Perhaps Richard Mourdock was onto something when, during his campaign to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., he repeatedly referred to the six-term incumbent as President Obama's "favorite Republican."
Obama had high praise for Lugar during a Monday symposium on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program at the National Defense University in Washington.
"At times we've disagreed on matters of policy, but one thing we've always shared is a notion of what public service should be," Obama told Lugar. "That it ought to be more than just doing what's popular in the moment, that it ought to be about what's right for our nation over the long term. It ought to be about problem solving and governance, not just how we can score political points on each other or engage in obstructionism, where compromise is not a vice and bipartisanship is actually considered a virtue to be rewarded and not punished."
State Treasurer Mourdock frequently portrayed Lugar as too bipartisan and compromising during their bitter campaign ahead of Indiana's Republican primary election. Mourdock even ran an Internet cartoon accusing Lugar and Obama of having a "bromance."
Mourdock defeated Lugar by 21 percentage points, then lost to Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, in the general election by nearly 6 percentage points.
Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia, received the Department of Defense Medal of Distinuguished Public Service on Monday for their work to reduce stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. The president said later at the symposium that Lugar "took me in as a pupil" when Obama joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a new senator in 2005. Lugar was committee chairman at the time.
Obama recalled traveling in a delegation with Lugar that year to inspect sites in the former Soviet Union where weapons were being dismantled under the Nunn-Lugar program. He said it was anything but a relaxing junket.
"This is the kind of trip you take with Dick Lugar," Obama told the NDU audience. "We're traipsing through nuclear weapons storage sites and junkyards full of old landmines and technicians showing off test tubes, and you ask, 'Well, what's that?' 'Well, that's anthrax, that's plague.' 'Shouldn't you keep it in something a little more sturdy than this?'
"Dick Lugar is standing in the back of the room," Obama said. "I remember I asked him, 'Dick, have you seen it?' 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it, I don't get too close now.' That's what it's like traveling with Dick Lugar."