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Oral History

Richard Lugar Oral History, Senator, Indiana

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Heininger

This is an interview with Senator Richard Lugar on March 6, 2009. Why don’t we start at the beginning. When did you first meet [Edward] Kennedy, and what were your initial impressions of him?

Lugar

I first met him when I was sworn in to the United States Senate, in the beginning of 1977. It was on that occasion, just a formal greeting, during which he welcomed the new Senators. At that time, there were 16 new Senators, eight Democrats, eight Republicans, it was quite a turnover. It was also an election in which Republicans, unfortunately, had sunk to their lowest in some time. I was one of 38 Republicans. It was obvious they had moved the chairs or seats on the Senate floor to accommodate the very large number of Democrats on one side of the aisle, and the much smaller vanguard that was left on the Republican side. 

During that period, I really did not have much contact with Senator Kennedy. I observed him, as we all did, as one who usually stood, when he gave a speech, at the back row of the Senate, and spoke very loudly. One had the impression that he could have been heard without the public address system, or maybe even outside the Chamber. I can’t recall what he had to say, but the way that he said it was very impressive.

Heininger

What was your sense of who Ted Kennedy was? Did you see him as a Presidential contender? Did you see him as the wild-eyed liberal from Massachusetts?

Lugar

I saw him then as a member of the Kennedy family. I had met Robert Kennedy when I served as mayor of Indianapolis. The visit that he paid to our city during his Presidential campaign, on April 4, 1968, the day that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, has been well recorded.Of course the remarkable speech that he made that night has been now republished.It’s aired very frequently. So I was aware of the Kennedy family really more through Robert Kennedy,but I came to learn much more about Ted Kennedy once I had come to the Senate.

Heininger

Did you see him, at the point when you came in, as being a potential Presidential contender?

Lugar

Not necessarily. As an avid reader of political journals, I read the list of people who were potential contenders, and he was certainly always in those lists, but I had no particular inkling of his personal ambition, his campaign timetable. It appeared to me that he was always potentially a contender but had no particular plans at that point.

Heininger

You mentioned, before we turned on the recorders, about a program that you have worked on with him. Why don’t we talk about that, the YES [Youth Exchange and Study] Program.

Lugar

In recent years, beginning about 2003 and following the 9/11 attack on the United States in 2001, groups suggested that it would be ideal if young leaders from developing countries, and especially from the Middle East, were to come to the United States. I was not involved in the planning of these scholarship opportunities, but I was very pleased to hear that Senator Ted Kennedy was very much interested in this and really wanted to have a bipartisan leadership effort to boost those who were organizing the affair. We did so then, and we have done so each year subsequently, by having a large reception in which we met with all of the students. This year I believe there were about 53.

Heininger

Wow, that’s a lot.

Lugar

During the course of this program, maybe as many as 800 students have come to the United States, stayed for a period of time, visited with American families, attended American high schools or junior colleges or whatever was appropriate, and are very opinionated, idealistic young people, as Ted Kennedy and I have found as we have visited with them. These are not casual pass-throughs with these receptions; we spend some quality time not only giving our views but likewise responding to their questions and having pictures taken in groups, or whatever seemed to be helpful. So I’ve really cherished those moments.

This past year, when Ted was not able to be present due to medical reasons, his family sent a letter from him to the students,which they asked me to read and which I was really honored to do. It was a very touching moment because the students missed him. I missed him.

Heininger

What have been your impressions of him as a Senator? Do you feel that he’s an effective Senator? Is he different when the Democrats are in the majority versus when they’re in the minority?

Lugar

Ted Kennedy’s ideas have not changed during the majority or minority status. He has very consistent views with regard to the progress of all people in this country, especially educational opportunities, job opportunities, certainly civil rights, and not just legislation but the general equity before the law. These have been consistent themes. I think he understands, as I do as a practical politician, that if your party is in the majority and you are chairman of a committee that has jurisdiction for many of the ideas that you wish to see in legislation, you have great opportunities. It doesn’t deny you an opportunity to work with the majority if you’re in the minority, or to offer amendments on the floor of the Senate, but obviously that’s a less satisfying pattern than having comprehensive hearings, inviting all of the best minds in the country or the world to come to visit, to contribute to the product that you placed before your colleagues. 

