Lugar’s Defeat is America’s

I first met Indiana Senator Dick Lugar 20 years ago. I was running the U.S. Senate’s investigation’s committee for my boss, then Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. Nunn and Lugar were singularly focused on preparing our nation for the new type of security threat that was emerging from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. They were concerned that nuclear weapons, dangerous materials (highly enriched uranium) and weapons know-how (out-of-work scientists) would end up in the hands of fanatics willing to do the unthinkable. They were equally concerned that our
national security apparatus had not adequately revised itself to address these new threats, especially the threat posed by terrorist groups. The committee I led circumnavigated the globe, inspecting nuclear facilities, meeting with foreign leaders, reviewing domestic agencies and reporting back to our bosses in the Senate.

Senator Lugar, at that time, launched a bid to be his party’s nominee for President. Though no one expected him to beat out Bob Dole for the nomination, Lugar ran a spirited, single-issue campaign. His lone issue: our nation needed to be better prepared for a terrorism attack. In the mid-1990’s, it was not a concern that even registered with most Americans.

Once, while waiting for a meeting to begin, we were sitting alone together so I made small talk by asking him how his campaign was going. His answer, in typical fashion, was straightforward and authentic.

“I suspect my chances are dim, but I’m intent on using this platform to ring a bell that Americans desperately need to hear.”

Lugar’s quixotic campaign was heroic. While the Senate was becoming increasingly partisan, holding hearings on nonsense like Whitewater and Travelgate and whether the President had inappropriate moments with an intern, Lugar choose to focus his efforts (and campaign) on real challenges like preventing the unthinkable. I regret that there were not more Richard Lugars in the Congress. I think if there had been, 9-11 may have been just another day in September.