Remember Knowledgable Republicans?

I’m getting used to having my students express surprise when they discover that I used to be a Republican–that I even ran for Congress as a Republican.

I try to explain to them that the radical fringe that constitutes today’s GOP is nothing like the party I worked for over a period of 35 years. I tell them that although both parties have always included zealots and know-nothings of various sorts, I remember a time when serious people who cared about America’s prospects and were even willing to work across the political aisle could be found in both parties.

A recent media release from the Lugar Center is evidence not just of the accuracy of that recollection, but the distance between then and now.

Washington–Former Sen. Richard G. Lugar said today many of President Trump’s stated foreign policy goals are “simplistic, prosaic and reactive,” and are characteristic of “a selfish, inward looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with capacity to shape global affairs.”

In remarks prepared for a Washington event hosted by the Foreign Policy Association, Lugar, a former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that if Trump fully followed through on his current policies for trade, immigration and international alliances, “the net effect…would be an economic and geopolitical disaster.”

Lugar, a Republican from Indiana who served 36 years in the Senate, said the president is relying too much on beefing up the military while “squandering America’s international leverage.”

“We cannot bomb our way to security,” Lugar said.

Always the diplomat, Lugar attributed the “missteps” of the Trump Administration to a period in which it was “finding its footing.” (Those of us who are far less diplomatic might suggest that in order to find one’s footing, it is helpful to know what a floor is…But I digress.) He did, however, address several of the issues that he clearly considers troubling, if not disastrous.

What worries him Lugar said,

are Trump’s “campaign-driven foreign policy themes that are fundamentally contradicted by centuries of world history.”  For instance, Trump’s protectionist trade agenda ignores the powerful impact of technology on job displacement, Lugar said, and “attempting to isolate a nation from trade competition is a self-defeating strategy that will hurt those at the bottom of the economic ladder before anyone else.”

“On immigration, we are mired in a debate of distraction,” Lugar said. “In a world where dampening the rise of new terrorists is as important as dealing with existing ones, the ban on entrants from Muslim countries represents the most obvious recruitment tool against the United States since Abu Ghraib…The ban has been a steep net loss to U.S. national security.”

Lugar, a strong supporter of NATO throughout his Senate career, also expressed concern about Trump’s willingness to question U.S. commitment to our allies as he seeks to wring more contributions from them. “Such ambiguity is not clever,” Lugar said. “It is dangerous and can lead to deadly miscalculation.”

A couple of things about these public remarks struck me: first–and most obvious–is the monumental distance between statesmen like Richard Lugar and the Keystone Kops party of Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell and “Freedom Caucus” ideologues who now are both the face and the substance of a once-responsible GOP. Where we once had thoughtful, intellectually-honest elected officials who understood the complexities of government and world affairs, we now have posturing fools who don’t know what they don’t know.

The second thing that struck me was how unlike Dick Lugar it is to voice these concerns publicly. Lugar has always been a good “soldier,” unwilling to go public with criticisms of others in his party (and muted in his critiques of Democrats, for that matter). Even out of office, he has been collegial to a fault.

He must be really, really worried.


  1. I remember when I used to vote a split ticket on a regular basis, but have not done so for almost forty years. Todays Republican Party is nothing more than a band of misogynistic, paranoid, xenophobic, racists, who are easily convinced (and paid a lot of money) to vote against their own best interests and support the agenda of the wealthiest of the wealthy. They are ideologues, not patriots. Their zealotry caused us to lose one of, what I feel, is the strongest minds to ever serve in the U.S. Senate when a member of their own party, Richard Murdock, ran in the primary and defeated Richard Lugar, who is one of the world’s most brilliant foreign policy experts.

  2. “…stated foreign policy goals are “simplistic, prosaic and reactive,” and are characteristic of “a selfish, inward looking nation that is being motivated by fear…”

    Senator Lugar’s above copied and pasted description also fits North Korea; under the command of a post-pubescent, fat, grinning, self-congratulatory dictator. This description fits the two leaders in the headlines today; Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, who will make the first disastrous nuclear move over a real or imagined verbal threat? Will it really matter in the long run? Both are wrong, neither is a diplomat nor do they understand the need for diplomacy and cool heads to lead their respective countries; one a once great world leader which is slipping into chaos and oblivion while the other, a portion of a split-nation with no history of leadership are too busy breast-beating and applauding for themselves to see the danger, not even the danger to themselves.