The Democrats have had majorities in the Senate for at least half of the time that Ted Kennedy has served, perhaps more than that. Ted came before I did. I came in ’77 and it’s obvious, from that point on, at least for four years, Republicans were completely out of it.Then with the [Ronald] Reagan election, we were back into it again. This did not change Ted Kennedy’s speeches and messages as I remember them on the floor, but obviously his effectiveness, temporarily during those periods of time, as a committee chairman. 

Currently, in 2009, his chairmanship of the committee dealing with health legislation has once again, even during his illness, given him a very important role. That’s recognized by all Senators, whether he is physically present or not.That’s been the case for a long while, the pursuit of health, equity for all of us in society, and a means of paying for this. Innovative ways of working in new medical devices and findings and so forth have been exciting and challenging and expensive. This is a larger part of our American budget and a part of all of our wealth, either private or public, so it’s an important responsibility, in addition to being a humane one, to figure out how to pay for it, how to deliver it. 

I think from that standpoint, although the foreign relations aspect has not been a major committee assignment for Ted Kennedy, people around the world have admired his work. His family ties, historically, have brought world leaders to the attention of the Kennedys and vice versa. So you have some measure of play there, too, which is perhaps unique.

Heininger

Let’s turn to an issue that you have worked with him on, that’s South Africa. You both believed that there needed to be pressure by the United States on South Africa to end apartheid. Did you come at them from different perspectives, or did you come at it from the same, very similar perspective? How important to him was the need to keep South Africa from falling into civil war and potentially being available for Soviet adventurism?

Lugar

Both of us had the perspective that South Africa could have a catastrophic future of vicious civil war and, for the more civil conflict, it would infect other nations in southern Africa. Ted Kennedy may have come to that recognition before I did. I really did not have conversations with him before the period of 1983-’84 or the years subsequent to that. I was influenced to take much more of an interest, and then a stand, by J. Irwin Miller, who came from Indiana, the Cummins Engine Company, a man of great vision, who was very active in the National Council of Churches.He went to South Africa with the Ford Foundation Group and others who were also surveying this as private citizens, apart from their public responsibilities. 

J. Irwin Miller came back from some of these travels indicating that he was convinced that a catastrophe was at hand. As one who was a strong supporter of mine in Indiana,and a very dear friend back when I was mayor of Indianapolis, he encouraged me to really take much more of an interest, to study this situation, which I took seriously. So at the time that I became Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in 1985 that was an unusual set of circumstances. I had come on the committee six years before, as one of the six Republicans during the depths of the Republican numbers.Subsequently, each of the other people who were senior had either lost elections or, in the case of Howard Baker, had taken charge of the Senate as Majority Leader.This left only Senator Jesse Helms, who had promised the people of North Carolina he would protect tobacco, and stayed as Chairman of Agriculture, reluctantly I think, because two years later Jesse changed his mind.

Heininger

Yes. [laughs]

Lugar

Nevertheless, it was an unusual period of time, ’85 and ’86. The South African problem was on my mind, along with all sorts of other things. It was an opportunity, however, to hold hearings on almost everything in the world, which we did, a very active committee.As the year progressed it appeared that our government was taking—that is, the Reagan administration—more of an interest, but one that, by the use of the term constructive engagement, tended to say that we were sensitive but nevertheless working with the South African government at least the Reagan administration people felt that they were and that there would be evolution and better opportunities for Africans and blacks in South Africa.But this did not progress. I became more and more of the opinion that President Reagan either didn’t get it or was not being well advised in these areas. 

Ted Kennedy and Lowell Weicker had offered legislation in this period, either in that particular year or the year before, the first time they may have offered the same legislation again in which they actually wanted to institute some sanctions, but it was largely through the form of saying there would be no further investment by Americans in South Africa. I think almost everybody’s bill said we would not buy Krugerrands, a very popular purchase at the time, to indicate our displeasure and to displace an export that South Africans would understand symbolically and actually. So I pay tribute to Ted Kennedy and Lowell Weicker for their vision.

But as chairman of the committee, I tried to bring together as large a majority as I could of the committee, and we succeeded by a 15 to 2 margin with our original legislation. I won’t go through all the details of it, but it was really an attempt to try to think through very specific things that would affect the leadership of the country, that would not hobble, we hoped, the economy of South Africa. We were very sensitive to trying to institute ways in which there would be greater equality for blacks in employment in South Africa, and relief of various problems that they had reaching into the governance of the country and its business, as well as the situation.

