Dick Lugar and the GOP That Used to Be

Yesterday, I logged on to the New York Times to be greeted by an Op-Ed written by former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. In it, he defended Presidential authority over immigration enforcement decisions.

That authority is currently being challenged by a number of Republican Governors (including–surprise!–Indiana’s Mike Pence) in a case before the Supreme Court.

In his op-ed, Indiana’s former Senator patiently explained the nature and extent of Presidential discretion over immigration, and the reasons Congress has historically granted the Commander-in-Chief that discretion.

[W]hether or not you like President Obama’s actions, he has operated under longstanding provisions of law that give the executive branch discretion in enforcement. This presidential prerogative has been recognized explicitly by the Supreme Court. Moreover, the nature of immigration enforcement and the resources (or lack thereof) appropriated by Congress necessitate exactly the type of choices that the president has made.

Lugar followed this observation with citations to Supreme Court cases, Congressional measures, and similar discretionary decisions by previous Presidents of both parties . And in what can only be read as a reproach to the GOP’s current Presidential contenders–all of whom profess support for mass deportations–he wrote:

The immense moral and legal consequences of a deportation campaign targeting up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are obvious. Even Americans whose frustration has overcome their compassion and led them to support the harshest immigration enforcement would be likely to reconsider if they actually saw such an operation in action.

A huge roundup like that would require an extraordinary expansion of federal law enforcement capabilities and resulting intrusions into American society. But in reality, there is no prospect for such a campaign because Congress has not made available more than a small fraction of the necessary money and manpower.

This is why, by its nature, immigration enforcement requires executive discretion.

Anyone who has followed Richard Lugar’s illustrious career knows how carefully he has always parsed his words, and how reluctant he has been to criticize other political figures–especially his fellow Republicans. (If you are looking for an exemplary example of civility, you can hardly do better than Dick Lugar.) That is why I was particularly struck by these paragraphs:

President Obama’s actions, therefore, are hardly unprecedented. There are two major differences. First, he gave speeches advocating for explicit programs with names, rather than relying on subtler agency direction.

Second, immigration policy has been caught up in today’s hyper-partisanship, where a strident anti-immigration tide within the Republican Party overwhelms all bipartisan compromise. All 26 state officials who have challenged the administration’s executive actions in the Supreme Court case are Republicans, and last month the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives voted to file an amicus brief on behalf of the entire House.

From these howls of outrage, you wouldn’t know that the Obama administration has vastly exceeded the deportations under President George W. Bush. And Mr. Bush vastly exceeded those of President Clinton. President Obama’s directives to focus enforcement efforts on those who have committed crimes in the United States and recent border crossers are a rational executive prioritization, given the resources and the realities…..

When the president took his executive action on immigration, he was not flouting the will of Congress; rather, he was using the discretion Congress gave him to fulfill his constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

My own political involvement began with a long-ago effort to elect Dick Lugar Mayor of Indianapolis. Over the years, especially during his Senate tenure, he moved steadily to the Right on matters of domestic policy, and I came to disagree with him on several issues. Like most Hoosiers, however, I never doubted his intellect, his integrity, or his mastery of policy–especially foreign policy.

Even after he lost a primary election to a clueless culture warrior pandering to the GOP’s ever more rabid base, Lugar has continued to be supportive of his party, seemingly reluctant to criticize even those who are besmirching his legacy of thoughtful statesmanship. That reluctance makes yesterday’s op-ed even more significant.

When you look at the chasm–the abyss!– between a statesman like Dick Lugar and an in-over-his-head theocrat like Mike Pence, it’s enough to make a former Republican cry.


  1. “When you look at the chasm–the abyss!– between a statesman like Dick Lugar and an in-over-his-head theocrat like Mike Pence, it’s enough to make a former Republican cry.”

    It certainly does!

  2. Today’s blog proved to be very timely for me, as yesterday iIhad the opportunity to hear Queen Noor of Jordan speak at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. With refugees making up a third of her country’s population, Queen Noor of Jordan knows what it means to manage throngs of people crossing borders in search of security.

    Noor, who though born and raised in the US is of Syrian descent and she spoke of the urgency of humanitarian response to the growing Syrian refugee crisis Monday at Judson University’s sixth annual World Leaders Forum.

    The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan opened in 2012 to host Syrians fleeing violence in an ongoing civil war, is now Jordan’s fourth-largest city with an estimated 83,000 refugees.

    Noor, who is on the board of Refugees International, which speaks on behalf of refugees from conflict zones worldwide, said the path to security, prosperity and peace requires people of all faiths working together to help the millions who are displaced.