    I watched some of the films of the North Korean parade and show of military might by thousands marching, saluting, applauding and countless weapons of war to prove their might. I kept wondering; are they all in that parade – who is left to protect North Korea while they are otherwise engaged in the pageantry?

    Dick Lugar isn’t the only one in this country, and hopefully in the current administration, who is “really, really worried”. Kim Jong Un doesn’t appear to be worried in the least and Trump is still busy Tweeting about his glorious Electoral College victory.

  3. Richard Lugar is one of the few Republican politicians whom I admire. He first earned my respect when he publicly opposed Reagan’s familiarity with and insider favors for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Frankly, I think many of today’s rabid ideologues are the think-last descendants of the faction of the Reagan Republican Party then which excoriated and never forgave Lugar (and possibly denied him the presidency) for going public with his criticism. It still confounds me why Richard Lugar chose to be a Republican, and Evan Bayh chose to be a Democrat.

  4. Larry; your last sentence says a lot in a few words. Evan Bayh was carried to the positions of Governor and Senator on the coattails of his illustrious father, Birch Bayh. That apple fell far from the tree.

    As an observation regarding the blog title today; is the fact that all of those test firings by North Korea causing severe and permanent damage to the oceans being ignored by Republicans here to deny Climate Change and Global Warming and the connection between the two. Those 59 weapons Trump sent into Syria were manufactured by Raytheon – were they manufactured by the Raytheon facility ONE BLOCK from my front door? All of our oceans are dying; the Great Barrier Reef is dead and the repercussions will eventually be felt worldwide. Why are we not kept informed of the destruction on areas of our own west coast by the tsunami and earthquake in Japan resulting in destruction of Fukushima nuclear power plant and spreading destruction. Trump is virtually ending all protective measures enacted by Democrats to protect our environment from hazardous waste so; the oceans around us are dying and we are self-destructing the land. Are the current Republicans taking us to the final words in the movie “Soylent Green”? “It’s people, Soylent Green is people!”

    Bring back those old-time Republicans like Richard Lugar and Bill Hudnut; give us back our options between candidates and issues at the polls rather than voting for – or against – one party. I voted for Sheila as an Independent voter and always, always for Bill Hudnut.

  5. I watched a short PBS interview yesterday with Mayor Pete Buttigieg that gave me a little bit of hope for the future of our country. That is, if we survive long enough for this very intelligent man to bring sanity back to our government.

    For those of you who may not know, he is the Mayor of South Bend. He has been a God send to this northwest Indiana city and is quite admired. A former Rhodes scholar, he also is a Navy reservist.

    If anyone is interested in viewing this short interview you can watch it at “ It was first aired on April 15th.

    Sheila, I would be interested in knowing your thoughts on the political future and accomplishments that Pete Buttigieg could achieve for the Democratic party and for our country. He has stated that he is not interested in serving in our broken Congress.

  6. Sheila, I, like your students, often wonder how you were ever a Republican. You and I are close in age, but my memories of the GOP are much different than yours. I grew up in an all Republican family in Northern Indiana and thought “Democrat” was a dirty word.

    My outlook changed completely during the Nixon administration. I saw an administration that ran on a platform to end the Vietnam War, but interfered with the peace negotiations, bombed the hell out to Cambodia and Laos and implemented the southern strategy to bring the segregationist, White Southern into the fold. To me the Trump administration is merely the logical conclusion to the party devised by Richard Nixon. Trump is merely Richard Nixon without the government experience. (Even Nixon understood the importance of going to China.)

    For the sake of our two-party system, I’m hoping that there are still some thoughtful Republicans, who care more about the country than short term gains for their Party, and will retake their Party. I’m not betting on it. If Paul Ryan is the hope of the GOP, God help us all.

  7. All those ‘good soldiers’ provided cover for all the crazies… Steve King, Michele Bachman, the list goes on. Had the ‘good soldiers’ stood up maybe we wouldn’t have a Trump and a Ryan and yes, a Todd Young who is almost as radical right as the man who beat Richard Lugar, Richard Mourdock.

    I voted for Mourdock just to get rid of Lugar. Unfortunately, the man who replaced him, Joe Donnelly seems to have the same weakness. e.g. his vote for Gorsuch. Poor Joe, doesn’t he know that Republicans are never going to vote for him? And now that we know he’s not standing on principle, he’s lost many in his base. Its going to be a lot harder now for Joe than it could have been.

