Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate: Crafting Foreign Policy from Capitol Hill

Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate: Crafting Foreign Policy from Capitol Hill

by John T. Shaw


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Two-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard G. Lugar has been one of the most widely respected foreign policy experts in Congress for over three decades. In this illuminating profile, John T. Shaw examines Lugar’s approach to lawmaking and diplomacy for what it reveals about the workings of the Senate and changes in that institution. Drawing on interviews with Lugar and other leading figures in foreign policy, Shaw chronicles Lugar's historic work on nuclear proliferation, arms control, energy, and global food issues, highlighting the senator’s ability to influence American foreign policy in consequential ways. The book presents Lugar’s career as an example of the role Congress can play in the shaping of foreign policy in an era of a strong executive branch. It demonstrates the importance of statesmanship in contemporary American political life while acknowledging the limitations of this approach to governance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253001931
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 03/16/2012
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John T. Shaw has covered Congress since 1991 as a congressional correspondent and vice president with Market News International and as a contributing writer for the Washington Diplomat magazine. He is the author of The Ambassador: Inside the Life of a Working Diplomat and Washington Diplomacy: Profiles of People of World Influence. He has been a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and is a frequent commentator for C-SPAN and public radio.

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Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate

Crafting Foreign Policy from Capitol Hill

By John T. Shaw

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2012 John T. Shaw
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00193-1


Snapshots of a Statesman


One of the last places in the world one might expect to find a senior American senator during the waning days of summer is on the western fringe of Siberia gazing at a half-finished bridge. But for Senator Richard Lugar, the two-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now its top Republican, the bridge he was looking at on that spectacular late August day in 2007 was a symbol of cooperation between the United States and Russia—and a harbinger of hope that the world will be able to secure, and then dispose of, weapons of mass destruction.

Lugar was joined on the trip by former Democratic senator Sam Nunn, his long-time partner in the effort to help the nations of the former Soviet Union secure their weapons of mass destruction. Nunn, now the chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, was traveling with Lugar on a weeklong trip to Russia, Ukraine, and Albania to get a first-hand assessment of how their signature program, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, was working on the ground. Lugar is one of the most knowledgeable lawmakers on foreign policy issues and is highly respected in diplomatic and military circles. He is seen as one of those rare American politicians who understands the nuances of foreign policy, is willing to work hard at non-glamorous issues, and is effective in using the tools at his disposal to influence foreign policy. He is willing to do those time-consuming and tedious tasks of legislating that capture few headlines and confer few political benefits, such as studying a half-finished bridge on the edge of Siberia.

On that pleasant August day, Lugar, in a blue sport jacket and white running shoes, earnestly spoke with Russian officials, American diplomats, and a team of construction workers about the bridge over the Miass River. He asked quietly stated but well-informed questions about construction schedules, engineering complications, and the river's flood patterns. When completed, the bridge will be used to transport almost two million artillery rounds and warheads filled with sarin, soman, and VX agents from poorly secured, half-dilapidated barn-like buildings to the state-of-the-art Shchuchye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility, then under construction a few miles away.

After a 30-minute visit to the bridge site, Lugar, Nunn, and their traveling party of congressional staffers, executive branch officials, and reporters boarded a modern bus and drove through several Russian villages seemingly unchanged since the time of Tolstoy. Upon arriving at Shchuchye, the bus circled the heavily secured facility and passed an administration building, fire station, and water treatment plant before stopping at Building 101a. Here, the United States and Russia, six other countries, and the European Union were working to build a facility to eliminate a large number of Russia's cold war era chemical weapons.

Wearing white construction hardhats, Lugar and Nunn walked through Building 101a, which will become one of the world's most important chemical weapons destruction facilities but at the time resembled a half-completed parking garage. Lugar peppered the guides with practical questions about the construction of the facility, seeking clarity on when it will be fully operational. Shchuchye had been dogged by delays, cost overruns, and bureaucratic disputes between American and Russian officials and provoked deep skepticism from the U.S. Congress. For this project, Lugar had to summon his considerable patience and tenacity as he pleaded with skeptical lawmakers and an indifferent administration to free up the funds to allow for the completion of the facility. The senator personally lobbied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush to allow funds for the project to go forward.

