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Opening Arguments

NR for Mourdock

Add National Review to the list of conservative voices opting for Richard Mourdock over Richard Lugar:

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.

Not even foreign policy props? Ouch. The magazine calls Lugar "a carpetbagger in his own state" and says Lugar is a decent man, but "we can do better" by choosing Mourdock, someone who "would not cast votes, as Mr. Lugar did, to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor." I'm glad NR recognizes the point I made last week, that to many conservatives those Supreme Court nominee votes are symbolic of where Lugar has gone wrong.

Indianapolis Star Opinion Editor Tim Swaren cites the same reason I did for Lugar's nominee votes -- "Lugar stills honors the historically sound tradition of giving deference to presidential nominations" -- but to him it's a compliment rather than a criticism.

None of those facts are likely to help Lugar at a time when many Republican primary voters are deeply worried about the direction of the country under the Obama administration.  But at least Richard Mourdock, as a self-described student of history, should appreciate the philosophical soundness of Lugar’s approach to nominees.

"Philosophical soundness" is all well and good, but the fact remains that the other side is playing by a different set of rules. If Lugar insists on continuing to play by the more gentlemanly rules of the past, he is conceding the fight to his opponents. Don't think the Star quite gets that.