  8. I voted for Dick Lugar a couple of times, but it bothered me that he voted with his party 99% of the time, even when he knew they were wrong. That is how we really got the GOP of today.

  9. I’m curious about something. Does Senator Lugar believe his words will make a difference? Ignoring for the fact that commentary by former office holders usually flies under the radar of the “OMG we need something to call breaking news” media, do people in D.C. really listen to what former leaders have to say on these issues?

    I’m not taking sides here, just wondering whether the efforts like Lugar’s are wasted. I’m not sure what the best way for them to get their message out is, but it seems to me that talks and press releases don’t mean much these days.

  10. Republicans were essentially New Dealers until Reagan with his “government is the problem” nonsense. Unlike Sheila, I am a lifelong Democrat but I must admit that there were Republicans in the old days who almost turned my head. I am a New Dealer and when both parties have candidates who are New Dealers, it was harder to choose then than it is now since Republicans have these days made the stark choice of going for political power over country; of paying off Wall Street for the latter’s generous “contributions,” of electing a clueless psychopath to the highest office in the land, of such as McConnell who apparently would have delayed a hearing on the Supreme Court seat for four more years had Hillary been elected and the Senate remained Republican.

    Even Nixon gave us the EPA. Can you imagine that Trump and the present Koch and Wall Street-fed gang would give us an EPA when they are actively engaged in destroying it? Can you imagine Roosevelt’s famous quote of “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” as a rule and guide for policy making? Hardly. Fear is now a tool of Trump and hawks to keep the masses in line with their saber-rattling and gives credence to Lugar’s observation that you can’t bomb your way to security. He is right to a fault. Have we learned nothing from history, or do we wish to bend history to fit the greed of the few?

    I am of the opinion that the threat to our declining democratic institutions posed by Syrian and North Korean and Russian dictators when combined is less than the threat posed today from within by greedy war-mongering politicans and their disturbed leader whose lust for power is certain to destroy our democratic idealism, and all under the cover of electoral legitimacy and not the vote. History tells us that Rome did not fall to the Visigoths; it fell from internal rot and corruption. The “barbarians” merely moved into a vacuum of an already dead state. See any similarities? Lugar does, and I’m with him. Too bad he isn’t still a power within his party because the Visigoths are not at the gates; they’re running his party. Our task, if our tattered democracy is to survive, is to resist these fifth columnists as though our lives depended on it – because they do.

  11. Professor:
    “Where we once had thoughtful, intellectually-honest elected officials who understood the complexities of government and world affairs, we now have posturing fools who don’t know what they don’t know. ”

    I take exception to the statement quoted above. I believe that the Republicans know exactly what they’re doing and could care less about the consequences for most Americans. I think that about the time Obama was elected the first time, they have committed themselves to devolving the US government at all levels and placing barriers between themselves and voters to shield their activities from the public view. It may not be obvious to everyone but it is to many.

  12. He must be really, really worried. So should we all.

    Not a big fan of Lugar. Or most any other wingnut one might care to mention-I will give at least this much- some of them seem almost human after they are out of the shadow of partisan politics.

    Alan Simpson-former wingnut Sen from Wyoming, lamented the fact that wingnuts had a potus in Bill Clinton they could work with across party lines, but partisans pushed and got Clinton’s impeachment.

  13. Walter; like him or not, Richard Lugar has added his voice to millions of other AMERICAN voices speaking out against the current administration. The Republicans sitting in Congress who know right from wrong, few they may be, but their voices added to other would bring change, maybe they will join him. They remember what the GOP did to Richard Lugar and fear the same fate; they are simply too weak to speak the truth and shame the devil.

    They also fear losing those lovely dollars coming into their campaigns and their pockets.

  14. Richard Lugar simply hung around too long. Lugar seemed to have that political disease of attempting to retain a political office, for whatever reasons: power, wealth, influence, etc., long after his shelf life had expired. Given his prestige in Indiana he could have cultivated a like minded person to fill his shoes.

    The Trumpet sent Pence out to Asia to stir the pot. North Korea is no potential helpless victim, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Libya. North Korea, has a huge military, with Nukes, and South Korea would be once again be a battle field. Both Russia and China border North Korea so any attack by the Trumpet on North Korea could quickly get out of hand.