On the House of Representatives side, there was always bound to be conflict among some members who were so outraged by South Africa that it was almost a burn-to-the-ground strategy. They wanted to make a statement; it was not the particulars of how business would work, but they were never in the majority, and I would not want to overstate that. Others recognized this was going to have to be a two-House solution and a signature by President Reagan, who was not maybe on board. I had allies on the House side who were really very helpful throughout this time, in their Foreign Affairs Committee.So they ultimately passed a bill.

Heininger

Were you getting pressure from Indiana as well? Was this becoming an issue in Indiana?

Lugar

The people of Indiana were of mixed views about my ascension to Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Heininger

They like you better on the Ag Committee. [laughter]

Lugar

They were proud, in a way, that this recognition had come. They were certainly aware of all of our activities because we had seemingly endless hearings and pronouncements and visitors from all over the world. But, as was to become even more the case the following year, in this two-year period of ’85 and ’86, I was asked by President Reagan to go to the Philippines to lead a delegation observing Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, and came back indicating that Marcos had won by fraud and abuse and so forth. Many of my constituents had the same feeling about the South African legislation, which was that we were becoming so involved, and furthermore, they weren’t certain on the right side. Many people felt that not only were we interfering in the affairs of other countries, but they were not really confident that this ascension of black leadership in South Africa was the best thing for South Africa or for Africa or for anybody else. It was not a racial prejudice necessarily,it was just simply, Lugar’s sort of overreaching here; he’s getting so excited about legislating for the world. 

So there was a lot of mail, as well as people back in Indiana wanting to talk about this. I took the position, which is, I suppose, sort of derivative back to Edmund Burke, that oh, your constituents, your best judgment. But furthermore as a practical step, I just simply said I realize we probably have some disagreements. We’re not doing this on the sly or quietly.This is a very public argument. When I sense that there may be a very large constituent group, or maybe even a majority for the moment, who don’t agree, I have an obligation to go back to Indiana and to talk about it, to argue the thing out there, quite apart from the safety of the U.S. Capitol. I think people respected that. They didn’t necessarily agree with what we were doing.

Heininger

So you weren’t getting the towns, cities moving towards disinvestment, adopting disinvestment policies?

Lugar

No. In Indiana there were student groups, the occasional religious group, others who might have ties with national associations, and people like Irwin Miller, with the World Council of Churches, but also as a local leader,who certainly had spoken out. So we were not hopelessly all by ourselves.Nevertheless, this was not a movement that they would have encouraged. There were other things on their minds.

Heininger

Right.

Lugar

In my book, Letters to the Next President, which you indicated that you’ve readI wrote that book within a couple of years after all of these events of ’85 and ’86, while they were fresh in mind. They were a personal perspective, almost a memo. Of course that’s now been 20 years or so ago and you can forget all the details and nuances. The significant part of ’85 was that having come to the point where the legislation had a very good chance of passing, Secretary George Shultz, who was a very dear friend, called me and wanted to come to my hideaway office on a Saturday afternoon to talk about all this, before the Congress came back after Labor Day. He had convinced me that President Reagan was going to adopt, by Executive order, everything we had in our legislation. 

Now, with regard to the Krugerrands, they said, After all, there’s an international treaty of some sort, we’ve got to talk to the other parties about that, we can’t arbitrarily do that, and a couple of fine points of this sort, but essentially the bulk…. So I said, We clearly are still in a situation in which we have a filibuster, or we’re going to when we get back on the floor.We’ve still got to get through that. We still have to get through, if the President vetoes the bill. I felt reasonably confident we had formed the legislation that could get a two-thirds majority on both sides, that the people of the scorched-earth variety had at least understood that we were on the right track.But these things are never certain. In any event, because of my trust of George Shultz and my regard for his sagacity in this, I said I would work with him. Bob Dole agreed, when I saw him as he came back as our Majority Leader, that’s what we should do. 

So, as I recounted in the book, this incident in which Bob Byrd, who was then the Democratic leader, had at least taught Bob Dole some lessons.And Bob Dole said, If you were the chairman of the committee, you could approach the parliamentarian with me and ask if something that is in conference, if you can take physical possession of the bill. I can’t remember all the particulars, but Dole and I approached the parliamentarian and he agreed there was a precedent for doing this.

