OP-ED | Running Out of Red Carpet, Will Dodd Return To Public Service?
I’ve said before that Hollywood is catnip for progressives. How else to explain former Sen. Chris Dodd’s move a few years back to head the Motion Picture Association of America when he most likely could have become president of UConn?
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Dodd did not chose the path of other high-profile pols such as ex-Sen. David Boren and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who left government service to head the University of Oklahoma and Purdue University respectively.
No, Dodd headed to Tinseltown for red-carpet treatment and a $2 million a year salary. But it looks like his act is wearing thin at the MPAA, where according to Politico, Dodd is unlikely to remain when his five-year contract is up early next year.
Politico wants to know if a return to the political arena could be in the offing. If so, Dodd is proving one of my other maxims: even politicians who become high-priced lobbyists can’t resist the siren song of a return to political life. That’s because, for the most part, they love politics. That’s why they got into it in the first place.
And Dodd loved the limelight. He had an authoritative voice, a command of the issues and a shock of salt-and-pepper hair that would make most men his age green with envy. He looked great on television and did such a strong job advocating for progressive causes that he was made chair of the Democratic National Committee for a couple of years in the 1990s.
For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been ambivalent about Dodd. Up until his last term in office, he was a pretty good senator. Leaving aside whether you agree with all of his policy positions, Dodd had mostly conducted himself with dignity, at least compared to his colleague, the pious and egomaniacal Joe Lieberman.
And Dodd had remained largely scandal-free, in contrast to his father, former Sen. Thomas Dodd, who became the first senator to be censured since the notorious red-baiter, Joseph McCarthy. The elder Dodd’s campaign for re-election was hampered by the Senate’s finding that he had converted campaign funds to his personal accounts and spent the money.
Thomas Dodd lost in the 1970 Democratic primary and, ironically, pulled a Lieberman by running as an independent. Unlike Lieberman, however, old man Dodd was unsuccessful, losing to none other than Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who was eventually succeeded by Lieberman. Hey, it’s a small state, but I digress.
For all his strengths, the younger Dodd got into trouble in his final term. Dodd is not “one of the most corrupt senators in state history,” as the Waterbury Republican-American, in a paroxysm of hyperbole, branded him in an editorial four years ago. If they think Dodd was the state’s most corrupt senator, then who, might I ask, is the most corrupt Connecticut governor in the eyes of the Republican-American’s editorial board? Methinks the paper endorsed John Rowland four times. But I digress yet again.
Dodd served Connecticut for 30 years and made an abortive run for president in 2008, dropping out early in the cycle — as well he should have. Dodd received campaign support from the very financial services sector that he regulated as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Dodd proposed a program that helped sub-prime mortgage lenders such as Countrywide Financial, while receiving favorable refinancing rates from the same company. And there was simply no way, as chairman of the banking committee, that Dodd could wash his hands of the financial crisis that began in 2007, especially when one considers that he was the leading recipient in Congress of campaign funds from the troubled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Dodd wisely decided not to run for re-election two years later, vowing along the way that he wouldn’t become a lobbyist, which was not so wise considering the career path he subsequently took.
Politico also suggests that Dodd has his heart set on becoming ambassador to Ireland in a Hillary Clinton administration. That would be the same Ireland where Dodd got a sweetheart deal on an island home from a man with close ties to a criminal financier who later, at Dodd’s urging, obtained a last-minute pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton.
Dodd must be extremely eager to return to public life. For if he is indeed nominated for an ambassadorship or cabinet post in a second Clinton administration, he will surely come under withering assault during confirmation hearings from a Republican Senate that would like nothing more than to remind the nation of the excesses of Democrats like Dodd and the Clintons.
Come to think of it, Dodd might have better luck returning to Connecticut and running for governor if Dannel Malloy himself leaves for a cabinet post in a Hillary administration. But don’t bet on it. Running an entire state is very hard work, far removed the Hollywood and Georgetown party circuits. I’d say the smart money is on a return to K Street for the former senator.
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