Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has been one of the few GOP lawmakers willing to make good faith efforts to work with President Obama, especially on foreign policy issues. Most recently, Lugar aggressively lobbied to pass the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and didn’t hesitate to call out members of his own party who spread misinformation about the treaty.
Lugar’s moderate stances and cooperation with the White House have earned him scorn from many conservatives, and tea party activists in Indiana are gearing up to field a primary challenger against Lugar in 2012. The senator has said he is ready for a challenge from his right, and this week, Lugar seemed to increase such a possibility by taking an opening shot at the tea party. As quoted by US News, Lugar said the conservative activists are “unhappy about life in America,” but traffic only in “cliché” and “are not able to articulate all the specifics”:
“I think there are a great number of Americans, not just in Indiana, who are genuinely angry about how things have turned out for them. Sometimes they are unemployed or they have family members who have been unemployed or they are in situations in which they feel a heavy governmental restriction of their activities. In essence, they are unhappy about life in America and they want to express themselves.”
Lugar says most just want to be heard, but really can’t focus on what’s bugging them. “We want this or that stopped or there is spending, big government—these are all, we would say, sort of large cliché titles, but they are not able to articulate all the specifics,” he says.
Lugar’s comments are a significant break from the typical Republican approach to the tea party, which is to embrace the movement with open arms and defend it vigorously against any and all criticism.
A group of over 70 Indiana tea party groups are planning to meet soon to choose a consensus candidate to challenge Lugar, and have already narrowed it down to two names. “After thirty years or so many years is it a sense of duty to the country or oneself?” tea party organizer Greg Fettig said of Lugar. “He’s outside what the mainstream conservative wing wants him to do,” Fettig added.
In November, former Missouri GOP senator John Danforth warned, “If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”