  15. Statesman and partisan can, in rare instances, occupy the same space. Lugar proves that.

  16. Nancy – You mentioned Buttigieg so I will Google that name and see what I get. But on the negative side, he has all but lost me with this:
    “He has stated that he is not interested in serving in our broken Congress.”
    A good opposition candidate is what is needed in the broken Congress now and in 2018 and 2020. I hope you can get him to take advantage of the fact that most, If not all, seats will be up for grabs.
    Tell him we need him and you not to give up. Patriot, consider instead entering the fray for the salvation of our country.
    Don’t you dread that some candidates will crawl out from under rocks to try to ride on the Trump/Pence coattails? Heaven forbid!!

  17. Lugar has no credibility. He’s a sycophant. Given the quotes attributed to him,where was his criticism of GW Bush? Did Lugar support the Iraq War almost 16 years ago? I wonder what his thoughts are wrt Syria and Libya? Perhaps Lugar should limit his criticisms to those wrt haute couture?

    Louie is right,Lugar stayed too long. Lugar didn’t do much except pretend to act as the voice of reason. For the most part,he acted as a lapdog for the Republican establishment,MIC,et al.

    America will always choose to bomb our way to security. It provides billions in taxpayer dollars to arms suppliers. Americans love being at war. Hell,war isn’t discussed much on this very forum. Instead,we are asked to canonize unscrupulous psychopaths such as Madeline Albright–to follow her wisdom. That is why we have absolutely no anti-war opposition within the country today. Left or right,it doesn’t matter. Americans must support our military interventions because…….Well because it’s our manifest destiny! Hey, As long as the folks we’re bombing are not Caucasian,all is good!

  18. I do not agree with those commentators today who cast Lugar as a has-been. Indeed when we had Democratic presidents I think his appointment as Secretary of State would have been a good thing. Anybody can fight; it takes brains to do diplomacy, and Lugar has and had brains, but only to be replaced by Mourdock, a brainless loser. Wars should be fought only after all diplomatic attempts to avoid them have been exhausted and with a Lugar at the helm we may well not have the Syrian and North Korean problems we have today. If you have read this far, be advised that this note is from a lifelong unabashed liberal Democrat, but one who appreciates talent from whatever source, and Lugar was and still is a talented diplomat.

  19. William – “Americans love being at war”. War for the vast majority of the American Public is painless and thus they can support it or be neutral on War. War for America today is like a video game.

    Back in WW 2 not only was there a universal draft, but there was rationing. We were in this War altogether. Tires were the first item to be rationed by the OPA, which ordered the temporary end of sales on 11 December 1941, the War Production Board (WPB) ordered the temporary end of all civilian automobile sales on 1 January 1942, by June 1942 companies also stopped manufacturing metal office furniture, radios, phonographs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and sewing machines for civilians, coffee, sugar and gas among other things were rationed.

    Typewriters, gasoline, bicycles, footwear, silk, nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, shortening and food oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies, and fruit butter were rationed by November 1943. In addition there were War Bond Sales, and Rosie the Riveter.

    American today would never tolerate this kind of rationing or sacrificing for our various Wars on Terror. The politicians and our war mongering pundits know this, their own bravery increases in proportion to their distance from the actual battle lines.

  20. Has anyone seen the new book edited by Stryker? It’s about doable solutions for climate change. Of course if Trump starts a thermonuclear war, the other problems won’t matter. I have a cousin in the import/export business. I didn’t know for a long time that what he sold was military hardware.
    There are peace groups around. You can join or start one. You can get candidates against war and campaign for them. You can join the Quakers. Priorities have to be examined. Legislators divvy up govt contracts for military hardware. Jobs jobs jobs.

  21. I think people should be reminded that Trump is NOT a Republican nor are his core supporters. He got elected on votes from non traditional voters, often voters were traditional union democrats who saw the Democratic party as a failure and, in effect, invaded the Republican party. I do wish traditional Republicans recognized that Libertarians were NOT the same as Republicans but were still a more appropriate choice vs. Hillary and Trump, where Hillary is basically a more polished (sometimes) version of Trump, with slightly different drinking buddies.

  22. Louie:”The politicians and our war mongering pundits know this, their own bravery increases in proportion to their distance from the actual battle lines.”

    So very true.

