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Remembering Senator Richard Lugar, an old-school Republican

RICHARD LUGAR, who died on April 28th, was not a colourful senator. One federal bureaucrat joked that Mr Lugar “maintained that childhood capability of walking into an empty room and blending right in.” “Dick was looked upon as being one smart dude,” said Rex Early, who ran one of Mr Lugar’s campaigns. But “would I want to go fishing with him? Probably not.” Deprived of potential fishing buddies, Mr Lugar had to settle for making the world safer.

He helped override Ronald Reagan’s veto of a bill imposing hefty sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa. He bucked Reagan again by publicly stating that Ferdinand Marcos owed his 1986 re-election in the Philippines to fraud. Reagan initially backed Marcos, but soon withdrew support, leading to Marcos’s exile. During Mr Lugar’s second stint chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he had doubts about the second Iraq war.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he and Sam Nunn, a centrist Democratic senator, wangled some funds from Congress to dismantle weapons of mass destruction. Nunn-Lugar, as the programme is known, funded the deactivation of thousands of weapons, as well as tens of thousands of tonnes of chemical agents. That was not enough to save him from his party: in 2012 he lost a primary to a Tea-Partying Republican. Mr Lugar’s legacy, said Barack Obama when awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, “is the thousands of missiles and bombers and submarines and warheads that no longer threaten us.”