POOR DICK LUGAR WAS RIGHT THE FIRST TIME…. About three weeks ago, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said he’d seen the spending cuts approved by his fellow Republicans in the House, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually vote for them. Asked if he’d support the GOP’s brutal cuts, Lugar replied, “No, I would not support the entirety of the House bill.”

Today, en route to a weekly lunch meeting with his Republican colleagues on the Hill, Lugar was asked again for his thoughts on the House GOP plan. “I’m opposed to it,” he said.

Two hours later, the Indiana senator was forced by his party to abandon his position.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who faces a Tea Party-backed challenge in his 2012 primary, has withdrawn his stated opposition to House-passed spending cuts.

Lugar said Tuesday afternoon that he made a mistake when he told reporters earlier in the day that he would oppose H.R. 1, the House GOP plan to cut an additional $57 billion from the 2011 budget.

“I’m going to vote with the Republicans on the issue when H.R. 1 comes up,” Lugar said. “If it’s strictly an affirmative vote, I will be for H.R. 1 because all the Republicans will be voting for H.R. 1.”

Of course they will. The House GOP plan — projected to cost the United States 700,000 jobs — features deep cuts in areas such as education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and national security. Polls show Republican cuts aren’t even close to the priorities of the American mainstream.

And yet, “all the Republicans will be voting for” it. They’re surprisingly good at jumping off cliffs together.

Lugar obviously knew better — he was prepared to reject the House GOP plan as recently as two hours ago — but it’s very likely someone took him aside and reminded him he’s facing an extremist in a primary next year, and the Republican base wouldn’t look kindly of Lugar voting with Dems on this.

Asked to explain the reversal, Lugar said this afternoon, “I couldn’t figure out what the question was.”

I see. Apparently, “I’m opposed to it,” was a confused response to a simple question. Likewise, when asked point blank three weeks ago on CNN, when Lugar said he’d vote against the House plan, he must have been confused by the question then, too.

I’m torn, in a way, about whether to feel sorry for Dick Lugar or to criticize him for abandoning his principles because his party told him to. I guess I’ll do both.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.