The Cable

Lugar attacks primary opponent as soft on defense

Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-IN) heated primary battle with State Treasurer Richard Mourdock veered into the realm of national security this week, and Lugar's campaign is trying to take advantage.

Lugar's campaign sent out a statement Tuesday criticizing Mourdock for telling the Times of Northwest Indiana editorial board that he would cut defense spending, perhaps by consolidating two or more of the military service branches together.

"There's always going to be a lot of duplication. We look today at the historical setup of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard -- there's a lot of duplication and bureaucracy right there. In the 21st century, is that necessary? I'm not sure that it is," Mourdock said.

"Key Question for Richard Mourdock: Which military branch do you think is no longer necessary in the 21st century -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard?" Lugar's campaign asked in the statement.

The statement is only the latest attempt by Lugar's camp to paint Mourdock as a neophyte and an isolationist on national security and foreign policy. Other examples Lugar's campaign has been pointing to in recent weeks include a 1992 Chicago Tribune report which said, "Mourdock, 41, a geologist, has been likened to Ross Perot by the local press. He wants to cut the deficit, institute a budget freeze and slash U.S. troop levels overseas." (Emphasis Lugar's.)

That same year, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported, "Mourdock said the nation should focus more of its resources on education and cease acting as the world's ‘911' service."

In another example, in a 1992 candidate questionnaire printed by The Message, an Evansville weekly, Mourdock was asked, "Do you favor or oppose the following initiatives: A Comprehensive test ban?" Mourdock responded "No Position."

"These comments serve as a strong reminder to Hoosiers of the enormous stature gap that exists between Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock when it comes to critical issues like defense and national security," Lugar campaign spokesperson Andy Fisher told The Cable. "The fact that Mourdock would make a statement like this while our country is at war should give every Hoosier pause," he said, referring to Mourdock's remarks about the military and Coast Guard.

The polls for the upcoming primary are contradictory. An April 6 Howey/DePauw poll had Lugar up 42 to 35 percent over Mourdock. On April 26, Mourdouk's camp touted a new poll that showed its candidate up 44 to 39 percent, but that poll was conducted by a group supporting Mourdouk.

With the primary only one week away, both sides are looking for any advantage. And although Lugar, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been skeptical of U.S. intervention in places like Syria, he is positioning to Mourdock's right on international affairs.

Requests for comment to the Mourdock campaign were not returned.

The Cable

National Geographic Society goes Japanese for Clinton-Noda dinner

The National Geographic Society building was transformed into a gala dinner venue Monday evening as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted an intimate event for Japanese Prime Yoshihiko Noda and a couple hundred others, including your humble Cable guy.

Chef Bryan Voltagio, the proprietor of the Frederick, MD restaurant VOLT and a finalist on the 2009 season of Top Chef, was brought in to cater the event and he went with a menu of hybrid courses that mixed Japanese themes with locally sourced American ingredients. The appetizer of Peekytoe crab was served wrapped sushi-style in an avocado encasing, and the entrée of Wagyu beef came with a melée of English peas, maroon carrots, and vadouvan granola with smoked golden raisins. The "Tomodachi" (friendship) chocolate dessert featured dark chocolate ganache with a side of caramelized milk chocolate sorbet.

State Department officials in attendance included Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman, and Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer.

Senior Asia hands at the dinner included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless, former NSC Senior Director Jeff Bader, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Gen. Chip Gregson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer, now with Sen. John Kerry's staff, Brookings Institution scholar Richard Bush, AEI's Michael Auslin, CNAS's Patrick Cronin, and many more.

Before the dinner, guests toured National Geographic's Samurai art and artifact exhibit while eating finger sandwiches and sipping white wine. After dinner, the mononymous violin virtuoso Midori serenaded the crowd, after which Clinton hurried off to catch her plan to Beijing, which left late Monday evening.

The event was elegant, although unusual, in that diplomatic dinners are rarely held in what by day is the employee cafeteria for the National Geographic staff. The idea was the brainchild of Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who ironically was not there because he had sped to Beijing early to deal with the crisis over the fate of blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

"We are here tonight to celebrate the friendship between the United States and Japan. This is a bond between us that promotes security, stability, and prosperity not only in the Asia Pacific but around the world. Our countries are standing side by side to meet the most important challenges of our time," Clinton said in her remarks.

She touted America's gift of 3,000 dogwood trees, which will be planted all over Tokyo to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Japan's giving Washington the cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin.

"Japan remains an essential world leader, even in the face of the unspeakable tragedies that it suffered.  Americans are inspired by the bravery and resilience of the Japanese people," Clinton said. "In addition to the partnership between our two governments, what is most important about our relationship are the ties between our two peoples. Many of you here tonight have played an important role in strengthening the bonds that our countries share. But we want to be sure that it is not just a relationship of the present and the past, but also one of the future."

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages