Archive for the ‘Chris Dodd’ Category

Iowa’s Fifteen Percent Scenario

December 18, 2007

In the season of peace on Earth and goodwill to men, politics in Iowa is getting ugly.

The sniping between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is becoming more heated, although his advantage over her appears to be solidifying. John Edwards’s comportment as a partisan firebrand is a far cry from his upbeat and positive campaign style in 2004. Polling suggests the winner will be one of these three candidates, all of whom are consistently garnering the support of more than 20% of those queried.

Yet the unique dynamics of Iowa’s caucus creates space for one of the three second-tier candidates—Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, or Governor Richardson — to shake up the race.

In 2004, negative television advertising dominated the lead-up to the Democratic caucuses in Iowa. House Minority Leader Gephardt of neighboring Missouri, was the early favorite in the race, until Governor Dean of Vermont caught fire in Iowa.

As the weeks leading to the caucuses approached Messrs. Dean and Gephardt directed their fire on each other in what became known to political operatives as the “murder-suicide pact.”

Each candidate was able to successfully destroy the other but they also destroyed themselves. By caucus day, weary Iowa voters were eager to look elsewhere and selected Senator Kerry as their choice.

Unlike a traditional vote, where every ballot counts, candidates who fail to receive the support of 15% of those present at a caucus hall are deemed unviable; if only 14 people show up at a caucus with 100 participants present for a given candidate, those voters are up for grabs. A second headcount then takes place.

A secondary candidate can decide to boost another politician or bury a rival by suggesting their supporters go elsewhere. Again, four years ago, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards ended up splitting up the support from Mr. Gephardt’s backers. Mr. Edwards, in particular, was a popular second choice thanks to his sunny demeanor, a quality he has ventured from this election cycle.

Read more here.

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Thoughts on Tonight’s Democratic Debate

October 31, 2007

A little more than an hour into tonight’s Democratic debate on MSNBC, I have to say that this is Barack Obama’s best debate performance. He’s come at Hillary Clinton hard. He hit her both on disclosing financial information related to the Clinton Presidential Library as well as her refusal to accept the idea that social security could be in jeopardy down the line, which she called a “Republican talking point.”

John Edwards attempted to join the fray, whacking her for her acceptance of money from major donor groups, but he overreached. Both Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich alluded to his own acceptance of money from various groups — hedge funds and lawyers.

The debate has also made clear who is putting themselves in the running for big jobs in the Clinton Administration — Bill Richardson who was the first to tell Obama and Edwards to refrain from personal attacks, Chris Dodd, who seconded Richardson’s comments, and Joe Biden, who trumpeted his own long career in the senate without piling on. You could actually see Clinton nodding when Richardson was making his points.

You gotta love politics.

Finally, I would note I’ve seen Obama’s act before. This is what Jerry Brown tried to do in the 1992 presidential primary. He came at the Clinton’s hard. How’d that work out?

Dartmouth Democratic Debate: Hillary Clinton and Iran

September 27, 2007

I thought Hillary Clinton did a terrific job standing up to Tim Russert and the other presidential candidates on the issue of Iran. She gave a clear, declarative answer as to why she supported Joseph Lieberman’s resolution calling the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in Iran a terrorist group. This showed great courage coming as it did after as Mike Gravel tried to set it up with the Lieberman conspiracy talk. Given the climate on the Left these days, I’m frankly amazed that she would so calmly tick off the factors that make the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.

At the same time, once again, I am entirely unimpressed with Obama’s style and “substance.” His answers are halting and haughty at the same time. It’s almost infuriating.

I don’t agree with Chris Dodd on much of this, but his performance is solid as usual. I felt, as did Joe Biden, that Russert is giving the Delaware senator short shrift.

Biden Opens Up About Pakistan, His Presidential Rivals, and Money

August 16, 2007

Joseph Biden

Remember the angry exchange between Senators Obama, Dodd and Clinton about Pakistan at the AFL-CIO debate last week. Joe Biden tells me his three colleagues missed the point: America’s policy has been to target al Qaeda figures in Pakistan!