    “Christ himself was a refugee from political violence when the holy family fled to Egypt,” said the Christian-born Noor. “We rise or fall by the fate of the least of us. For societies, economies and nations to thrive, all people must (thrive).”

    Refugees also can greatly benefit the communities that embrace them, she added.

  3. “The immense moral and legal consequences of a deportation campaign targeting up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are obvious.”

    The above copied and pasted sentence from Senator Richard Lugar’s comments sums up the the obvious fact that the much sought after GOP “solution” to our illegal immigrant problems would make the Patriot Act look like a kindergarten rule telling 5 year-olds to sit quietly with their hands folded and expecting it to happen.

  4. Ted Cruz has been one of the Republican leaders in the deportation crusade. If you have a chance take an inside look into his mindset : ​http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a56785/ted-cruz-law-professor/. It reveals his method of strategic thinking centered on Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” The interview was with one of Cruz’s former law students at the University of Texas. It’s current. It’s only been in circulation since April 13, 2016.

  5. Ah, Richard Lugar. Now there was a time when we could be proud of Indiana. Sadly today, we cannot say that.

  6. At some point, Richard Lugar and others need to do the unthinkable – disavow today’s Republican Party. Pretending it is still a sane Party, with a few nuts, instead of admitting it is a lost cause and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, simply enables the insanity.

  7. There is a bit of revisionist history going on here. The Senate during Obama’s first term was just as obstructionist as it is now, and Lugar was right there voting the party line on everything. I’ll grant that he was more sane than many of today’s nut jobs, but that’s a low bar. It’s the same with my current representative, Susan Brooks. Yes, she’s more rational than many of the R’s, but she still votes with them 99% of the time.

  8. I had many policy disagreements with Mr. Lugar’s votes in the Senate. In the end, he was too loyal to a party that hated reasonable people.

  9. Senator Lugar was the ONLY republican I’ve ever voted for. Ever. A crying shame how he lost to that nutcase a few years ago. Thanks for sharing.

  10. There is nothing left to cry for. Just a jobs program for lawyers funded by soulless, sociopathic businesses and supported by religion-addled simpletons.

  11. Shelia. Lugar lost the primary largely because he had committed voter fraud since he sold his house at 3200 Highwoods Court in Indiana in 1977 and he continued to cast ballots from their even though he had no legal basis to do so! Lugar is hardly a statesman! The reason why he didn’t just switch his voter registration to his farm in Decatur Township is because in 1974 when he ran for the Senate against Birch Bayh he accused Bayh and his then wife Marvela of committing voter fraud by alleging they no longer lived at their house in Vigo County even though they still owned it and could legally cast ballots using that address! Also you should read Dick Cady’s Deadline Indianapolis and checkout the blog Hoosier Hysterias which contains many news articles from Lugar’s time as Mayor of Indianapolis when he worked for the uber corrupt Keith Bulen. Cady does not paint a flattering picture of Lugar who did nothing to clean up the IPD (now the IMPD). So if by your standards being corrupt to the core makes someone a statesman than “Tricky Dick” Lugar is one hell of a statesman alright!

  12. Dick Lugar…. Was he the guy that created UniGov to keep the black majority in Indianapolis from electing a Democratic Mayor? Was it Dick who let all the townships vote for Indy mayor to make sure the Republicans could continue to control Indy? Super guy that Dick.

  13. While we like labels generally because they cut down on required thinking, they always lead to more limited perspective. Thinking would be better, more useful, more reliable.

    Two especially mischievous labels are Republican and Democrat. They are generally self applied like postage stamps to an envelope (remember those?) revealing some cultural artifacts about the person sticking them on but once applied they are rarely removed because other people treat you as one, and most people treat others like them with much more respect than others not like them.

    One mischief that they perform is to obscure the real contents of the letter in the envelope affixed with the stamp.

    If we could see the letter, the person behind the label, we could again get out our label stamp and one choice would be liberal or conservative. Now those labels are especially troublesome too because they are not even in the same category.

    Liberalism is the intersection of empathy and action and defines a mindset and a design of government, democracy, that emphasizes both freedom and responsibility, and how government is the mechanism of caring for one another while preserving freedom, the ability of individuals to be who they naturally are, diverse among other things.

    Perhaps it’s evolved, I don’t know, but more and more conservatism is none of those things but rather primarily a product traded in a market through advertising conceived and propagated by people who benefit from others believing in it.