So Dole took the book and handed it to me and, as I recount in my book, I put it in my pocket, went to a meeting of the Intelligence Committee on the fourth floor, disappeared for at least the next hour or so, and as I said in my book and I’m certain Ted Kennedy would have said if he wrote about this he was simply outraged. He felt that this was just totally the most perfidious, underhanded situation. As I also noted in my book, and I got this from others who were on the floor at the time because I had left with the bill, Senator Byrd sort of looked on rather bemused, having adopted this strategy before on various occasions, maybe unbeknownst to Ted Kennedy, but Dole and Byrd understood—

The point of the whole business was that for a while it appeared that our administration had changed tack; messages went out and so forth. But in due course, Pik Botha and others in South Africa found ways around it. It was obvious in the arrests that they made in South Africa, of people who were loyal to Nelson Mandela and others, that they were not going to move ahead. As the next year progressed, this became even more disheartening. 

Under those circumstances, I started it all again in the Foreign Relations Committee; more hearings, getting the votes, likewise.This time we decided that we would be even more specific with regard to the targeting of things that would be important to the leadership, especially the ability to fly out of the country, for example, or their bank accounts or things that were pretty targeted and were going to get their attention. We passed the bills again, in the Senate, got 80 votes or so, although not easily. Senator Helms, on one occasion, offered 15 amendments, or there were people wanting to filibuster or so forth, and people always putting constraints on when the time limits were. So it was not easygoing.

But really the crucial meeting that we had, among several, was President Reagan did listen to Bob Dole, Nancy Kassebaum, and me as we pled with him in the White House to sign the bill. But he indicated that he was not going to sign the bill by the time the meeting was concluded. Whether he was advised by Pat Buchanan or by whomever, only he would know why, what internal messages were going on.

Heininger

Were you surprised at that point?

Lugar

Not totally. I had the impression that he never really was convinced that we were necessarily on the right side of history on this. I was very sad about this because, as I recall in my book, I was working on a lot of other situations that were very important to the President at the time. The President had changed his mind on Marcos and Aquino. When I came back from that he had said there was fraud and abuse on both sides. He had a press conference that very night and the first three questions were about the Philippines. 

And of course back in the Philippines, the Aquino people were simply outraged. They marched on the U.S. embassy and so forth. It was wild. The President went to the ranch, and I got a call from those there on the ranch on Saturday; he had changed his mind. I had gone back to Indiana to face all my constituents who were wondering why are you overthrowing an anticommunist ally; what have you done now? I was invited to be on all three of the Sunday talk shows, the major networks, but Marcos appeared on a split screen on two of them. It was an unusual situation.

Heininger

I had forgotten that.

Lugar

It was the next day that First Friend Paul Laxalt was asked by Reagan to come to room S-407, at the intelligence spaces. I was with him. He engaged conversation with Marcos, and the term,cut and cut clean, and so on. And Marcos said,So sorry. I regret hearing that. Marcos, that very night—it was night over there—went down the river from the palace to the American embassy and then was spirited out the next day to Hawaii. Reagan had changed his mind with regard to that, but it was not to be with regard to South Africa. So we had this debate. 

At this time, Dole became very bitter and said this was feel-good legislation. Whether he felt that way or was defending the President, I don’t know, but the vote was roughly 80 to 12 or 77 to 19, or whatever I wrote down in the book. It was clearly overwhelming but very sad. It was the only veto of a foreign policy bill that was overturned by the Senate during Reagan’s eight-year time. So it was significant.

Heininger

Well, it was the first foreign policy veto override since ’73, on the war powers.

Lugar

Yes. One of the aftermaths, and I don’t have this in my mind on the date, but I remember a key factor for getting rid of the sanctions was freedom for Nelson Mandela.This was the headline thing. There were other things you could do, but that—and to renounce apartheid. This was during the early time of the first George [H.W.] Bush’s administration, when Nelson Mandela was freed. I remember I was in Chicago, doing a Sunday morning talk show from there. I had been visiting constituents in northern Indiana when I got word of this, and likewise that President Bush was trying to reach me. I did not talk to the President directly but I talked to his staff members, who said,What the President wants to know is, now that Mandela has been freed, what’s next? Can you remember what’s in the legislation next?[laughter] I said,I’ll look it up and I’ll get back to you. Fairly shortly after that, within months, Nelson Mandela came to Washington and spoke to a joint session of the Congress, which was a very dramatic event.

