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HETRICK: Regrets, I've had a few ... starting with Lugar's loss

October 6, 2012

When I was a kid, one of my favorite comedians was Rich Little. His impressions of politicians and others were witty and spot on.

My favorite Rich Little impersonation was President Richard Nixon singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Shoulders hunched, brows furled, jowls shaking, arms raised in a peace-sign wave, Little donned a deep baritone and mumbled/sang: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

In the wake of Watergate, it was sad, true and hilarious.

With the 2012 election four weeks away, I don’t know the outcome of a single race. But already, I have regrets, a few worth mentioning.

I was reminded of my biggest regret while channel-surfing last week.

On a public channel, I came across a Massachusetts Senate debate. Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, the challenger, was debating incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. NBC’s David Gregory was the moderator.

At one point, Gregory turned to the topic of bipartisanship. He asked Warren, a Democrat, which Republican senators she could work with.

“Oh,” Warren said. “I think probably Richard Lugar would be one that would come to mind, but let me …”

Gregory interrupted: “He’s not going to be there.”

Warren laughed nervously and said, “He’s not going to be there.”

“So who else could you name?” Gregory asked.

“That is a problem,” Warren said.

Indeed.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.

For most of my life, Dick Lugar has been my senator. In a state where political maneuvers and those making them are often maligned, Lugar has been a source of Hoosier pride.

He’s been the senator who stood up for Indiana’s farmers, but who also understood cities, like the one he ran as Indianapolis’ mayor.

He’s been the senator who’s worked with former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia and others to disarm the real weapons of mass destruction—nuclear missiles from the former Soviet Union—while the rest of the world was chasing mythical munitions in Iraq.

He’s been the senator who showed up on the nightly news and the Sunday morning talk shows to share his expertise not only about agriculture in America, but also about happenings around the globe.

And, yes, he’s sometimes been the senator with whom the Elizabeth Warrens of the world—in other words, Democrats—could find common ground for the public good.

I voted for Lugar time and again. I donated money to him without having my arm twisted. I hired people who worked for Lugar and vice versa.

But come January, he won’t be there.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.

Now come my biggest regrets.

I regret what we could get in Lugar’s place if state treasurer and Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock gets the job.

I regret the TV ads from Mourdock and those advocating on his behalf. Time and again, they distort facts and images in an attempt to scare me about his opponent. Rarely, if ever, do they tell me what Mourdock wants to do and how.

I regret Mourdock’s statement, made to The Indianapolis Star in April, that, “We need less bipartisanship in Congress.”

I regret this statement of his, printed and broadcast nationally and internationally: “I have a mind-set that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

I regret Mourdock’s opposition to the recession-driven auto company rescue that turned out pretty darned well for American autoworkers and American investors (including the U.S. government).

I regret the embarrassment Mourdock’s statements have already caused the state of Indiana. In light of his arrogant, my-way-or-the-highway take on compromise in our democratic republic, he’s been criticized by everyone from Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to former President Bill Clinton.

Said the latter of Mourdock’s no-compromise philosophy: “If that prevails, we’re toast. We’ll look like a bush-league country.”

Unfortunately, by fielding such a candidate instead of a statesman like Lugar, Indiana already looks like a bush-league state.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.

Back at channel-surfing, I came across an ad for my state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, D, Indianapolis, who’s now running for state Senate.

In her own words—no basso-voiced narrator, no scary music, no grainy images, no negatives about her opponent—Sullivan says: “The truth is, it shouldn’t matter what side of the aisle a good idea comes from, as long as that idea is what’s right for Hoosier families. I’m Mary Ann Sullivan, candidate for state Senate. Some call me an independent, because I vote with my conscience first, and not my party. But as a mother and a grandmother, I just call it doing what’s right—right for Indiana.”

Oh, how I wish my straight-talking, positive, willing-to-compromise state Senate candidate were running for the U.S. Senate, instead.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.•

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Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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