Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar is questioning whether a would-be Republican majority in Congress has the leadership to deal with a stymied President Obama the way former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was able to forge a working relationship with President Bill Clinton.
Speaking at an Excellence in Public Service Series luncheon that he hosts, Lugar told an audience Thursday in Indianapolis that he's confident Obama will be out of the White House in 2012, but a GOP-led majority in Congress would still have to deal with the Democratic president for two years if it wins in November.
Given that scenario, the Republicans "had better have ideas," he said, according to the Evansville Courier Press. They also better have a leader, he warned, noting that he is not confident House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio or Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell can fill Gingrich's shoes.
"The question is, how creative will Republicans be in the face of this? If we get the majority, will there be the sort of negotiations that occurred between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, for example?" he asked. "And if so, who is going to be our Newt?"
After Democrats lost the congressional majority in 1994, Gingrich took the helm in Congress. He is credited with working with then-President Clinton to get passed several tenets of the Republican "Contract With America," the program on which the GOP campaigned in the 1994 election.
But the Republicans are more diffuse in their program pronouncements in 2010, and Lugar reportedly said that the GOP "had better begin thinking in the next 13 weeks about what we are going to do."
The Courier Press reported that Lugar suggested that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, whose proposals have been largely overlooked, even by him, may have the chops to lead the party in ideas and courage to reduce spending. He also suggested fellow Indianan, Rep. Mike Pence, has the creativity and ability to advocate.
Regardless who is the GOP leadership, Lugar, who's vying for a seventh term and recently voted to confirm Obama's Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan and approve a $26 billion small business aid bill, said members better act fast.
"Come January, the public will anticipate something or they will become extremely angry and frustrated," Lugar reportedly said. "They will say, you know, once again, we have been failed by the elections, by people who claimed our support."