Heininger

It was very moving.

Lugar

After the speech, there was a small luncheon maybe not in the rotunda but in one of those spaces there in the interior of the Capitol;it wasn’t in a committee room in which there were members of both Houses and some administration officials and what have you. Nelson Mandela was obviously very pleased by the warm reception.We were all pleased that he was there. I always remember he was asked to speak just a few words. We said,After all, President Mandela, you’ve already spoken.You’re tired and we don’t want to wear you out but nevertheless, do you have a few words to say? He said, Come to think of it, I do.

And so he went off into a reminiscence. He said,I was sitting there in that cell all this time, and I felt that I was losing my family. I wasn’t seeing my children. I was losing my marriage. I felt I was losing everything. Suddenly I got word that here in this Congress, this activity was going on.I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much because I suddenly realized Mrs. [Margaret] Thatcher was not going to do anything, the European Union decided all things considered, even the Eminent Persons Group, who had been roaming around, were not really sure that this was the way to go. Speaking to the Congress, the people there, that you did act.You were decisive and you mentioned me and my freedom and what have you.

But then I always remember he added, And if you had not acted, there would be no relations between South Africa and the United States today. Sort of an ominous, not sinking, feeling, but the whole tenor of things changed abruptly. I can still remember vividly because I was seated two or three places from him. It really wasn’t meant to condemn everybody; it was just an emotional moment for him.He just had to get that out, that everybody else had let him down.But likewise, maybe we were on the threshold of doing the same.

Heininger

But that’s true, given the way the situation was going.

Lugar

Yes, but nevertheless, we did the right thing. Nelson Mandela returned several more times and, of course, has retained very strong ties with the country.

Heininger

How important was Kennedy to the process of getting sanctions on South Africa?

Lugar

Without any doubt, his leadership within the Democratic Party.Many Democrats were disposed to want to be helpful in that respect.He certainly was able to articulate in his own very expressive, forceful way, the importance of this, and did so with frequency.

Heininger

How helpful was he in dealing with the House, particularly when he got to the conference report?

Lugar

I really didn’t have any conversations with Ted Kennedy in this period, and I wish, for the sake of the arguments today, that I could recall. It was largely because we were so wrapped up in our committee assignments. I was doing foreign relations 24 hours a day, it seemed, and he was interested, obviously, in South Africa and other foreign policy problems.But our lives just didn’t intersect because of all the committee assignments or running in and out for votes and so forth. I saw him occasionally and I was aware of his activity, very grateful for what he was doing, but I just can’t recall instances in which we had much conversation at this point.

Heininger

How did the House finally come to accept the Senate bill?Because when it got to the ’86 bill, so that you didn’t have to go to conference, you could get a bill out, you could get it to the President, if it was going to be vetoed you could get it back. How did it come about that the House—?

Lugar

I talked to a number of African-American friends in the House, in a very practical way as to what the history of this has been. I think they, by that point, had come to understand that. Maybe in ’85 or ’84 or what have you, he had been a bit irrepressible, but by this time we were really more diligent in going about this. They realized perhaps, although the arithmetic doesn’t necessarily show this, that this might be a more difficult problem in the Senate, given the filibusters or the two-thirds majority overrule or what have you, that this was going to be tougher to come by. And given the opposition potentially, not only of Senator Helms and others who surrounded him, but Senator Dole in his loyalty to the President. So they were helpful, as opposed to saying it’s my way or the highway.

Heininger

That’s so unusual, we know. [laughs]

Lugar

We had tried in our own committee to get unanimous consent to begin with. We never quite got there but this was not to be a Republican venture or a partisan affair.We worked awfully hard to listen to everybody and have endless meetings and so forth.

Heininger

Do you recall whether Kennedy was helpful in kind of reining in Democratic amendments that could have made the bill more difficult?

Lugar

I don’t know. I’m not aware of that.

Heininger

Let’s talk for a minute about Iraq. The two of you have both been either critics of or opposed to how the [George W.] Bush administration conducted the War in Iraq. What have you seen, in terms of the differences between your two approaches on this?

