Richard Lugar's Dueling Concession Speeches

a | A

By Michael Newman

Concession speeches are not supposed to be memorable, and Senator Richard Lugar's didn’t disappoint. In front of the TV cameras, he congratulated his opponent, thanked his staff, reiterated his belief in the "unique American experiment" and … blah blah blah. He lost me when he brought up his experience on the Indianapolis school board.

His non-concession-non-speech, however -- it wasn't actually delivered and doesn’t actually concede much -- was more interesting. In a prepared statement issued after his loss, Lugar criticized the "unrelenting partisan mindset" of his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, and basically predicted Mourdock would fail as a senator unless he got a better attitude.

Maybe this statement shows Lugar to be a "poor loser" or "pathetic." But I prefer to see it as evidence, sadly lacking in his campaign, that Lugar has a heart. (We already knew he had courage and a brain.) It is hardly surprising that losers, in politics or on reality TV, often do not like the guy they just lost to. Expressing disappointment, even anger, is human.

Of course Lugar's remarks, prepared as they were, suggest that he was nursing this wound even before it was inflicted. So the argument can't be that this was a spontaneous and therefore forgivable display of raw emotion. There is also the argument that the last thing American politics needs is more bitterness and acrimony, and that Lugar's statement adds to it, even as it decries it. (It's possible I may be overthinking this.)

Everyone is supposedly in favor of more honesty in politics. Usually this means more realistic deficit projections, less obfuscation about positions on entitlement spending, and so on. But we should be grateful for honesty whenever and however it comes -- even if it's in the form of a statement by a defeated and otherwise bland politician.

(Michael Newman is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

For more quick commentary from Bloomberg View, go to The Ticker.

-0- May/09/2012 18:36 GMT