News 18 Exclusive: Richard Lugar talks Obama presidency, foreign policy

(WLFI FIle Photo)
(WLFI FIle Photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Two years after his own ouster by Republicans in a primary campaign, former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar tells News 18’s Jeff Smith he was surprised by the extent of his party’s gains in this year’s mid-term elections.

Two weeks after that election, Smith sat down with Lugar, who says he’s “hopeful” about the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

“Much of the campaign was devoted to criticizing the president,” said Lugar. “And it was effective. Now, people are asking presently, ‘Okay, what’s your program? What are the alternatives?’ And that will have to come forward fairly rapidly.”

After 36 years in the United States Senate, Indiana Republicans sent one of that chamber’s most-senior members packing in 2012. He’s cautious about giving the impression that he blames anyone but himself for the loss. But he believes the Dick Lugar “style,” being willing to meet with members of the opposite party, may have led to his political demise.

“They would say to me, for example, ‘Dick, we appreciate what you’ve been doing in getting the Russians’ arms destroyed, or various achievements in foreign policy, but we don’t want to talk about that anymore. We want to talk about things right now, taxes, and spending, and deficits and so forth.’ In any event, it was the temper of the times — in which the type of leadership that I attempted to offer, the successes that we’d had were recognized. And I appreciate that, but they felt those were not the objectives of this time,” said Lugar.

Two years removed from the Senate, Lugar says he thinks U.S. foreign policy is now marked by a sense of drift.

“It’s not really clear what our strategy is in Iraq and Syria, in regard to ISIS or either of those two countries,” adds Lugar. “We may or may not make progress with Iran on the nuclear weapons, that’s really coming to a head. We’ve made very little progress in terms of restoring Ukraine to Ukraine as it was.”

After watching Barack Obama for the past six years, Lugar says it will be difficult for the president to change his style. But Lugar’s hopeful that he will.

“Suddenly you become President of the United States on the basis of great political skills, which he has, but the background that may be necessary to be the leader in the world has to be there, too,” said Lugar.

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