“Common Sense” Not the Ticket

I was reading Shira Toeplitz’s pre-obituary of Sen. Dick Lugar’s politial career at Roll Call when this passage–noting his quaint attachment to the obligation to show up for Senate votes–caught me up short:

Lugar’s presence is everywhere, but he is not. Thirteen days before the primary, Lugar is voting in Washington, D.C., before he returns Friday for the race’s final stretch.

It’s not uncommon for Members to miss votes before a primary — especially if there’s a good chance they will lose. But Lugar’s staff balked at the suggestion that he could tarnish his 98 percent lifetime attendance record in the Senate.

Lugar wouldn’t skip votes when he was running for president in 1996, spokesman Andy Fisher said, even while his fellow national contenders such as then-Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) frequently left Capitol Hill for the trail.

Dick Lugar ran for president in 1996? How did I forget that? I mean, I remember Bob Dole’s campaign, and Pat Buchanan’s wild ride that beat Dole in New Hampshire before burning out in a frenzy of faux-populist extremism, and Steve Forbes’ robotic flat-tax-fed bid, and Phil Gramm’s shameful waste of hard-earned donor dollars, and Lamar (!) Alexander’s plaid-shirt crusade to “cut their pay and send them home.” But Lugar?

Well, I guess his campaign was pretty forgettable, beginning with a seventh-place finish in Iowa, peaking with a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, and then expiring before the end of February. He did run some campaign ads; here’s one that makes you realize how far the GOP has devolved over the past 16 years:

Yes, once upon a time, in living memory, self-identified conservative Republicans thought it made sense in a Republican presidential primary to stress their support for limitations on gun rights. No wonder Hoosier wingnuts built up a sense of resentment against the guy. How dare he elevate “common sense” over the Second Amendment! What a RINO!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.