Robert W. Merry: Lugar and the Senate's Fallen Giants
Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His next book, Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians, is due out on June 26 from Simon & Schuster.
Thomas Hart Benton was one of the greatest U.S. senators who ever lived. He represented Missouri from the moment it joined the Union in 1821 and then held sway over his state’s politics for thirty years. He was a man given to flights of outrage that unleashed torrents of outrageous rhetoric. An imposing man with a big face, full of crags, and a beak of a nose, he spoke with authority and an air suggesting he didn’t have much patience for the mutterings of lesser men, a category that seemed to include most of those with whom he came into contact....
Thomas Hart Benton’s political fate comes to mind in the wake of what happened this week to Indiana’s senator Richard Lugar, defeated in his party’s primary after loyally representing his state in the Senate for thirty-six years. Temperamentally, Lugar was nearly the opposite of Benton. The Indiana senator’s style is self-effacing, low-key, given to quietly amassing vast stores of knowledge on complex issues often little understood by the public. But, like Benton, he accumulated immense power in the Senate over many years and served his state precisely as it wished to be served.
When such men are cast aside, it serves as a good occasion to ponder those vagaries of democratic politics that can operate with such unsentimental force and deal so harshly with people who only a short time before were considered part of the nation’s political landscape. Such a man was Lugar, as was Benton....
comments powered by Disqus
- Joan Baez, Sly Stone, Steve Martin, Ben E. King -- all honored by the Library of Congress
- StoryCorps to Launch Global Expansion With $1M TED Prize
- Hofstra Event Looks at Bush Presidency
- Did Israel steal uranium from a town in Pennsylvania in the 1960s?
- Sequel to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom to be published next year
- History Camp "unconference" returns for the second year in Boston
- History Department at Connecticut College deplores Facebook post on Palestinians
- Historians join other scholars in protesting Georgia's anti-gay legislation
- Homeland Security historian builds winning case against Salvadoran leader who oversaw crimes
- What Howard Zinn taught the students of Spelman College