Step Aside, McCain: The Times Hails Its Newest Republican 'Maverick,' Sen. Lugar

Step aside, Senator McCain: There's a new "maverick" Republican in town. Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer paid tribute Sunday to moderate Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana in "Charting His Own Course Against Prevailing Winds," who bravely eschews "hyper-partisanship and obduracy" while bucking his fellow Republicans and backing Obama on issues like the new arms control treaty with Russia and amnesty for illegals.

Funny how Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut never gets this kind of fawning when he bucks his former Democratic party; a December 15, 2009 piece referred to the independent senator as "Capitol Hill's master infuriator" for demanding changes to moderate the Obama-care bill.

Steinhauer wrote on Sunday:

Mavericks are not in vogue these days on Capitol Hill, a place where hyper-partisanship and obduracy seem to be their own rewards.

But Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who played that role long before it had a brand name, is standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so.

A reliable conservative for decades on every issue, he nonetheless fought President Ronald Reagan - and prevailed - on apartheid penalties and over the Philippine presidential election. He went head to head with Senator Jesse Helms in the 1990s over the nomination of William F. Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, as ambassador to Mexico.

Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.

He even declined to sign a brief supporting state lawsuits against President Obama's health care law because he saw it as political posturing.

Now Mr. Lugar's willingness to buck his party is leading to talk that he will face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate when he runs for re-election in 2012. It is a possibility that Mr. Lugar, who said the current environment in Washington was "disappointing" and "without a doubt" the most polarized he had seen since joining the Senate in 1977, understands clearly even as he declines to modify his positions.


Even after the midterm rout that will remove many long-serving members from Congress, the idea that Mr. Lugar would be vulnerable to a primary challenge is a chilling notion to many Republicans, a symbol of symbolism gone too far.

A warning to Lugar: The Times disposed of McCain, its former favorite "maverick" as soon as he won the Republican nomination and became the only obstacle between a historic Democratic victory (the first black or first woman president to occupy the Oval Office).

Steinhauer found California's democracy distasteful when the people refused to raise taxes on themselves by voting for a slate of ballot initiatives in 2009.

You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.