Former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar dies | News Coverage from USA

Former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar dies

WASHINGTON – Former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a foreign policy leader in the Senate who received the nation’s highest civilian awards for his efforts to secure and destroy weapons of mass destruction after the collapse of the Soviet Union, died Sunday, according to his family. 

The cause of death was complications from chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.

Lugar, 87, served as mayor of Indianapolis from 1968 to 1975 and served in the Senate from 1977 to 2013.

He was president of the Lugar Center he launched in 2013 where he continued work on many of his policy priorities – finding solutions to energy security, world nutrition, effective governance, controlling weapons of mass destruction and other issues.

Lugar is survived by his wife Char, his four sons Mark, Bob, John, and David. Their families were with him throughout his short illness. 

Few senators in history served longer than Lugar or earned as much respect.

“Dick Lugar’s decency, his commitment to bipartisan problem solving, stand as a model of what public service ought to be,” President Barack Obama said when awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Lugar had also received the Defense Department’s highest civilian award in 2012.

He had been a leading voice for decades on foreign policy, helping create a highly respected program to reduce the chance of nuclear annihilation. He also tried to mitigate hunger around the world and in schools, and to warn about the national security consequences of fossil fuel dependence.

Lugar was known almost as much for his style as for his accomplishments.

Always courteous if somewhat stiff, he was considered one of a vanishing breed of statesmen who thought less about short-term political gain and believed in putting in the hard work on hearings, investigations and diplomacy – including a willingness to work with those on the other side to get things done.

The Almanac of American Politics said Lugar’s strength had been to follow “where his stubborn convictions and his considerable intellect led, regardless of political risk or reward.”

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While Lugar enjoyed plenty of successes throughout his career – including many awards and Nobel Peace Prize nominations – his disappointments included an unsuccessful bid for the 1996 GOP nomination for president and being passed over as a running mate for George H.W. Bush in favor of Indiana colleague Dan Quayle in 1988.

When he sought a seventh term in 2012, Lugar was defeated in the primary by a Tea Party Republican. At the time, he was the Senate’s most senior Republican.

Lugar always took the long view, saying once that there are times when you lead but are not always followed. “A gentle, thoughtful, persuasive, persistent but wise course of action is a winner.”

Lugar was first elected to the Senate in 1976.

While he would become part of an increasingly small ideological middle in the Senate, he was viewed for years as a reliable conservative. In his first two years, Lugar co-led a successful effort to filibuster changes to labor laws sought by unions.

Although he was the leading sponsor of a 1980 bill to provide loan guarantees to Chrysler, a major Indiana employer, he did so only after gaining wage concessions from workers.

Throughout his 36 years, Lugar sat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, where he looked out for Indiana farm interests, particularly in his championing of biofuels. But Lugar, who continued to manage his family’s 604-acre farm in Marion County, also opposed many federal farm programs. He led the 1992 effort to close some USDA field offices and tried for years, with varying degrees of success, to eliminate certain crop subsidies.

Lugar’s top interest was foreign policy, a bug that bit him when he served in the Navy as an intelligence briefer for Adm. Arleigh Burke, chief of naval operations.

After Lugar became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1984, he was credited with restoring the prominence of the panel, which had been torn apart by ideological differences and relatively weak chairmen. Lugar instigated a broad review of foreign policy and, according to Congressional Quarterly’s Politics in America, became almost a shadow secretary of state.

Congressional correspondent John T. Shaw wrote in his recent book on Lugar that he has been one of the most influential U.S. senators on foreign policy for more than a quarter-century.

Lugar’s ability to convince President Ronald Reagan that the 1986 election in the Philippines was fraudulent and Ferdinand Marcos should be persuaded to leave was viewed as one of the Reagan administration’s top foreign policy achievements.

But Lugar handed Reagan one of his biggest defeats when he led the Senate in overriding Reagan’s veto of a bill imposing economic sanctions on South Africa over apartheid.

“The American people felt very strongly that narrow sanctions on the leadership of South Africa might lead to freedom for Nelson Mandela and certainly put the United States on the right side of history,” Lugar later said.

Lugar was the Senate point man for the George H.W. Bush administration during the first Persian Gulf War. But he was unable to get the George W. Bush administration to address his concerns about its handling of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and planning for its aftermath.

Lugar’s greatest achievement was working with then-Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., to create a program to secure or dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which began in 1992, passed without the support of the George H.W. Bush administration and with little initial enthusiasm from Congress. Its successes include deactivating 7,619 nuclear warheads once aimed at the United States, destroying 902 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 2,855 metric tons of chemical weapons agent, and building 38 biological threat-monitoring stations.

The program was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize multiple times since 2000, even while Lugar continued to travel regularly to oversee the program and work in Congress to expand it to other countries and to conventional weapons.

“He’s one of the few senators who has both a landmark law under his name but has also spent 20 years making sure it’s implemented well,” Shaw said.

Lugar also devoted considerable attention to the global security consequences of oil dependence and climate change.

Although Lugar continued to vote with his party the majority of the time, he crossed party lines on issues that angered some conservatives, including advocating a path to citizenship for some children of illegal immigrants, approving a ban on assault weapons and voting for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

Still, Lugar was strongly supported in his re-election bid by GOP leaders.

“He’s a spectacular senator,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in 2010. “He’s one of the most impressive people I’ve served with and one of the great senators in American history.”

This story will be updated.

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