Lugar

I was aware of Ted Kennedy’s views on it, although once again, maybe inhibited by the fact that we did not have debate within the Foreign Relations Committee or other formal things. I was never able to see how our attitudes coincided. I worked a lot with Joe Biden, who was either chairman or ranking member, depending upon which party was up or down in this period.My impression was that Joe was much more in touch with Ted Kennedy, or for that matter, other Democrats who were not committee members but who had a very deep interest in the Iraq business. 

I’ve seen other memoirs of people. Tom Daschle had written about it, and Trent Lott and others were a part of this. Joe and I finally came to a set of conclusions as to steps we thought the President ought to take before he declared war, and they included a good number of diplomatic steps. As far as I can tell, Ted Kennedy was on board with regard to those same situations, although he may have had stronger antiwar feelings. I think Joe and I, in a more pragmatic way, understood that at the end of the trail, that as they always say, you can’t take that option off the table but before you got to that the need to get international support, United Nations activity if at all possible, to try to work through all the traces, were very important. 

Now we were undercut by, I think Dick Gephardt in the House and others in the Senate who appeared on the White House lawn and indicated that there was bipartisan support, that we were the odd people out in all of this.So the Biden-Lugar amendment or Lugar-Biden, or whatever our thing was, was overtaken in this case. Obviously, Ted Kennedy was not among those trying to undercut it. My impression was he was supportive of what we were attempting to do in the committee, with the resolutions we were trying to fashion for the Senate as a whole.

Heininger

You’ve had a number of oversight hearings on the conduct of the war subsequently.

Lugar

Yes.

Heininger

Has he been supportive of efforts like that? Has he felt, as far as you know, that this has been an important piece of dealing with the war effort?

Lugar

My impression is that he has been, but I have a deficit of memories of specific intervention or ways that he could have said that to our committee. I’m aware of general speeches that he was making in the country as well as the Senate.

Heininger

How have you differed on the use of force? You’ve dealt with U.S.military engagements since 1977, a long-standing period of military engagements. You both had to deal with these issues. How have you seen your views differ or be similar to his?

Lugar

I’ve supported the use of military force in which the United States went after Iraq, when it invaded Kuwait. I don’t recall Senator Kennedy’s position during that particular conflict.Nevertheless, unlike the second Iraq War, in which I worked with Senator Biden, maybe others in the committee, in a much broader scope to see how we might come to other solutions, in the first Iraq War, I was clearly on the side that we were justified. I was also, however, very supportive of President Bush’s efforts to gain support from other countries financially. One of the important things about that particular conflict is that it was almost paid for, altogether, by the Japanese, the Saudis, and other people, as opposed to

Heininger

This one.

Lugar

Yes, which has put a big dent in our national accounts, probably postponed opportunities for constructive expenditures domestically. It had a very large impact that way. Even then, I think the first Iraq War brought home to most of us who are not students about how we became involved with the Saudis to begin with. The either implicit, if not explicit, thought from Franklin Roosevelt onward, that we would come to the assistance of Saudi Arabia because the oil flow was absolutely vital to our economy.Even though many condemned the oil business even then, in the ’30s and ’40s, nevertheless it was very essential. Now, fortunately, we did not have to get into wars to protect the Saudis or the oil flow, but it was instructive, in maybe a moment of candor, when Jim Baker, pressed as to why we were involved in the first Iraq-Kuwait war, said,Well, oil.That was probably right, essentially, quite apart from repelling aggression or the other rationalizations for this.

So by the time we got along further, I think all of us had become somewhat more sophisticated about the history of American diplomatic involvement, if not military involvement, in the Middle East. We’ve had considerable interest because of Israel and the independence of that state, but there has also been a continuing interest in the flow of oil and what it has meant to the strength of our economy, our whole transportation system, and way of life, in many ways. 

By the time we got to this next Iraq conflict, we were all more aware of that, and likewise, of the fact that if we did not have other allies and we did not have other people paying for this, this was going to be very expensive. This is why at that time, the Department of Defense seemed to stress that this was going to be a quick war; that we would have overwhelming success, and we would be out.The dancing in the streets idea, that we would be welcome by people who had been freed and who want to go along with their lives with democracy and so forth.

Heininger

Did you think that would be the case?

