As one of his final acts as a U.S. Senator, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) played host to the Georgetown University College Democrats in his Capitol Hill office last Friday, discussing everything from Facebook to partisan divides.
“It was tremendous,” said College Democrats member and former Events Director Andrew Wojtanik (SFS ’12). “You shouldn’t downplay the legacy and impact that Dodd will leave behind. To sit and talk with him was quite an experience.”
Dodd could not help but reminisce during the meeting.
“This is kind of bittersweet in my last few days after five elections to the Senate and three elections to the House of Representatives to go off into a new chapter in my life, but I’m excited,” Dodd told 10 College Democrats during the 45-minute discussion. Just a few days earlier, Dodd had given his final speech on the Senate floor. He chose not to seek re-election in 2010.
Wojtanik asked Dodd about President Obama’s impact on U.S. relations with Europe. Dodd said that post-election European approval came more as a result of anti-Bush sentiment than pro-Obama feelings.
Overall, the senator spoke positively about the U.S. 2008 election.
“I was most proud that the U.S. once again did something no one thought we could do,” Dodd said, regarding the election of a black president. “I can’t think of a single European country where a minority could win [a national election].”
At a lighter moment in the discussion, Dodd made a side point about the recent WikiLeaks developments.
“I feel badly for Hillary Clinton,” he said, “having to call all of these foreign leaders and explain [the WikiLeaks]. It’s like a friend having to call another friend and explain something offensive sounding she wrote on Facebook.”
A major theme of Dodd’s discussion, echoing that of his farewell address, was the future of the Senate as it faces what some fear is insurmountable partisan gridlock.
“What’s bothering me is people who are running for office and don’t understand the institution,” he said.
“The framework of the Senate is the antithesis of how we like things as Americans,” Dodd said. He explained how the Senate is not meant to move quickly or by unchecked majority rule.
“Here, the rights of the minority are paramount. I recommended to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to, on the first day of the next term, eliminate the center aisle of the floor,” Dodd said. “We should force people to remember they are Americans, not Democrats or Republicans.”
Dodd was quick to note that Reid probably will not heed his proposal.
Dodd serves as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and was a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination before bowing out after a poor finish in the first caucus. His brother, Thomas Dodd Jr., is a professor emeritus at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.
Dodd serves also as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs. When asked by THE HOYA about Georgetown’s recent appointment of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as a distinguished professor, Dodd said his friend Uribe was a good choice for the school.
“Uribe came into office and was very tough, and some of his decisions were concerning,” Dodd said, citing murdered civilians who were falsely identified as drug soldiers as the worst of the alleged wrongdoing. Dodd emphasized, though, that Uribe did well under difficult circumstances.
Dodd added that no government is perfect, referring to the scandalous abuses of Iraqi prisoners in 2004 by members of the American military in the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Bob Courtney (COL ’12), a member of the College Democrats, arranged the meeting with Dodd after interning for the Banking Committee last summer.
“We’ve had meetings with members of Congress on the Hill before, but it was really special for us to get to meet with Sen. Dodd,” Courtney said. “He’s in a reflective state right now, and it’s enlightening to hear him talk.”