    Speaking again of Lugar. Lugar was a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs. He supported the harshest of penalties for even first time small amount offenders. Of course,when his son was caught with an amount of marijuana which qualified him as a dealer…….His case went into the ether. Tiered justice. Don’t ya just love America? Ain’t she great? Ain’t she fellers?
    Lugar was a politician and nothing more. Smarter than Mourdock? You bet. But then,so are most children.

  23. It’s not at all historically rare for tyranny to be the result of incompetence. As the consequences of incompetence kick in the powerful need more power to soothe their ego, sell scapegoating, and hang on to the power they become addicted to. That all requires less freedom and less trust and less collaboration and soon only close family can be trusted and they are typically the least experienced and competent so the death spiral begins.

    This is the biggest danger of Bannon/Trump/Pence/McConnell/Ryan.

    Should we trust Ivanka and Jared to keep the boat afloat? We just don’t know, do we?

  24. Yes, Lugar was a politician and several of his votes testify to that pro forma need to vote with his party’s caucus, but in matters of foreign policy he was not a politican but rather a first class diplomat who on occasion took positions not endorsed by either party in putting country above party, and given the present day Republican penchant for putting party above country, I find that refreshing. He was an adult in the room, unlike today, when adults seem to have vanished from positions of power as Trump plays his fear card and rattles his sabers.

  25. Senator Richard Lugar personally helped my family in 1996 while I lived in Florida and two years after I retired from the City of Indianapolis due to disability. My grandson was being sexually molested beginning at age 4, wasn’t brave enough to tell who till 6 1/2. Child Protective Services refused to take information from my son due to “confidentiality laws”; he wasn’t asking questions – he wanted to GIVE THEM INFORMATION. On to the Prosecutor’s Office who refused to take action because of no sign of penetration; my son tried to tell them it was all oral sex. Then to the Sex Crimes Unit at IPD who REFUSED to investigate because my son didn’t have custody and they didn’t want to get in the middle of a custody battle – there was no custody battle. There was also no work to be done because the molester was known, his address was known, he lived at East Washington and Sherman Drive.

    I wrote a 13 page letter to Senator Lugar explaining our problems and the bogus reasons given for denying legal action; I received a letter from him the following week informing me he had contacted Department heads of all three agencies and if no quick action to let him know. Within 10 days the molester (a 17 year old son of the babysitter); a court trial was held and he was found guilty. The afternoon of the trial I got phone calls in Florida from the Prosecutor’s Office and Child Protective Services telling me I had no business calling Senator Lugar because it wasn’t his job. The following week I received a letter in Florida from the Chief of the Indianapolis Police Department with the same message. Senator Lugar did not have to even respond to my letter from another state and it wasn’t his job, no chance of voting for him so no personal gain but he took immediate action to help a child. The molester is now in his late 30’s and still molesting.

    Senator Richard Lugar is more than a politician, more than a Republican, he is a man who cares about people; a lost art these days. I do not always agree with his decisions but he will always have my deep respect and thanks for doing more than his job.

  26. Nancy and OMG – I met Pete in French Lick when he was running for State Treasurer. I had a chance to talk with him at length. I found him to be exceedingly bright and without arrogance. He could explain complex issues in easy to understand language without resorting to slogans. I have been a supporter/fan ever since.

    Pete is being realistic about Congress. His time would be wasted there. He wasn’t above going back to his home town to be Mayor after losing his state-wide bid, but he has gained some national attention while running for the chairmanship of the Democratic Party (DNC officially). He was endorsed by Howard Dean and President Obama named “that mayor from South Bend” when asked about the future leaders of the party.

    A more likely path for Pete, when the time comes, would be for state-wide office — either Governor or Senator. In either of those roles, he could actually accomplish something, even if only small things. Or he could be tapped for a cabinet position in the next Democratic White House—but that is just my thought on his future political path — maybe, as a New York Times article suggested, leading all the way to the White House.

  27. Dick Lugar is polished and as an diplomat was very influential. I appreciate Sheilas comments as it points out the international concerns our nation faces. Are we using our allies wisely? Are we being too upfront and aggressive? Should we tweet our national policies as a President?
    I am hoping that we can see some drawback from potential conflicts in Asia. Where is the line in the sand now and can we return each time we draw one. Does it make us look weak?
    I wonder what Dick Lugar thought of the former administrations policies too?

  28. Pingback: elderblogger

Comments are closed.