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Published: Friday, 5/11/2012


What bipartisanship?

The defeat of Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in this week's Republican primary is disappointing not only for the loss of a valuable lawmaker. It is particularly discouraging because of the confrontational, partisan attitude of the primary victor, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Most Washington observers do not look at the capital's gridlock and prescribe more partisanship and less cooperation. But that seems to be Mr. Mourdock's viewn in the primary campaign and his post-election comments.

Mr. Mourdock attacked Mr. Lugar for excessive consorting with the Democratic enemy. He ran TV ads that excoriated the senator for the apparent sin of working with President Obama. "The time for being collegial has passed," he said last month. "It's time for confrontation."

Mr. Mourdock, who will face Democrat Joe Donnelly in the fall, was no less bellicose after the returns were in. He said he would be bipartisan only in the sense of accepting Democrats' acceding to the position of conservative Republicans.

This is a recipe for continued stalemate when progress is essential. Mr. Mourdock is entitled to his beliefs in limited government and lower taxes. But his my-way-or-the-highway attitude is not conducive to solving the problems, which he correctly identifies, of rising debt and growing entitlement spending.

Bipartisanship does not require abandonment of deeply felt principles. It does accept that accommodation and compromise are necessary parts of the political process.

Mr. Lugar noted in a statement that Mr. Mourdock's "embrace of an unrelenting partisan mind-set" is "not conducive to problem-solving and governance." Mr. Mourdock, he predicted, "will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator."

Senator Lugar's loss may have stemmed from problems of his own making, such as his failure to maintain a residence in the state. At 80, he had served in the Senate for six terms.

But the attacks from Mr. Mourdock and the outside conservative groups that poured millions of dollars into the primary contest involved issues and votes that showed Mr. Lugar at his best. He was willing to work across the aisle and with Mr. Obama. He voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program at a critical moment in the economic crisis. He supported the President's Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Mr. Lugar's work on foreign policy, particularly nuclear disarmament, represented the essence of effective bipartisanship. He leaves a proud legacy in the Senate — and an important warning to the man who would succeed him.

— Washington Post

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