After this tour, Nunn and Lugar were driven to an outdoor ceremony on the outer fringe of the campus. Standing behind a dozen flags of countries and groups that supported the project, they were the featured speakers at a haphazard celebratory event. Both spoke clearly about the urgent need for global cooperation and the moral imperative of controlling weapons of mass destruction.

"The mission here is to make sure these weapons of mass destruction will not be used by anyone, to make sure that they will not get in the hands of terrorist groups who would not hesitate to use them," Nunn said. Then referring to the bridge they viewed earlier in the day, Nunn became more poetic. "Bridges are not individual accomplishments. Bridges are built by many people as a way of uniting people. This bridge is a key symbol of global partnership."

Lugar, introduced by a Russian military official as "the famous Senator Lugar," spoke next. Standing in the soft Siberian breeze, he said the challenges posed by weapons of mass destruction are daunting but solvable. A man of prose and pragmatism rather than poetry and abstraction, Lugar spoke plainly and hopefully. "Mankind," he said, "can rise to the occasion."


On an early April evening in 2008, Richard Lugar received the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award at a ceremony in the Senate's elegant Mansfield Room, across the hall from the Senate chamber. Like many senators, Lugar is a frequent recipient of awards, most of which don't mean very much. But he took this award seriously. He admired Paul Douglas, a former senator from Illinois, as a serious, consequential, and honest legislator. Lugar's brief but revealing remarks went to the core of how he sees his work as a senator.

He spoke on the topic of bipartisanship, which he said is the only workable strategy for a successful congressional career. Too often, he argued, it is misrepresented as the product of moderate political views or the willingness to strike deals. But bipartisanship is not centrism and it is more than just compromise. Rather, he declared, it is a way of approaching one's duties as a public servant that requires self-reflection, discipline, and faith in the goodwill of others.

Constructive public service, Lugar said, demands that members of Congress and other public officials avoid succumbing to a partisan mindset. In carefully chosen but searing words, he challenged the essence of the Republican governing strategy during the years of George W. Bush's presidency. "Particularly destructive is the misperception in some quarters that governing with one vote more than 50 percent is just as good or better than governing with 60 percent or 70 percent support.... The problem with this thinking is that whatever is won today through division is usually lost tomorrow. The relationships that are destroyed and the ill will that is created make subsequent achievements that much more difficult. A 51 percent mentality deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of goodwill that is critical to our survival in hard times."

Then, in a series of rhetorical statements, he outlined what it takes to be a successful lawmaker:

• It requires, he said, that you accept that members of the other party love their country and are people of goodwill and should be respected.

• It requires that you accept that members of the other party can make important contributions to policy and that you make an effort to include them in early deliberations and even seek opportunities to work with their leaders.

• It requires that even as you participate in partisan debates, your first impulse is a sober reflection on what is good for the country.

• It requires that you study an issue in depth with an open mind and avoid an over-reliance on your party's orthodox positions and arguments. In other words, you should allow your thinking to evolve as circumstances and evidence evolve.

• It requires that while recognizing the essential imperative to represent your constituents and listen to their ideas, you should be willing on occasion to disagree with them and explain your reasoning.

• It requires that you maintain your civility, even when others around you do not, and that you measure your words. A bipartisan lawmaker avoids unnecessary inflammatory rhetoric and an over-reliance on simplistic partisan sound bites.

Lugar said that he was fully aware that politics is a competitive business, recalling his own difficult campaigns for the Indianapolis school board during an era of desegregation, two mayoral races, seven Senate elections, and one run for the GOP nomination for president. "I know that politics is and always has been a tough business that cannot be reduced to purely idealistic tenets. But it cannot be devoid of idealism, either," he declared.


A senator with national and even global interests and aspirations can accomplish little without a secure political base at home. With grim clarity, Richard Lugar can recite the recent leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who were defeated for re-election because they appeared to lose touch with their roots. Lugar has avoided this fate, but not by accident. He is highly respected and admired in Indiana. His small-government conservatism resonates in his Republican-leaning state. He has been an elected official in Indiana for more than 40 years and has earned a reputation as a solid, hard-working lawmaker who keeps in touch with his constituents. As many in Indiana know, the senator continues to manage a 604-acre corn, soybean, and walnut tree farm outside of Indianapolis and delights in his heritage as a fifth-generation Hoosier. Lugar has also created a formidable political operation that carefully tends to the home front. It manages and expands his network of supporters, keeps an eye out for potential rivals, raises money, and communicates regularly with the people of Indiana. Nothing important about Indiana politics escapes the notice of the Lugar machine.

