Why Lugar Declined That Air Force One Trip

Ben Smith raised an interesting question this morning: Why did Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), whom President Obama has singled out as a valuable mentor, pass up the chance to ride to Indiana on Air Force One today?

Lugar’s absence looked a bit amiss to Mike Tomasky and other wise heads, particularly since Rep. Fred Upton (MI) — another Republican whose vote on the final stimulus bill is still within reach for the president — did join Obama on today’s trip. But as a Lugar spokesman explained to me, the senator had a pretty good reason to decline the Air Force One invitation.Lugar, the longtime senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, was previously committed to joining panel chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai at a conference on protecting the world’s forests from the devastating effects of climate change.

Lugar also wanted to stay in town to study up on the stimulus compromise that was announced over the weekend, his spokesman explained. Sounds like reason enough to remain in Washington — especially if Lugar ultimately votes for the recovery bill.