The debate between Mourdock and Lugar showed that latter still has the reflexes for the kind of homer politics that goes under the name “constituent services”; he assured the audience, for instance, that he is “thinking about corn and soybean prices every day.” But after 36 years in the Senate, Mr. Lugar evinces a political philosophy so subtle that in unfavorable light it scarcely seems to exist at all. Whether it is his limp defense of ethanol subsidies (which Mourdock opposes), his cold praise of the “scholarly” Ryan plan, or his seeming unfamiliarity with his own voting record on Social Security, Lugar cut the figure of a man grown more accustomed to the backslapping of the cloakroom than to the candid back and forth of the town hall. Even on foreign policy, where he is often praised as a statesman, Lugar lacks his opponent’s clarity on the United States’ role in the world. His opposition to the surge in Iraq was poorly thought out and, ultimately, wrong, and he was a champion of the New START treaty, which was a gift to Russia.
Lugar is a decent man who has in the past been more reliable than not on a number of important conservative issues. Arlen Specter he is not. But we can do better. Mr. Mourdock strikes us, for instance, as a man who would not cast votes, as Lugar did, to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Nor would he co-sponsor the DREAM Act, support the auto bailouts, or oppose the Vitter amendment to limit taxpayer-funded abortion, as Lugar did and does.