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Lugar: Hagel criticism 'unfortunate and unfair'

PUBLISHED, 11:25 AM ET - Former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana had tough words for his party, his primary opponent who defeated him last cycle but went on to lose in the fall to a Democrat, and opponents of ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary.

Lugar, who had been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served with Hagel on the committee, said the former Nebraska senator’s positions were “legitimately held” and are now being “selectively pulled out of context,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown. That’s something Lugar called “unfortunate and unfair.”

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd takes a "deep dive" look into former Sen. Dick Lugar's recent parting comments on partisanship and Republicans in Congress. Lugar joins The Daily Rundown to discuss.

More broadly, Lugar was critical of the Tea Party without naming it. Asked if it has been detrimental to the GOP, Lugar said, “I believe that this is generally the consensus.”

He added, “Republicans, who really want to see a majority in the Senate, there really have to be able candidates that appeal not just to core Republicans, but to independents, and even some Democratic crossovers.”

Lugar declined to criticize Richard Mourdock, his primary opponent, by name or say if the right person won in the Indiana Senate race. Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly had been in what appeared to be a 50-50 race until Mourdock said that if a woman was raped it was “something that God intended to happen.”

But, Lugar did say, “My opponent made some very egregious errors,” emphasizing that Mourdock’s performance was a drag on Republicans up and down the ballot, including on newly elected Republican Gov. Mike Pence, whom Lugar said would have likely won by more.

“There were consequences to the Senate situation,” Lugar said.

As for his own campaign, Lugar said, “I have no regrets.” But he added that low turnout in the primary is what doomed him. “That was my problem,” he said. “We needed to get our votes out.”

Lugar praised President Obama, calling his State of the Union address “comprehensive” and describing the president as someone “who really does have a unifying spirit.”

But he knocked down speculation that he had wanted to serve in the Obama administration and said the president needed reach out more to members of Congress on important issues, like the budget.

“The fact is,” Lugar said, “I did not want to serve in the Obama administration. I did not want to be an appointed official.”

And: “I did receive a few invitations [to the White House] and appreciated those opportunities. Nevertheless, there was very little of it.”