

Blog

October 23, 2011 10:45 AM ‘Beyond redemption’

By Steve Benen

About a year 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.”

That was 11 months ago. Soon after, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock launched a Republican primary challenge to Lugar, and most of the state’s GOP county chairmen and its state party executive committee threw its support to Mourdock, not the incumbent.

George Will takes a look at the primary fight in his column today, and notes that Lugar’s lengthy career is in real jeopardy.

Lugar has cast almost 13,000 Senate votes, so everyone has something about which to complain, and almost every conservative particularly dislikes one vote, that for the Troubled Assets Relief Program. The political center — of the nation and the GOP — has moved rightward since Lugar became a senator in 1977, and in 2010 the American Conservative Union rated Lugar the fifth most liberal Republican senator, and the National Journal ranked him the fourth. This, even though he opposed the stimulus, cap-and-trade (Indiana is a coal state), Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, is pro-life and has voted eight times for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Mourdock, however, earned the admiration of national conservatives, and of people who are partial to the rule of law, when he rightly, if unsuccessfully, contested in court the terms of Obama’s Chrysler bailout. […]

Lugar’s courtliness and Midwestern aversion to rhetorical flamboyance do not match this moment of fevered politics.

Remember, less than a year ago, one of the Republican Party’s elder statesmen said his party would be “beyond redemption” if Lugar faced a credible primary challenge. And yet, he we are, 11 months later, facing the very real likelihood that Congress’ last respectable conservative will be rejected by his own party for not being right-wing enough.

What’s more, Jacob Heilbrunn recently explained the larger dynamic, in which the Republican foreign-policy establishment may well evaporate in the event of a Lugar defeat. “It isn’t just the career of the Senate’s senior-most Republican that is at stake here; it is an entire tradition of Republican foreign policy that is being repudiated by the party faithful,” Heilbrunn noted.

When it comes to international affairs, Lugar has maintained a degree of seriousness that his party no longer seems capable of fathoming. It is no exaggeration to say the ratification of the New START treaty last year was the direct result of Dick Lugar’s efforts. As far to the right as he is on nearly every issue, this conservative Republican still believes in a U.S. foreign policy that can and should be bipartisan.

It’s one of the reasons much of the GOP base is inclined to end his career next year.

“Beyond redemption,” indeed.

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.

Comments

Post a comment
  • Danp on October 23, 2011 10:52 AM:

    and almost every conservative particularly dislikes one vote, that for the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

    And yet every single elected Republican know what would have happened had Congress not acted. Beyond redemption indeed!

  • DAY on October 23, 2011 10:57 AM:

    I would posit that America's infatuation with the "Reality Show"- from Judge Judy to people eating insects for prizes-has infected not only our critical thinking, but spilled over into politics, as well.

  • berttheclock on October 23, 2011 10:58 AM:

    John Danforth was one of the strongest supporters of Robert Bork during those confirmation hearings mentioned earlier.

  • kevo on October 23, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Jaw dropping WTF moment in our partisan political history!

    Yes, the crazies are zombie-like brain eaters, and they wear Tea Party Republican smiles! -Kevo

  • martin on October 23, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Not going to cry any tears of Lugar. He is part and parcel with the Republican obstructionism. If a different Republican replaces him, the replacement may be loonier, but will still vote to uphold Republican filibusters. Maybe the new guy will be looney enough for Indiana to come to its senses and vote in a Democrat who will fight the right wingers.

  • Ten Bears on October 23, 2011 11:03 AM:

    It has long been my contention we are witnessing the demise of the Republican Party, that the "Republican establishment" is "evaporating". The viciousness, the obstructionism, we see is naught but a desperate hanging in there until your fingernails rip out dog chewing off its tail escapism.

    2012 may very well be The End of the World As We Know It.

  • c u n d gulag on October 23, 2011 11:07 AM:

    martin,
    Don't forget that Indiana already had its version of a radical Socialist/Communist Democratic Senator - Evan Byah.
    The man who could put cocaine to sleep.

    My theory is that Indiana was settled by people for whom the Appalachians were too liberal and insufficiently incestuous - with the exceptions of Don Mattingly and Larry Bird - even if Bird does look like his family tree was more trunk than branches.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 23, 2011 11:09 AM:

    and almost every conservative particularly dislikes one vote, that for the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

    Does this mean Boehner is to be primaried? Didn't he personally vote for TARP and scrounge enough GOBP votes as the House minority leader to get the thing passed?

