Is Bipartisanship A Sin?


UPDATE — Six-term Indiana Senator Richard Lugar was trounced in Tuesday's Republican primary by Tea Party-backed  state Treasurer Richard Murdock, who accused the incumbent of not being conservative enough.

Sen. Richard Lugar is in a fight for his political life. The latest numbers show him running as much as 10 points behind his firebrand Tea Party challenger in Tuesday's Indiana Republican primary, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Lugar, 80, is one of the most respected members of the Senate, and the leading Republican authority on foreign policy for many years. He has worked effectively, both as chairman and ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, with members on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.  And that may be his Achilles heel in a Republican party that puts extremist ideology ahead of the national interest.

Mourdock has said he believes in "confrontation," not "working with the other side." Bipartisanship, in his eyes, is a mortal sin.

Lugar made a critical contribution to American, world and Israeli security with the 1992 Nunn-Lugar Act, aimed at keeping Russian nuclear scientists from going rogue and helping terrorist groups and states to secure the Russian nuclear stockpiles at the end of the Cold War.

Lugar has been a solid supporter of military and economic aid to Israel going back to the years when Republican votes for foreign aid were hard to come by. His approach to the Arab-Israel conflict has been largely even-handed leaning toward Israel. "I never saw any hostility toward Israel," said Michael Kraft, a committee staffer who worked on Middle East issue on the committee. "He was mainly pro-Israel but he was not one for your AIPAC black-and-white approach."

In recent weeks Lugar has reached out to Jewish voters in Indiana to remind them of his work to help Soviet Jews.

Lugar is staunchly conservative on domestic issue but a moderate and internationalist on foreign policy.  If Lugar wins on Tuesday Republicans are expected to easily keep that seat, but the race could be close if the far right Mourdock wins and faces centrist Democrat Joe Donnelly in November.

"The fact that he is under attack and in danger of losing his seat from the right wing reflects a major flaw of the current driving forces in the Republican party–no tolerance for diverse views– passion over pragmatism," said Kraft. " Just like some of the Palestinians and their leaders." 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.