Lugar stays the course against era's headwinds

Keith Benman
Northwest Indiana Times

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar recalls returning home from the Navy to find the family manufacturing business going under and teaming up with his brother to see if they could save it.

"We were trying to keep the factory gates open," the six-term senator said at a recent breakfast of the BusINess magazine advisory board.

To get the Thomas L. Green & Co. humming again after the death of their father, Lugar and his brother, Tom, realized innovation would be the key.

That led Lugar to secure credits from the U.S. government's Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C. Before long, the small Indianapolis company was exporting its cracker and biscuit-making machinery to customers in Mexico, South America and the Philippines.

"We then employed 50 more people and we had about 150 at the time I ran for mayor (of Indianapolis) and my brother was left holding the bag," Lugar said. Tom remains chairman of the company their grandfather founded in 1893.

Lugar's anecdote stood in stark contrast to his report on the bitterly partisan 112th Congress, with the anecdote evoking the optimism and international outlook the six-term senator has brought to bear on some of the world's most intractable problems. 

Some of those accomplishments are now in the history books.

Along with U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, of Georgia, Lugar in 1991 engineered the historic legislation and agreements that still bear their names, leading to the deactivation of more than 7,500 Soviet-era warheads once aimed at the United States.

In 1996, he forged bipartisan support for "freedom to farm" legislation which curtailed 1930s-era federal production controls on farmers. In doing so, he had to overcome divisions between farm and non-farm state lawmakers as well as reach across the aisle in the aftermath of the Republican Revolution that swept his party into control of both houses.

At 79 years old, Lugar is in the midst of what is set to be one of the most hotly contested Republican primaries of his political career.

Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, with a good dose of Tea Party support, was the first Republican to throw his hat into the ring to oppose Lugar in 2012.

Already campaigning hard, Lugar made it clear he will not abandon the causes that have meant so much to him and ultimately to his nation. He also made it clear he won't join in the "devil take the hindmost" attitude some legislators are bringing to Washington.

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