Last night, former U.S. senator Sam Nunn of Georgia issued a brief statement on the defeat of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.
This morning, my AJC colleague Daniel Malloy talked with Nunn, and sends this:
Nunn had always assumed his old friend and cross-aisle working partner would survive a close primary election. But about a week ago, the former Georgia senator began to hear, from those studying the polls, that Lugar was headed for defeat at the hands of state treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Last night, that view was confirmed with a 20-point shellacking.
“I think the Senate will be diminished by his absence and I think the country has lost one of the very positive forces in terms of U.S. leadership in the world and sensible policy here at home,” Nunn said. “So I think it’s disappointing.”
Nunn retired in 1996 after four terms and continues the work he started with Lugar at the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative. Unlike Nunn, Lugar won’t be leaving voluntarily. He’s been driven out by a right wing that did not like his cooperation with Democratic senators — including one named Barack Obama — on several issues, but especially national security.
Polarization is a fact of life in the modern Senate. Nunn said hyper-partisanship has been a feature of both parties over the decades, but pointed to the tea party and anti-tax groups such as the Club For Growth – which spent $2 million into ensure Lugar’s defeat – as the current, dominant force now requiring Republicans to tack right or lose their jobs.
“From time to time both parties take a view that they don’t want anybody willing to talk to folks on the other side of the aisle,” Nunn said. “I think that’s extremely negative for the country and I think the middle of America – the broad spectrum from right-of-center to left-of-center, minus the extremes of left and right — they’re going to have to be heard from. If it continues like this, we’re going to become less and less functional.”
The problem has manifested itself in troubling paralysis over the national debt, Nunn said. He praised U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. – the latter can perhaps see dark omens in Lugar’s race for his own chances in 2014 – for their “Gang of Six” advocacy of a middle way of spending cuts, entitlement reforms and revenue increases. But given the current make-up of Congress, Nunn said a solution will have to come from the outside.
“The people who I call the common-sense middle are largely absent in the active role of the political – whether it’s fundraising or get-out-the-vote — and that’s a big part of the problem,” he said. “People on the extremes have every right to exercise their voice and pocketbook, but the people in the middle should as well.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider