EDITORIAL: Richard Lugar leaves a legacy

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We were never of the opinion that Sen. Richard Lugar was out of touch with Hoosiers, or that his ability to reach across the aisle to solve a problem was a strike against him.

Those are two of the arguments used to discredit Lugar in his unsuccessful race to win the Republican nomination for a record seventh term representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate.

We don’t endorse political candidates, but Lugar surely would have been our choice. He has distinguished himself in an almost 36-year Senate career by tackling difficult issues and working with colleagues in both parties to get things done.

On the domestic front, he’s battled his entire Senate career to reform farm policies that reward mega-farms to the detriment of family farmers.

But Lugar’s biggest achievements came in the area of foreign policy. The most famous, perhaps, is the Nunn-Lugar Act, a program to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction left in play by the former Soviet Union.

Lugar’s carefully considered approach to issues of the day, his iron grasp of complex subject matter, and his above-the-fray demeanor earned him the title statesman. The senator is the poster child for substance over style, for problem-solving instead of partisan bluster.

Unfortunately, those aren’t qualities that resonate in 2012 with the Republican base. Rigid, unrelenting partisanship stirs the faithful, even though there’s little to suggest that such an approach is effective. And so Indiana’s Republican primary voters have spoken. Lugar’s Senate career will soon be over. (Editorial continues after video of Lugar's concession speech below.)

We hope the man who beat him, Richard Mourdock, will carry out his duties with a willingness to consider all points of view if he beats the centrist Democrat Joe Donnelly in November.

But what’s to become of Richard Lugar come 2013?

Wisdom and bipartisanship might be out of style in the halls of Congress, but we like to think those qualities are still in demand in Indianapolis.

Lugar would be welcome to end his career where it started, back in the city he served as a member of the board of Indianapolis Public Schools and then as mayor.

Surely he could be deployed here to tackle a chronic problem or two. Perhaps he could play a role in changing the culture of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, or help build consensus for reforming our public schools or fixing our woeful public transportation system.

It’s entirely possible that the local stage is too small and that Lugar will stay in Washington and find another way to play a role in our country’s future.

Regardless of the path he chooses for his future, his effective leadership over many decades should be the gold standard all elected officials aspire to.•


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