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Why Being A Part Of The Republican Establishment Is A Good Thing

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in the midst of this raucous Republican presidential campaign, we've been collecting thoughts from GOP leaders on the state of their party. This morning, Richard Lugar, he represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for six terms. Then in 2012, he lost his bid for re-election to a tea party insurgent candidate. Welcome to the program.

RICHARD LUGAR: Thank you very much, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now let's begin with if there is anyone in the Republican Party who can be said to represent what's now being called a Republican establishment. I think it's fair to say you would be one of those people.

LUGAR: Yes, I think that's fair to say (laughter).

MONTAGNE: OK, you would be that person. But as you well know, establishment is not a popular term these days, but what does that mean to you?

LUGAR: I think it means attempting to bring together a majority of people for a successful election. A majority includes people who have Democratic and Republican affiliations, and maybe it also means conventional in the sense that Republicans always seem to stand for free enterprise, for strong American foreign policy. They are friends of small and large business persons. These are people that are conventionally a part of that crowd.

MONTAGNE: Jeb Bush grudgingly accepts the term, although he seems to be the definition of the term. Why is that?

LUGAR: I think this is an unusual campaign because essentially, the candidates are picking very extreme positions or, in some case, very few positions at all. For instance, I have a character bias that the Trump campaign is one that does not really have positions. Rather, it's characterized by sort of a barnstorming entertainment aspect, an assaulting of everybody involved, and attempts to answer the fears of many people or the anxieties that life is not going well for them in terms of their jobs or their fear for the future of their country or what have you, that you need somebody who is totally unconventional and who is really just socking it to them.

MONTAGNE: Could Ted Cruz win if nominated?

LUGAR: I think the chances are even less than for Donald Trump to be truthful. Ted Cruz appears, to many, to be even more extreme. Donald Trump, because he does not really state policies, seems to be perhaps more open to possibilities than someone as dogmatic as Ted Cruz. I'm very hopeful that people may become, really, much more interested in specifically what candidates are likely to do with regard to jobs, with regard to immigration, with regard to climate change for that matter. At some point, it seems to me in the campaign there will be people speaking out, hopefully the presidential candidates, in addition to the Senate and the House people, about policies, about actually solutions and seeking, really, a majority opinion in America.

MONTAGNE: Richard Lugar is a former senator who represented the state of Indiana in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. He is now head of the Lugar Center. Thank you very much for joining us.

LUGAR: Thank you so much, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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