“The reason I was surprised by what not only Senator Obama said, but what Senator Clinton said and Senator Dodd said, is that all three of them seemed to be arguing about something that they didn’t know already existed. It is the policy of the United States of America, it has been the policy for the last five years; if there’s actionable intelligence relating to bin Laden or Al Qaeda, that we would move, assuming we’re able to move, against him,” Mr. Biden said. “The part that surprised me was the lack of knowledge about this and the idea that you wouldn’t take action if you knew where bin Laden was.”

Mr. Biden added that Mr. Obama’s proposal to make American aid to Pakistan conditional on progress in fighting Al Qaeda is already in legislation. Mr. Biden drafted an amendment to a bill passed by Congress in July and awaiting the signature of President Bush. “That’s the Biden-Lantos amendment,” Mr. Biden said. “It exists now, so the thing that startled me was the fact that here these three people are arguing about whether we should go in or not go in or how to go in, the first thing that surprised me is it took so long for them to focus on Pakistan. I’ve been talking about Pakistan and this since I went into Afghanistan as the first American in there since the Taliban came down in 2001.”

Read more here.

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Why Biden, in his view, is a better presidential candidate than Clinton? “I think I am much better positioned to win Kentucky, MO, Arkansas, West Virginia than any of the other candidates running.

Because of my positions on the issues, because I come from a state that is a border state, that the politics of having to reach across party lines matter, because my 34 years in the senate have been the opposite of polarizing, they have been uniting. So I think for all those reasons, I think I have the best chance of crossing over and picking up independent votes and keeping a democratic base. But again, time will tell that. That’s an assertion. It’s a judgment that democrats are going to make, but they will make that judgment of who they think we’ll be best able to win a general election.”

On Obama. “You know he’s a very smart guy. I can’t speak for me. But I know for me that it was a learning experience. I worked very hard. I’m sure he’s working very hard too. I’ve watched seven presidents, and I’ve watched presidents who have come to office who haven’t thought through some of the areas that theyt’ve never worked in, for example foreign policy. I watched several presidents come in and they’re smart as the devil and they get here and unless you already know when you get here exactly what your foreign policy is, it’s awful hard to hit the ground running and not to make serious mistakes the first couple of years. I’m not saying that senator obama is where I was [when elected to the senate at age 29]. I was younger than he was when he got to the Senate. But I do think, I acknowledge that experience is not the issue, it’s whether your experience has been good or bad. Somebody with 34 years of bad experience isn’t perfectly qualified to be president, someone with 34 years of good experience that makes a big difference. So, again, I know it’s kindof difficult to master, it’s kindof difficult to feel sure-footed in a lot of areas that you haven’t spent a long of time dealing with.”

On Dennis Kucinich: “It’s a little bit like my friend Dennis Kucinich. Dennis, God love him, gets up in all these debates and says the Democratic Congress could end the war today. Dennis should read the Constitution. You gotta have 67 votes to override a presidential veto. Unless he’s figured out how to get 17 Republicans in the Senate to vote with us, I’m not quite sure how to do that. But it’s very appealing.”

On money in politics: “The third thing that’s different [since his 1988 presidential run] are the obscene amounts of money that are being
It is radically different. The last time I changed this at the stage I left which was eight months before Iowa, I had raised $6 million and that was more than any other candidate had raised in the democratic process. Now you’re talking about these giant amounts of money, that it’s arguable that you need $100 million to run in a primary. It’s obscene. I think there’s going to be a backlash to it.”

Biden’s got a highly readable new memoir out, “Promises to Keep.”

Dodd Unloads on Hillary and Obama

August 13, 2007

I got to spend a few hours with Connecticut senator Chris Dodd on Friday in New Hampshire and wrote it up in The New York Sun. Dodd’s campaign is trying to fill the niche for those who feel that Obama is a well-spoken lightweight and that Hillary Clinton is experienced but polarizing. Here’s what he told me when asked why he has been polling so low in the polls despite his extensive experience in the Senate, including his sponsorship of the landmark, Family Medical Leave Act:

“It’s a legitimate question to ask me. It’s more of a legitimate question to say after you virtually have incumbency status by reputation and name or you’ve been on the cover of every magazine and nothing’s ever been said highly critical of you, why aren’t you doing better? Why are people undecided about you at this point?,” he said.

