Sam Nunn: Sen. Dick Lugar’s loss a troubling sign of nation’s polarization

By Maria Saporta

Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn is disappointed that U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) overwhelmingly lost re-election on Tuesday.

“I feel like I’ve lost my last name,” Nunn said jokingly, referring the important piece of legislation they had co-written in 1992 — the Nunn-Lugar Comprehensive Threat Reduction program.

“He’s a great guy,” Nunn said of Lugar. “He did a wonderful job for his state and for the country. He will be dearly missed. The Senate will be diminished, but the outside world will benefit with him being a part of it.”

Nunn shared his thoughts while attending the Heroes, Saints & Legends awards dinner benefitting the Foundation of Wesley Woods.

Nunn said that he normally doesn’t raise money for anyone, but he did send out a fundraising letter for Lugar about three weeks ago. The loss of another moderate in the Senate is a troubling trend.

“The extremes are in charge of both parties to a greater degree than they have been in the past,” Nunn said. “If middle America doesn’t assert itself in the near future, we are not going to be able to solve the big problems looming before us.”

As Nunn sees it, it’s all about the ability to compromise — something which is becoming a lost art.

“There are a lot of people out there who don’t realize that without compromise there would be no Constitution,” Nunn said. “The way you govern, you have to listen to other people’s opinions.”

Nunn said that he and Lugar didn’t always agree, but they knew how to work through their differences.

“We trusted each other,” Nunn said. “We let the facts lead to conclusions. Today too many people have up with the conclusions and they try to come up with the facts to support their conclusions.”

Nunn added that neither political “party has a governing plan right now.” Given all the fiscal issues that will be coming to a head by the end of the year, Nunn is concerned about the inability for Congress to take any action.

“If we don’t do anything, it’s a pretty dangerous way to govern,” Nunn said. “We are in a fragile economic recovery. We are going to have to take action.”

Meanwhile, Nunn said he is working with a coalition of public policy think tanks to see if they can help build consensus on how the nation can tackle its fiscal issues and its tax policies. Nunn also said he appreciates the bi-partisan work that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) is doing to try to reduce the federal deficit.

As for Lugar, although he no longer will be serving in the Senate, the Nunn-Lugar partnership will continue. Lugar has been a founding member of the Nuclear Threat Initiative — an organization which is run by Nunn. Lugar continues to serve on the NTI board.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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