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.