Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, came back to Indiana the other day.
While here, he stopped to talk with TV reporters and declined to endorse a candidate in the race for the Senate seat Lugar once held.
He said he would leave it to U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Republican challenger Mike Braun to shape their messages themselves and slug it out on their own.
Lugar’s response wasn’t surprising.
The former senator is nothing if not civil and respectful. I’ve been interviewing him since I was a high school student more than 40 years ago. I’ve never heard him say a mean-spirited thing about anyone.
For Richard Lugar, diving into Indiana’s increasingly nasty U.S. Senate race would be about as appealing as going for a prolonged swim in a sewer.
We’re now at the point in the election cycle when the media campaigns kick into full gear. The commercials we have seen so far have been anything but edifying.
The ads debate whether Braun or Donnelly is the biggest liar. They hurl back and forth semi-factual charges about which candidate in his personal capacity has outsourced the most jobs. They attempt to smear one man or the other through supposed guilt by association.
Nowhere in the campaign is there an attempt to speak to Hoosiers’ higher aspirations, our desire to build a state that fulfills the essential promise of America and gives all a chance to pursue happiness.
The focus in the race isn’t even on winning. It’s on making sure the other fellow — the other side — loses, even if it means someone’s reputation is destroyed and lives are damaged beyond repair in the process.
There is the stuff of tragedy here.
Both Joe Donnelly and Mike Braun are decent, thoughtful guys. Both men have strong work ethics. They care about this country and this state. Both are sensitive to the needs of their neighbors and fellow citizens.
They both would bring credit to any community or enterprise fortunate enough to have them.
But they also both work in a political environment that would have to undergo considerable cleansing just to be called toxic. They joust in a culture in which character assassination is both an admirable and a marketable skill. Their contest is one of denigration, not elevation.
While it’s tempting — and too easy — to blame them, they really are not the ones at fault.
Too many of us for too many years have rewarded this garbage with our votes. We have helped make a world in which we treat differences of opinion, even minor ones, as reason to view fellow citizens as permanent opponents.
Or even enemies.
The results of our abdication of any sort of moral responsibility are all around us.
We’re now watching a nomination process for a Supreme Court seat in which both parties will do anything to claim victory and neither seems to care much about truth, justice or fairness. In their ravenous desire to destroy each other, Republicans and Democrats can’t be bothered to think about the lasting damage they’re doing to the Senate and the Supreme Court.
And to the oldest democratic republic in the world, the United States of America.
No wonder Dick Lugar took a pass on endorsing anyone or anything in this trash dump.
Nothing good would have come from allowing himself to dragged into the filth.
The rest of us don’t have the same option.
We will have to vote, because, come January, one of these guys will be in Washington, D.C.
He’ll be the senator from Indiana.
Otherwise known as the newest king of the garbage heap.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Send comments to [email protected].