He challenged Clinton’s advocacy of health care. “So when people say I’m ready to lead, fine, so tell me how you have. And I cite, you know, I know my colleague from New York says this all the time, and I say this respectfully, that she ‘bears the scars’ from what happened on the health care thing,” Mr. Dodd said. “Political scars are one thing. But the scars from mismanaging an issue that people have had to pay [for] because they haven’t had any health insurance or coverage for the past 15 years is a lot more serious in many ways. So when you’re talking about how that happened, it happened because it was mismanaged.”

Of Obama, he said “When you’re reading off a teleprompter at a speech, in front of a distinguished audience, and you pose a hypothetical problem and propose a hypothetical solution to it, which suggests the unilateral action into another country that is a nuclear power, the alternative of which is a jihadist, fundamentalist state with nuclear weapons, that’s irresponsible,” Mr. Dodd said. “Who’s advising him, first of all? But you ought to have enough sense, beyond a briefing book knowledge of this thing, you don’t say those kind of things.”

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I also asked Dodd about his relationship with Joe Lieberman, from whom he broke when the Connecticut senator lost the primary to Ned Lamont and ran as an independent:

“I worked my head off for him. I nominated him at the convention. I worked my head off for him in the primary for him. It was a terribly run campaign. The primary process. But 300,000 people participated in my state and made a different decision. How do I respect the process if at the end of it I said I don’t care what you did, even though you played by the rules you came up with a different result, I don’t respect it?

And so Joe did what he had to do, and I understand it. But I had to do what I had to do. It was a tough moment, after a 40 year friendship, and it’s still a friendship, obviously, it’s a … point, and I understand that. Listen, I nominated him, I fought for him to become the vice president, I nominated him to be that, I worked my head off among various groups that were suspicious of him in those days to get him through it. We’ve been good friends and we’ll remain good friends, that’s a point we’ll get over and we’re getting over it.

I talk to him every time I’m on the floor of the Senate, I talk to him every day. We don’t pick up away from each other and chat, but certainly every time on the floor we see each other we have good conversations. And he asks how’re you doing out up here? What’s going on? It’s more than awkward, believe me. What more awkward day could you have? I tried to talk to him before and say joe is this happens, we need to talk, understand here. Obviously look when you’re on that side of the street, you’ve got one set of things and you’re wondering why, people are just wondering where I had to come from.”

I also asked Dodd about a question relating to Lieberman circulating on the leftwing blogs among other places; that is, whether Lieberman has taken a hawkish line on Iran merely to get back at those Democrats with whom he disagreed during his primary fight or whether they reflect his real beliefs. Dodd answered that they are Lieberman’s sincere beliefs.

Trade Unionism in Chicago

August 8, 2007

Labor City

Leave it to the City of Big Shoulders to finally host a superb Democratic debate. On the historic grounds of Soldiers Field in the city where police fired upon trade unionists at Haymarket Square and 4000 Pullman Car workers struck, the AFL-CIO provided a good forum to hear the Democratic candidates out on worker protection, free trade and pensions. The authenticity of the questioners really stood out.

Let me put it in the vernacular; in short, the AFL-CIO kicks YouTube’s ass. I know we’re all supposed to kowtow to the primacy of the Netroots and the internet saavy. But I just can’t. I’m sick of the snideness and the snarkiness. I appreciate hearing the plain but powerful words of people who work for a living.

As far as the politics of the night go, I thought Hillary Clinton shined when it was her time to respond to a questioner from the audience and she went back and answered questions from several of the questioners whom had been ignored by the other candidates, including the wife of fallen miner. It was also an opportunity for the long-serving members of the Senate — Chris Dodd and Joe Biden — to highlight their years of experience and advocacy for the trade union movement. Even Dennis Kucinich had a nice movement when he voiced a mulit-clause paean to labor.

Despite Obama’s homefield advantage, I felt his performance was his worst yet. While he didn’t have a gaffe on a par with those of his prior debates, he seemed entirely uncomfortable. Most answers were incredibly awkward. For a generally verbally fluid speaker, his comments were filled with pauses, halts and uhs. I honestly don’t understand it, other than he might genuinely not know how to connect with blue collar folks.