Since 1977, his first year in the Senate, Lugar has held an end-of-the-year symposium in Indianapolis to give his assessment of world affairs. Every December, he invites each Indiana high school to select two of its top juniors to participate in a daylong event called the Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow's Leaders. More than fifteen thousand students have attended these events held at the University of Indianapolis. The senator sometimes meets Hoosiers in airports and coffee shops who tell him they attended a symposium when they were students. It has become such an institution that the university created the Richard G. Lugar Center for Tomorrow's Leaders as a permanent home for the symposium. Lugar regards the talk he gives at the symposium as one of his most important each year and he spends a considerable amount of time organizing his thoughts.

In December 2008, the senator returned to the Lugar Center to give more than four hundred students a tour of the complicated world that President-elect Barack Obama was about to inherit. Lugar had been thinking about this talk throughout the fall, setting aside newspaper and magazine articles to review as he prepared his notes. Standing behind a lectern engulfed in flowers, Lugar spoke in his formal style for 45 minutes. There were no humorous stories or wisecracks from the senator, just a polite greeting to the serious and clean-scrubbed students sitting before him.

The senator discussed developments in places that seem far removed from the lives of high school students in the heart of the Midwest: China, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Israel, Latin America, and Somalia. He gave a preview of a trip he was about to take to Russia in an effort to ease the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration. He briefly described the need for the two countries to get back to work on arms control negotiations. But most of his remarks focused on the faltering U.S. economy, an issue that had his constituents in Indiana perplexed and worried. This economic crisis, Lugar said, also constrained America's conduct of its foreign policy. His description of the crisis was striking; he avoided buzzwords and jargon as he talked about the economic crisis in a concrete way. In words both somber and calm, Lugar acknowledged the U.S. economy was in deep trouble and nobody knew how bad it might get.

"Suddenly we have a world economic crisis of huge significance. It is too early to see if it will be of the same magnitude of the Great Depression of 1929 and the early 1930s." World trade had broken down, he said, global tensions were rising, and American economic policy had fallen seriously off track. Lugar did not profess to have answers to all the problems but made it clear that he was trying to fully understand the crisis and figure out the best way ahead.

He described the emergence of the housing bubble and how troubles in the housing sector infected the American and world economies. He said the new economic landscape was unfamiliar and puzzling, even to a senior American senator, and observed that the United States had recently issued $30 billion of bonds at an interest rate of nearly 0 percent. "I'm still trying to wrap my thoughts around this. That is really unparalleled." Lugar emphasized his concern that America's soaring budget deficits are largely financed by savings coming from China. "We are dependent upon the Chinese to buy our bonds to pay for deficit," he said, giving a stark summary of the nation's predicament.

There was no happy talk here, but Lugar ended his remarks by summoning his midwestern stoicism and optimism, urging the students to study the crisis, examine the mistakes that had been made, and retain hope for the future. He responded to questions for 30 minutes and then remained at the symposium for several hours, chatting with students and the adults who were with them. The senator posed for pictures with pairs of students from each of Indiana's 92 counties. A few days later, his office sent a letter and a photo to all the students, thanking them for their participation and wishing them success in the future. His office also e-mailed photographs to dozens of small-town newspapers, many of which would publish them with a story about Senator Lugar, his symposium, and the comments of the local students who attended.


One of the keys to Lugar's success has been his ability to connect the three worlds of Indiana, Washington, and international politics. His political strength in Indiana has allowed him to focus on national issues and this national prominence has given him a platform to operate in the international arena. Lugar has developed a working style during his years in the Senate that allows him to stay on top of his heavy workload and sustain his mastery of foreign policy.

An early riser, Lugar gets up most weekday mornings around 5:30 A.M. and is on his way to work an hour later. For many years, he drove himself from his home in McLean, Virginia, to the Capitol, a trip that takes about 30 minutes. Now he is usually picked up by a staffer around 6:30 A.M. and arrives in his office a little after 7 A.M., before most Senate staff. On his morning commute he listens to a Virginia NPR station that plays classical music and gives news updates.