    What's more, Jacob Heilbrunn recently explained the larger dynamic, in which the Republican foreign-policy establishment may well evaporate in the event of a Lugar defeat.

    Lol. Michelle Bachmann was on the TV (Face the Nation) this morning explaining the outrage of Obama pulling the US out of Iraq, how the President has weakened our standing around the world, and that Iraq needs to be sent a $800 billion dollar bill for the cost of us "liberating" them. You have to marvel at the chutzpah of illegally invading a sovereign nation under false pretenses and then have the audacity of sending the countries people the tab. My wife said, "this is why people hate us over there."

  • Patrick Star on October 23, 2011 11:13 AM:

    John Danforth was also a strong supporter, if not THE strongest supporter, of Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination.
    Can you imagine the foreign policy of the United States being run by the batsh*t crazy Republicans of today? It would be the Crusades all over again.

  • Gandalf on October 23, 2011 11:39 AM:

    Who gives a flying fuck what George Will says. The man is blithering idiot.

    This statement makes absolutely no sense------

    Mourdock, however, earned the admiration of national conservatives, and of people who are partial to the rule of law, when he rightly, if unsuccessfully, contested in court the terms of Obama’s Chrysler bailout. […]

    And shows Will's disconnect from what's actually good for the country what's not.

  • Daryl McCullough on October 23, 2011 12:16 PM:

    It might be interesting to compile a list of conservatives and former Republicans who have become too liberal for the Republican Party, due to its rightward drift. Off the top of my head, I name:

    1. Andrew Sullivan
    2. Bruce Bartlett
    3. Chuck Hagel
    4. David Frum
    5. (blogger) John Cole
    6. Colin Powell

  • berttheclock on October 23, 2011 12:17 PM:

    Clarence Thomas worked for then Attorney General of Missouri Danforth and was an aide for him after Danforth was elected to the US Senate. Yes, he became the Champion of Thomas.

    Just love the ideological passion behind his running as a Republican. He had a ton of money from his families Ralston-Purina money and could do whatever he wanted. He was asked why he chose to run as a Republican, and he commented (according to Wiki) that it was like choosing which movie had the shortest line at a theater. Reminds me of the passion brought by J. C. Watts, who wanted to run for some minor office in Oklahoma after returning from Canadian football. As his father was a Democrat, he thought the Democratic Party would support him. When, for whatever reason, they did not, the RepuGs said they would and he became a RepuG. True passion.

  • Rich on October 23, 2011 12:58 PM:

    Danforth gave us Clarence Thomas in some misguided exercise in affirmative action. If only in that small way, he's been part of the problem and someone should ask him about that rather than treat him as some distinguished figure.

  • tanstaafl on October 23, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Gandalf, I took notice of that same sentence and had the same reaction you did.

    It is so typical of George Will that he will toss in a dig like thatat Democrats or liberals in the middle of a column about something else entirely. And will do so with no attempt to justify his absurd claim.

  • liam foote on October 23, 2011 2:45 PM:

    So, let's see a brokered GOP convention at which reason might prevail and they could plead with Sen. Lugar to accept the nomination. Then it wouldn't much matter if the TP'ers wish to challenge him in an Indiana primary.

    To paraphrase a certain DA's assessment of grand jury tendencies, a considerable percentage of Americans would vote for a ham sandwich before re-electing Mr. Obama. The 2012 election will come down to independents and those leaning toward one party or the other.

    This is where Richard Lugar could be the key. He is from a Midwest state in close proximity to, in fact in the precise center of, a large group of "swing" states, including MN, IA, WI, MI, OH and PA. All of these states, with a total of 80 electoral votes, went for Mr. Obama in 2008.

    If the GOP comes to their senses, Sen. Lugar would give Mr. Obama a serious challenge.

  • nemisten on October 23, 2011 3:44 PM:

    Yet, for all the obituaries being written of the 'old' GOP, their far crazier replacement (let's call it the BatShit Party) seems poised to challenge the Dem's all across the board in 2012.

    Geez, what an f'd up country.

  • clarence swinney on October 23, 2011 5:44 PM:

    Flat Tax am i sane?
    Total National Income is 12,000B ROUNDED
    Total Consumer Spend is 10,000B
    Budget is 3800B
    3800 of 12,000 is 32%
    3800 of 10,000 is 38%

    try selling those
    clarence swinney

  • Schtick on October 23, 2011 6:18 PM:

    AndThenThere'sThat on October 23, 2011 11:09 AM:
    My wife said, "this is why people hate us over there."