    The evidence for that is that almost always when actually employed by government it fails. Nothing gets better except the meeting of the goals of those who “make” and “sell” the product in the marketplace. Those who “buy” the product suffer the consequences of losing effective government.

    Now it turns out that the vast majority of those who buy the product are stamped with prominent Rs. Does that mean that Rs are inordently stupid? No. It means that their leaders have found that supporting the product is useful in becoming their leaders

    Because of all of this duplicity though many treat liberal and conservative as different sides of the same coin which is like saying the fish and bicycles are different sides of the same coin.

    Don’t fall for it.

  14. I try never to miss Sheila’s blog. and whether I agree or disagree, or land somewhere in the middle, I always learn something and my thinking is expanded. The same goes for the comments here. I appreciate the time all of you take to share facts and express informed opinions. Agree or disagree, I appreciate the thoughtful and courteous discussions.

  15. I read Lugar’s piece in the Times yesterday and agree that it is a well-reasoned endorsement of Obama’s plan to avoid wholesale destruction of families living in this country where one or more of those in the family is or are here without papers. Lugar is plainly on Obama’s side though Pence is one of the plaintiffs whose suit is currently being argued before the Supreme Court which questions Obama’s right to do what he is doing. Pence and Lugar disagree.
    I have read some of the diatribes written in response to this piece putting Lugar down for his City-County adventure years ago and note that any politician who has been around a long time will have political warts and moles. It comes with the territory.
    I disagreed with many of his votes in the Senate as he started to yield to the rabid right wing back home but I note that he was not above compromising when he felt it necessary. He wasted his votes trying to placate the right back home because the rabid right wing back home kicked him out of office anyway and nominated a loser. Brilliant! His educational background included study in Europe due to his exceptional scholarship. He was, in short, a reasonable and bright Republican (a rare commodity these days).
    Bright and reasonable candidates have no place in the Republican Party today. Either you bow down to the cave edicts or go home. Unsurprisingly, the decent candidates are staying home and the Ally Oops are filing for office. The day of the Lugars and other such responsible Republicans is gone. The rabid right is in full charge, and their unholy alliance with money scumbags like the Kochs operating in the shade of Citizens United makes them a force in politics for total corporate takeover (unless that is a fait accompli). We liberals have no choice but to resist mightily.

  16. Peter Wong; few of your statements about Richard Lugar’s past political record can be argued with but…his statements regarding the GOP today as quoted by Sheila are on target. If he is seeing the party as it has become and is today; kudos to him, especially for going public. On April 5th, Matthew Tully of the Star published a column, “Hudnut unloads on state of GOP”; primarily local GOP but not all. Mayor Hudnut carries a lot of weight in this city yet today.

    As for the years Lugar was Mayor of Indianapolis, I worked in City Government the last 2 years of his administration and was appalled…APPALLED…at the cronyism, sexism, racism, nepotism and political patronage employees who did little work and weren’t qualified for employment in many cases. But…his statements today in the NYT are on target. If he hasn’t experienced a “great awakening”, maybe some thinking Republicans (there must be some left strictly due to the law of averages) will join him in this partial “awakening”. With two Indiana Republican elected officials coming forward regarding today’s GOP antics; I appreciate it and can only hope it isn’t “too little, too late”.

  17. The Republican party has become a party of bullies. They are so angry that Obama got elected not just once, but twice. They are like the school yard bullies that beat up on the kids that don’t give in to their demands.

    The Koch machine recognized decades ago that the real way to gain power and get the laws that give them exactly what they want was to get that power at the state level and they have been very successful in doing so.

    Regarding illegal aliens – a few years ago (3 or 4) there was a bill in our state legislature that had the intent to financially punish the companies that hire illegal aliens. That bill almost made it but was killed late in the process. My guess is that the corporations that hire illegals were able to buy enough politicians to kill it. Those corporations know very well when they hire illegal aliens and didn’t want to lose those cheap employees. The best way to stop illegal immigration is to make their employment illegal and fine companies with an amount large enough to make it too painful and risky to hire them.

  18. JoAnn, later in the day yesterday, I saw your comment to me. English teachers (like Sheila, Bill, and me) thrive on misplaced modifiers, poor sentence structure, run-on sentences, no paragraphing, excessive paragraphing, punctuation problems, overuse of capital letters, dangling participles, and all the rest of it. “Woman gives birth to baby with wooden leg” is one of my favorites. It makes me chuckle every time. Thanks for the reminder and the chuckle. My Harbrace Handbook is always available to any who need it…and a lot of folks need it.

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