Once he arrives at his office in the Senate Hart Building, Lugar turns on his computer and goes online to read the Indianapolis Star, the newspaper from his hometown. His pile of morning newspapers includes the Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Financial Times, and USA Today. He also goes through several Capitol Hill publications: Politico, the Hill, Roll Call, Congress Daily, and CQ Daily. He clips articles to save for his files and reviews Indiana-focused news clips that have been assembled the previous night. The senator also goes through magazines such as Business Week, Indianapolis Business Journal, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Fortune, National Review, Weekly Standard, Washington Diplomat, and the New Republic. He also reviews two Indiana-based political newsletters: The Howey Political Report and Indiana Legislative Insight. Lugar reads voraciously. He says that he does not typically read books from cover to cover but might read a chapter or two of a book to study a topic that is of interest.

Lugar likes to have an hour or 2 before scheduled meetings and hearings to prepare for the day. He checks in with his staff about projects that are pending and gives out additional assignments. He jots ideas in a notebook, keeps lists, and sends notes to staff, friends, and colleagues. "One of the things I've always admired about Senator Lugar is that he makes it a point to work into his schedule time to think and read. Unfortunately not many senators do that any more," says Bill Hoagland, a former Senate staffer. "You'd be surprised how rare that is."

On most Thursday mornings, Lugar attends a breakfast meeting in the Capitol sponsored by the Aspen Institute with a policy expert and other lawmakers. He sometimes hosts a breakfast meeting with visitors from home in the Senate Dining Room. He meets with his staff as necessary but does not hold weekly staff meetings. "He doesn't want to have meetings just to have meetings. When he needs information or wants to discuss something we bring in the people who are needed," says Marty Morris, his chief of staff.


Excerpted from Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate by John T. Shaw. Copyright © 2012 John T. Shaw. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Snapshots of a Statesman 1

2 The Senator from Indiana 21

3 The Tools of the Trade 40

4 A World Awash in Weapons 61

5 Ending the American Addiction to Foreign Oil 73

6 The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 94

7 Fixing Foreign Aid 121

8 Combatting the Global Food Crisis 134

9 Transforming America s Relationship with India 144

10 Sisyphus on the High Seas 163

11 Arms Control in the Twenty-First Century 173

12 Tending to the Homefront 204

13 The Statesman of the Senate 218

Acknowledgments 229

Notes 233

Selected Bibliography 245

Index 249

What People are Saying About This

Sam Nunn

"A close-up look at the dedication, effectiveness, and outstanding public service of Senator Dick Lugar." —Former Senator Sam Nunn

George P. Shultz

"An account that is well-titled. Dick Lugar is a true 'statesman of the Senate' who, from the Reagan years to the present, has had a major influence on US foreign policy."

President, Brookings Institution - Strobe Talbott

"John Shaw deploys his reportorial skills to excellent effect in evaluating the considerable impact that Senator Lugar has had on foreign policy.... The result is a trenchant study of statesmanship as practiced from the legislative branch of our government."

Former Senator Sam Nunn

"A close-up look at the dedication, effectiveness, and outstanding public service of Senator Dick Lugar."

Former President, United Nations General Assembly; Former Swedish Foreign Minister - Jan Eliasson

"Takes us on a fascinating journey through the political life of a giant in American foreign policy.... An impressive account of Richard Lugar's rich political work and versatile political persona."

Brookings Institution; Former Member of Congress - Bill Frenzel

"Rewarding reading.... Even non-wonks and Senate-haters will find Shaw's book easy going. Those who like public policy, want a closer look at the inner workings of the Senate, or know something of Senator Lugar, will love it."

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Director, Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics - Andrew Downs

"Makes a strong case that Senator Lugar belongs among the upper echelon of senators by focusing on Lugar's sustained activities regarding nuclear weapons, energy policy, foreign aid, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and agriculture and global food crises."

Wabash College - David Hadley

"John T. Shaw's Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate delivers on his commitment to examine this long-serving Indiana senator as an important player in the foreign policy process. Shaw argues that Senator Lugar stands out in the modern U.S. Senate as a member who seeks to shape and affect American foreign policy for the mid- and long-term future benefit of the nation.... A significant piece of reporting, description, and analysis that will be useful as a case study for legislative and American foreign policy scholars."

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