SOUTH BEND – I’ve always liked Dan Coats. And now I’ve been reminded why.
   
Indiana voters liked Coats enough to send him to the Senate in three elections, but he never had widespread approval. Many Democrats bashed him as a right-winger. Many Republican right-wingers criticized him as too much of a nice guy for effective eye-gouging politics. Some just brushed off Coats as “that other Dan,” successful only as a protégé of Dan Quayle, taking offices “inherited” as Quayle moved up the political ladder.
   
Coats always had a very conservative voting record, but he often sought to reach across the aisle for compromise. He once told me in his final Senate term, as he was deciding not to run again, that he was disgusted with the vicious divisiveness preventing compromise for a united approach to problems from the deficit at home to the “wildfires all over the world,” security threats abroad that he saw as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
   
Coats talked straight. Still does.
   
Unfortunately, President Trump, in his weak and mysterious performance in kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, brushed off straight talk from Coats, his own director of national intelligence. He suggested that Putin was more credible than Coats on whether Russia sought to interfere in our 2016 election.
   
“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump told the world. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
   
President Trump belatedly, half-heartedly and unbelievably added an out-of-context “not” in his statement the next day. However, what he said in real time at the Helsinki news conference was that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Would a former KGB officer lie?
   
Coats, likely fearing that Trump would wilt before Putin, sent a warning in a speech three days before the summit that should have bolstered Trump’s resolve. “The warning lights are blinking red again,” Coats said, sounding the alarm about a cyberattack that could be likened to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Coats pinpointed Russia as the “most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.”
   
Trump drove right through the blinking red lights to agree with Putin in their remarkable news conference that there was no Russian interference and no need to investigate what was done or might happen again.
   
Coats talked straight again. In a statement immediately after the pathetic performance by his boss, Coats stressed anew that the entire intelligence community agreed that Russia did indeed meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
   
“The role of the intelligence community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the president and policymakers,” Coats said. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
   
Reaction was mixed. One reaction among some who agreed with what Coats said was that he should resign. They said he would have no honor, no integrity if he stayed on in the administration after Trump threw him and the country under a Russian bus.
 
But another former senator from Indiana, Dick Lugar, had it right when he said Coats should “just keep his head down and do his duty,” using his experience to provide leadership for an intelligence community still trying to keep America safe. “I think it’s important to the country that he stay where he is,” Lugar said.
   
I’ve always liked Dan Coats. More so now than ever. And I like him right where he is. He should neither quit nor be fired. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.