Tom Ricks misinterprets Lugar’s defeat about as badly as one can:
The defeat of Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican Party primary for Senate last night tells me two things. First, it says that the national security centrist position continues to erode. Losing Lugar reminds me of the defeat a few years back of Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the patron saint of professional military education. Second, it makes me wonder if the great Midwest is turning away from internationalism and back to its pre-World War II isolationism.
I’m not sure what Ricks means by “national security centrist position,” but except for Mourdock’s disagreement with Lugar on arms control the election outcome arguably has no foreign policy or national security significance at all. Can anyone name a foreign policy issue other than New START that separates Mourdock and Lugar? I don’t think anyone can, because as far as I know there are no other major disagreements.
The issues that alienated Lugar from Indiana Republicans were almost all local political ones or those related to his voting record on judicial nominations, bailouts, and immigration legislation. There is no reason why Lugar’s defeat should remind Ricks of Skelton’s loss, since Skelton was swept away in a massive anti-Democratic wave election. The one similarity between the races is that Skelton had also been in Congress for over 30 years. Lugar’s defeat was a rejection of an establishment figure widely perceived to have lost touch with people in his home state.
Mourdock has argued for making some reductions in military spending, but there is no doubt that Mourdock is an internationalist almost exactly like Lugar. Obviously, there is no revival of “isolationism” going on here, and it’s silly to suggest that there is. There is nothing in Mourdock’s remarks on foreign policy that would give anyone reason to think that he sympathizes with non-interventionist views. Mourdock recites the standard hegemonist view that U.S. withdrawal from around the world “leaves the world to a time of darkness that our generation cannot imagine.” Mourdock accepts the basic assumptions of hegemonism.