August 3, 2008
Chris Dodd’s ascension to Senate Majority Leader after Harry Reid resigned that position in February 2008 was a time of great hope for the netroots. His Presidential campaign was strong on the issues; while it did not catch fire with the public it brought him great esteem among the netroots. When he defeated Joe Biden for the position by one vote, we expected great things from him. Instead, the past six months have brough bitter disappointment. It is time for him to resign.
Chris Dodd campaigned for President calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and a restoration of the Constitution. And yet, Chris Dodd has failed to prevent yet another appropriation — albeit a smaller one than requested — to keep troops in Iraq through the end of the year. And he has been unable to prevent passage of a FISA bill that, while it does not offer immunity to telcos, also does not state unequivocally that the President was violating the law. Finally, he called for funding for programs that would fight global warming, and none has been forthcoming.
We had the right to expect more. Dodd didn’t deliver, and so he must go.
On the Iraq vote, it is clear that the Democrats don’t want to endanger the double digit lead they have in the Presidential polls, along with the estimates that they will win another nine Senate seats and fifty more in the House, by taking an action that they think may give the Republicans an opening to attack them as weak on defense. It is true that the so-called “surge” is over because we ran out of troops, that Iraq has fallen apart into four separate ethnically cleansed regions, the government is teetering on the verge of collapse, and that the Democratic Presidential nominee has said unequivocally that we will not keep, seek, or maintain bases in Iraq for more than five more years. Nevertheless, appropriating even another dime means complicity. Some would point to Dodd’s own speeches in favor of cutting funding to the war, and the fact that twenty Democrats joined Republicans in voting for funding over the objections of thirty Democrats and an increasingly frantic Senator Gordon Smith. But this is too easy on Dodd. He made a promise, and he didn’t keep it. He has power over his caucus; if need be, the power to remove them all from all of their committee assignments, and he has not exercised it. He is complicit in the complicity.
As for FISA, there is an argument that avoiding the worst of the Bush proposals and kicking the ball down the road where the issue can be addressed by a new Congress makes some tactical sense. But we have to wonder: is this a time for tactics? Senator Gordon Smith, after he fell behind ten points in the polls for his race for re-election, didn’t think so, and neither do we. If we do not have a court ruling before Bush leaves office stating that his actions were wrong, how can we be sure that it will happen after he leaves office? True, an adverse court decision could screw up our system of checks and balances, but we have faith that the American people stand behind us on this issue and will rise up and do something to set things straight if Bush were to win such a decision. We’re confident of it, and Dodd should have been as well.
Regarding global warming, some have noted that such funding would have to begin in the House, which has not provided a bill for the Senate to take up. The notion that funding bills have to start in the House is not the sort of thing that would have kept the Republicans from doing what they wanted; it should not have stopped Dodd either. If he would not write his own funding bill and sent it to the House, he should have at least held up all legislation until it was delivered to him. True, the proposal by Senator Gordon Smith to do just that was greeted with derision by all other Senators and the traditional media, but we’re tired of seeing the Republicans blur the distinctions between the parties in this way.
Like Harry Reid before him, Chris Dodd has become an embarrassment to his party. We need someone who has been right on the important issues of the day and has figured out how to translate his views into actual policy. And that is why Senator Gordon Smith should become a Democrat and be elected Majority Leader.