Lugar

No.So a lot of our hearings tried to probe what the rationale was for the next day.We were resisted in the committee and very substantially by the Defense Department, who did not want to testify; the State Department, who had been suppressed. This became an ongoing flow in which we would have experts from Iraq or American scholars like Phebe Marr, for example, who was a regular. I cite her as one of several who were really very good in telling us a whole lot more about Iraqi society…

Heininger

She’s very knowledgeable.

Lugar

…about the differences and the problems and so forth. So we were not a burr under the saddle, but it was a constant check and balance, as it ought to be, with the Congress and oversight, although I can’t say we were particularly effective. Things rumbled on quite apart from whether anybody had a very good idea. I went with Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel to Iraq a year after the first invasion.We saw Mr. [Paul] Bremer when he had come in to begin with, his regime there, and tried to surmise what was there. This is the basis for various speeches that I gave. They were probably not of the same tenor as speeches Ted Kennedy was giving, or that I can remember, in which it was more wholesale condemnation of the Bush administration or [Donald] Rumsfeld or whoever might be there.At the same time, we were trying to think through how we could still bring greater internationalization to this, how we began to have some way of bringing security to the Iraqi people that would have to come from their neighbors; we could not be there indefinitely and govern all of them. 

These quests continue even now. We’re at a point—I was down at the White House the other day for this meeting with the President, in which he outlined the troop-withdrawal pattern. I have great respect for people like General [David Petraeus, who it seems to me, have brought some new wisdom to the analysis of the situation.It’s still fraught with all kinds of problems on the trail. But getting back to Senator Kennedy, I think he’s pointed this out. Sometimes, as I say, depending upon maybe which year, the degree of partisanship for how excited it was, but this may be true of all of us.

Heininger

I know your time is very limited and I’ll ask you one last question. What do you see is his standing among other Senators, and how has that changed over the years?

Lugar

I think that he has always, at least in the period of time that he’s taken on the health issues, been seen as a leader in that field, and he’s wanted to be considered as a leader. He wanted to make an imprint. I think that this has led to much greater stature than when he was perhaps in a more partisan role as a prospective Presidential candidate, or in making pronouncements on human rights and foreign affairs and so forth. It was not that that was anticipated of Ted Kennedy, that he would always be making these speeches, but nevertheless, it was not really clear what was likely to come up. It was a sounding out, for his own satisfaction as well as for the rest of us. I think as time has gone on, his role working with Senator [Orrin] Hatch, for example, on occasion, or with others in the committee in a bipartisan way,has been greatly respected.

After the collapse of Hillary Clinton’s health plan came the feeling that things had not been solved but they were unlikely to be without greater consensus. To the extent that everyone was at the top of their lungs on these issues, nothing significant was going to happen . I think there is a feeling that his legislative efforts have led to success here, and I think this is why there’s an enormous amount of heartfelt sentiment surrounding his present illness and his absence.Because one of the great focuses of his life in the Senate, as well as his life outside, has been thoughtfulness about the health of others and about those opportunities for all Americans.People respect him and admire what he’s doing.

Heininger

Do you think we might get healthcare under President [Barack] Obama?

Lugar

I hate to make predictions in the midst of what is just, every day, more depressing economic news.

Heininger

Yes.

Lugar

On the one hand you want to say yes, this is the time.It’s the first year, the enthusiasm is there, and so forth.But even Max Baucus is saying now hang on here; this healthcare thing is tied up with the taxation bill, that this may not work and we’re going to have to separate those two. Of course it’s hard to do exactly because healthcare is going to be more expensive, whatever we do. Some of the plans being suggested could be very expensive. So here we are, struggling with this appropriation bill of everything that was not done last year, following the huge stimulus bill, to head up maybe a new TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] bill. This is very frightening territory for anybody, whether you’re a fiscal conservative, a liberal, or somewhere in between. 

As day by day goes by and the stock market continues down, it’s not the confidence that President Obama abates, but at the same time people keep talking about probably not until 2010. The jobless figures, the downward change in the market and all, so I don’t know. You talk about healthcare and large changes in the midst of this—they don’t seem probable to me this year. It appears to me a constructive debate, outlines again, the parameters of the situation. Maybe some incremental changes that are important, but that would be my guess for the moment.

Heininger

Thank you very much.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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