Richard Lugar

FreedomWorks shot for the Senate this year, and fell far short.

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Republicans still control one of the key systems of American government.

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Richard Lugar’s loss in Tuesday night’s primary has been heralded by commenters on both sides of the aisle as a harbinger of doom for moderate Republicans. The conventional wisdom has quickly congealed: Lugar lost because he voted for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court candidates, worked with Obama on an arms control treaty, and was generally not partisan enough for a GOP dominated by the Tea Party. That interpretation is plausible. But it’s not the only, or even the most likely scenario.

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In 2010, John Danforth, a former Republican Senator from Missouri, was asked about the possibility of a GOP primary challenge to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. Danforth pointed out that Lugar was a six-term Senator, one of the Senate’s most respected members, and its leading authority on foreign policy. He warned that “If Dick Lugar … is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.” Many commentators will draw precisely that message from Lugar’s defeat Tuesday night by his Tea Party-aligned challenger Richard Mourdock.

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Florida Rep. Allen West, the Tea Partier notable for being one of two African-American Republicans in the House freshman class, is making headlines today for his dead-serious assertion that “about 78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party.” But I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more said about another recent comment with a historical tinge—the declaration by Richard Mourdock, the conservative challenging Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary, that Barack Obama and today’s Democrats are the true heirs to the Confederacy.

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When you see a primary challenge against a long-time member of Congress, the incumbent usually enjoys the advantage of at least nominal support from the party establishment.

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Conservative Crosshairs

Republicans are poised to take over the U.S. Senate in 2012. This isn't contingent on a GOP presidential win, or even a particularly good campaign year, but rather on the extremely tilted Senate playing field created by the 2006 Democratic landslide. Yet, oddly, that is no comfort for many sitting Republican senators, who may face savage primary challenges if they are even perceived to slight the conservative base.

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Probably the most serious long-term threat to American security is the possibility that terrorists will acquire an unsecured nuclear weapon. It's therefore terrifying that Republicans are holding up the START Treaty that secures that material: Let's start with START, the proposed nuclear pact with Russia that Senate Republicans such as Jon Kyl (Ariz.) are attempting to derail, at least until the next Congress. Since the expiration of the previous START treaty last December, there have been no U.S. inspectors in Russia to keep an eye on the country's thousands of nuclear warheads.

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The Kabul conference has come and gone, a half day fest which put the finishing touches on the plans for Afghani security and how it can be helped by fully 70 governments, all in attendance, and, of course, with the United Nations represented by its secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. On Monday, Mrs. Clinton was in Pakistan; on Tuesday, Kabul; on Wednesday, South Korea, right onto the edge of its demilitarized zone with North Korea. Today, she is in Hanoi and, of course, she has reproached the government of Vietnam for its well-documented contempt for human rights. So we know she travels well.

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The market is a much more efficient tool to reduce carbon emissions than command-and-control regulations. The downside is that it's more transparent about the costs it imposes. Regulation attacks the problem less efficiently, but the costs are entirely hidden. So that's the direction policy is going, points out David Leonhardt, even among supposedly market-loving Republicans: Accepting higher costs is especially hard when the economy is weak. So Congressional Democrats have been repackaging their energy bills to make them look less and less market-oriented.

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