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18th August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

The Wrong Hoosier? Or the Right One?


Marc Ambinder has a hunch that Obama’s VP choice will be Richard Lugar.

Here are some of the arguments for Lugar:

  • He was an able Chairman (and more recently, ranking member) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Like Biden, he would give the ticket an elder statesman with significant foreign policy gravitas.
  • He often supports or even champions causes that gave conservatives indigestion (stem cells, climate change, the United Nations, the Law of the Sea Treaty, even the International Criminal Court).
  • He served as a mentor to Obama when the latter joined the SFRC, and they worked together to secure passage of the Lugar-Obama initiative on reducing stockpiles of conventional weapons.
  • He has, over the past two years, been among the most vocal Republican critics of the Administration’s handling of the Iraq War.
  • He’s good on climate change and favors increased CAFE standards.
  • He’d probably be an even better bet than Bayh to bring Indiana to the Obama column.  And he might also help in other states like Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri.
  • As Jonathan Martin notes, he has, on several occasions, defended Obama, most recently by criticizing Lieberman’s latest rant.
  • He is to Obama as McCain was to Kerry.

Here’s are some of the arguments against Lugar:

  • He’s a social conservative.  You can find his voting record on abortion (through 2006) here. He’s opposed to gay marriage (voting for the Defense of Marriage Act and supporting cloture votes on the Marriage Amendment).
  • His selection would push some folks (particularly Hillary dead-enders) into the McCain camp, particularly if the latter chooses a pro-choice VP.
  • He voted for the war back in 2003, and largely supported the Administration’s positions for the next three years.
  • If you want to put a Republican critic of the war on the ticket, Hagel would be a much better choice.
  • His main passion, other than foreign affairs, is agriculture.  He’s a strong supporter of the current subsidy system as well as ethanol.
  • His energy plan envisons roles for “clean” coal, nuclear power, and enhanced domestic oil production.
  • Just yesterday, he published an op-ed in the Evansville Courier-Journal outlining his strong support for lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling.
  • As Chairman of the SFRC, he often failed to stand up to the Bush Administration.  In the case of John Bolton, for example, he voted to move the nomination out of the SFRC.  According to what a reliable source close to Lugar told me at the time, the Administration had threatened to kill some of his pet projects (the source did not say which) if he did not stay in line.
  • He’s not just wonky, he’s unbelievably boring.  He will not ignite passion in the base, nor in the general public.  In fact, he will put people to sleep.
  • He’s a consummate Washington insider.
  • The netroots, who already are very unhappy with Obama, would revolt.  Some may choose to sit out or find someone else to support.
  • Four years ago, Kerry flirted with McCain, who ultimately actively campaigned for Bush.  That hurt Kerry and only helped Bush.  Obama doing the same with Lugar would make it look like Democrats can’t pick one of their own for VP.
  • He’s older than McCain (76).

If Obama is absolutely wedded to choosing a Hoosier, I guess that Lugar would be better than Bayh. But if he wants an old white guy from Indiana, why not Lee Hamilton?  He’s only a year older (almost to the day), and he’s far better than Lugar.

At one time, I was intrigued by the idea of Lugar on the ticket.  These days, however, I don’t think it’s even remotely a good idea.  I think it hurts Obama with his base without generating any real passion among independents.  My gut says that he costs Obama as many (if not more) votes as he brings.

In the end, there are better choices.  Biden has almost all of Lugar’s positives without any of his negatives (except for his initial vote in favor of the war).  He or Sebelius (now that Clark is out of the running) remain at the top of my list.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 7:45 am and is filed under foreign policy, media, politics. It is tagged under , , , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. 1 On August 18th, 2008, KMD said:

    I like Lugar and backed him in 1996 when he ran for the White House. But, as Brown says, Lugar is 76. Nuff said.

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