So, President Obama, you need a new Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton, but you don't like any of the choices sitting on your desk? You think Susan Rice deserves it and would do a great job, but she comes with too much controversy? You feel you owe John Kerry a favor for helping you in the campaign, but wonder if he'd fit right on your team?
How's an idea that maybe you haven't thought of: How about Dick Lugar? You remember Senator Lugar. One of the most respected voices in Washington on foreign affairs, with 43 years experience in the United States Senate, incuding two decades as a top leader of the Foreign Relations Committee, he's the one that was so popular in Indiana, his home state, that voters there relected him by more than a two-thirds margin four out of the last five times he ran -- including a whopping 87 percent in 2006.
Dick Lugar would still be a senator in 2013 except that a Tea Party fanatic named Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, beat Lugar for the Republican Senate nomination in 2012, blasting Lugar for being too bipartisan, too open-minded and too reasonable in dealing with people who disagreed with him. Mourdock then showed his true colors during the general election campaign by explaining that women rape victims carrying the rapist's child were simply enjoying a "gift from God." It didn't go over very well.
As a result, starting in January, Dick Lugar doesn't have a job, and he probably would love to work for you.
Pick Lugar as your new Secretary of State and, in one package, you get:
- Solid experience on the most difficult foreign affairs issues of the day;
- A voice with instant credibility and gravitas on the world stage;
- A crystal-clear statement on bipartisanship in Washington;
- A quick confirmation by Lugar's Senate colleagues; and
- A very nice person sitting at your cabinet meetings.
Most Democrats (even most Republicans) agree he got a raw deal from the Tea Party in Indiana. And most also agree that Washington doesn't have enough moderate figues left to waste a good one.
Can we really afford to lose someone of the caliber of Dick Lugar to national affairs? President Obama, you can prevent this, and help your own team at the same time. It's just a thought.
(Giving credit where due, I first heard this idea over Thanksgiving from my nephew Jim Hershberg, author of the terrific new book MARIGOLD: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam , recently named by the Washington Post as one of the ten best of 2012. He gave me permission to share it with all of you.)