    In a discussion of pre-Iraq invasion, I asked everyone, "Don't you ever wonder WHY they hate us so?"
    The answer I got from everyone there was: "No. They hate us because they are crazy and jealous of our freedom."

    I could not make a sentence or statement after that because that was all of the conversation, how crazy and jealous the ragheads were and they didn't want to hear anything else. And we had to invade Iraq because that crazy raghead killed his own people. Perfect tealibans with no brains being mentally fed by Faux Fake and BS Newz. And yes, that is the facebook favorite station for all of them I was with that day.
    How in hell can anyone deal with that type of major stupid? And what scares me the most is that yeah, they vote, too. They make about $60k a year or so, but they vote tealiban and spout tealiban BS. And some have lost their jobs, used up all their unemployment, dipping into their savings, and still support the tealiban 100%.

    crapcha....ginarync Blood....gin flavored?

  • Ray R Irvin on October 23, 2011 6:24 PM:

    I have worked with Sen.Lugar from the time he first ran for Mayor of Indianapolis when he proposed unigov every one thought he was to far to the right but history has shown him to have been correct. I have to it always agreed with but he is one of the brightest people in American politics. His international work with nuclear arms has been so important to the world. He is not a far right or left politicians her is practical and a realest. Something I find lacking in todays GOP. Washington politics will be a far worse place without him and that's hard to imagine but that's true.

  • alix on October 23, 2011 7:17 PM:

    I live in Indiana, and I have no sympathy for Lugar. He's supposed to be this great statesman, this example that there are at least a few smart Repubs. But what's he done the last decade? Kept silent while Bush shoved us into a war that he (Lugar) privately disapproved. Kept quiet about every single crazy thing Bush did or said. Never stood up for his constituency (a rust-belt state). Never stood up for reason or common sense, even though he clearly never personally agreed with the crazy tp-ers.

    He's been a coward for at least a decade. And looks like it didn't do him a bit of good. Maybe if he'd stood up for what he believed, for what was good for his voters, he wouldn't be worried about this attack from the right, because a lot of moderates would have decided to vote in the Repub primary for him. Now, why bother? No one's going to cross party lines to vote for him, because he's shown himself incapable of standing up for his own beliefs. Yeah, he finally came out for the START treaty, his own pet project. that was about it, in 10 years.

  • Doug on October 23, 2011 8:20 PM:

    "The political center - of the nation and the GOP - has moved rightward since Lugar became a senator in 1977..." George Will quoted by Steve Benen

    "The political center - of the punditocracy and the GOP - has moved rightward..."
    Fixed it.
    Lugar, considering the rightwing Republicans in this state, probably WON'T win the primary. The question then becomes whether Mourdock can win in 2012. If it wasn't a Presidential election year, I'd say, after spitting, "yes"; but Obama managed to win Indiana in 2008, so I just don't know...

  • Jon on October 24, 2011 12:52 AM:

    When it comes to international affairs, Lugar has maintained a degree of seriousness that his party no longer seems capable of fathoming

    You'd best drop the qualifications and just admit that their is no degree of seriousness in any area at all that the GOP can fathom any more.

    And there is no degree of GOP foolishness that the mainstream media seems disposed to question any longer.

    Interesting congruence, isn't it?

  • Rich on October 24, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Danforth was Clarence Thomas' sponsor. He's also an Episcopal priest. He bears responsibility for some of this. If he didn't see what an ideological, unethical clod Thomas was, he certainly contributed to the atmosphere. he retired because of "incivility" rather than fight for whatever convictions he has. He seems like the quintessential mainline Protestant clergyman, smug and self-righteous. but without real courage. there's an old joke about "liberal" GOPers (it's that old) which applies to a lot of moderates like Danforth---a man falls over board in a storm, a liberal Republican tosses him a 30 foot rope. The man drowns, but the Republican proudly says he went more than halfway. Danforth is the same sort of guy.

  • Barry on October 26, 2011 7:06 PM:

    I second those who don't think much of Lugar. Probably the only reason he's complaining is that it's his friend who's being primaried. I don't recall him complaining about the rest of the crazy.

  • Citizen Alan on November 04, 2011 2:31 PM:

    At this point, any Republican voter with a brain (I assume there are a few left) should be praying for an Obama win next year. Because if ANY of the Republicans win, it will be such a disaster for the nation that the Democrat who sweeps into office in 2016 really will be the Socialist that Republicans falsely claim Obama to be.

  •  
  •  
  •