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More praise, honors for Lugar ahead of departure

Tributes continue to pour in for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who leaves office at month's end after 36 years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., each called Lugar a "giant" of the chamber on Tuesday.

McConnell recounted highlights of Lugar's life: Eagle Scout, high school and college valedictorian, Rhodes Scholar, Navy intelligence officer, businessman, school board member and Indianapolis mayor, all before he was first elected to the Senate in 1976.

"He's excelled at everything he's ever done. And most incredibly, he's done it with perfectly smooth elbows," McConnell said on the floor of the Senate. "Walk into any office on Capitol Hill, and you won't find a single person who will say a bad word about Dick Lugar.

"He's earned the admiration and respect of everyone who's ever crossed his path. I assure you in the world of politics, that's nothing short of a miracle," McConnell said.

The minority leader recalled Lugar's Senate expertise in trade, agriculture and national security legislation and policies.

"Now to a lot of liberals, he's a walking contradiction: a Republican intellectual. And he's always worn that reputation lightly," McConnell said.

He talked at length about the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction legislation that has dismantled thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. The program "is a great achievement, not just for (Lugar) but for the entire world," McConnell said.

"I have no doubt he'll be remembered as one of the best" senators, he said.

Durbin agreed a short time later.

"There aren't many with the vision of Dick Lugar," he said.

Durbin called Lugar "a powerful force" on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and "an extraordinary ally and colleague on so many important issues."

President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heaped praise on Lugar last week when the senator and his Nunn-Lugar partner, former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, received the Department of Defense's highest civilian honor, the Medal for Distinguished Service. And Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of which Lugar is the highest-ranking Republican and a past chairman, spoke in glowing terms about Lugar in a recent floor speech.

Also Tuesday, Lugar was named the 2012 winner of the Commitment to Development Award, sponsored jointly by the Center for Global Development and The FP Group, publisher of Foreign Policy magazine.

He was honored over the weekend by Hoosier Environmental Council, which gave him its inaugural Statesman Award. He also has been saluted by the U.S.-Central Asia Enterprise Foundation.

Lugar lost this year's Republican primary election to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who was defeated in the general election by Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd.

Lugar and the University of Indianapolis announced last week he will start a Washington, D.C., internship program for the school and deliver lectures at the university as a distinguished professor.

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