The U.S. Senate, once known as the world's greatest deliberative body, will be a diminished institution when Richard Lugar leaves later this year.
Lugar is a fount of knowledge on the most important public policy issues our country faces today, including energy, national security, foreign relations, the federal budget, and agriculture.
Lugar understands that such matters are highly complex, filled with nuance and shades of gray. Finding wise solutions requires consideration of difficult details, good-faith negotiations with people who have different perspectives, and careful legislative craftsmanship. It requires enough humility to acknowledge that no one person has a monopoly on the truth and enough wisdom to reject utopian fantasies that one's political side possesses all the answers.
Wise solutions will not be found by tub-thumping ideologues who could not achieve in 10 lifetimes Lugar's mastery of the critical issues facing America.
Nor will they be found through my-way-or-the-highway posturing that adults should have left behind on the junior high school playground.
In an extraordinary post-primary statement, Lugar eloquently warned Richard Mourdock, his victorious opponent, against sanctimonious rigidity if he is elected senator in November:
"What he has promised in his 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," Lugar continued. "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."
What is conducive to governance is for lawmakers to follow the wise guidance of Edmund Burke, the founder of traditional conservatism, to give the people they represent their best judgment. That requires the courage to think independently, the discipline to master issues thoroughly, the intestinal fortitude to disagree with one's party and constituents when one must, and the maturity to treat colleagues in the other party as fellow patriots to be persuaded, not as enemies to be destroyed.
Sen. Lugar deserves the thanks of every American for his dedication to the common good. America is a better place for his having served.
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