It’s a little surprising, what with all the political wags in the state, that no one yet has suggested Sen. Chris Dodd may have had a Damascus road experience in Damascus while cannoodling with that consummate liar Syrian President Bashir Assad.
Dodd now is positioning himself for a run for the presidency, already crowded on the Democrat side with anti-war candidates. Like Dodd, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards all voted in favor of the war at first; but, now that the war has soured, all favor some form of withdrawal and redeployment.
How to distinguish oneself in this pea pod of anti-war presidential contenders presents a dicey political problem.
Dodd’s most recent view on the Iraq war was summarized in an op-ed piece he wrote for an Iowa paper: Troops engaged in Iraq, Dodd wrote, should be re-deployed “to the Syrian border, to stop the flow of terrorists; to the north of Iraq, to better train Iraqi security forces; to Qatar, to form a quick-strike force if necessary to defend our vital interests; to Afghanistan, to resume the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and for those who have already overextended their tour of duty by one or two years - home.
"If the Iraqis don't demonstrate the political will to unite, we should begin this process - in consultation with our military leadership - of reducing troop levels within weeks, not months."
So then, the terrorists supplied by Syria and Iran have only weeks, not months, to get out of Dodge; and if they fail to do so, Dodd, were he president, would withdraw American troops to Qatar. That’ll teach’em. Will the strike force in Qatar be permitted to cross contingent borders to destoy the influx of terrorist from Iran or Syria? Will the strike force in Qatar be permitted to dissassemble the largest resistance militia in Sadar City?
Of course, Dodd’s views on the Iraq war were fully formed prior to his visit to Syria. The senator proposed redeployment during a speech in Providence in the Fall, declaring it should "begin immediately and continue over the next 12 to 18 months."
Before his trip, Dodd was convinced that the war could not be won, and the tete a tete with Assad provided him with an occasion to expand and ventilate his views, while suggesting to others they were grounded in intelligence he had gathered on the spot. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since his early years, when Dodd was provided with a safe haven from war’s affronts by the Peace Corp – he served during the Vietnam years in the Dominican Republic -- Dodd has been a make-diplomacy-not-war protester; and Kerry, of course, rode his anti-Vietnam war protests into office. Neither of the two senators is as cagey and practiced a diplomatist as Assad.
It is these staged “diplomatic opportunities” that suggest there is something slippery and unctuous about Dodd, although very nearly everyone who has met him agrees he is not a verbose cardboard cutout, like his friend John Kerry, but a thoughtful politician with an eye fixed on self preservation.
And self preservation in the age of blogs, weakened political parties and the rise of political independendistas requires a certain amount of agility. Senator Joe Lieberman, it will be recalled, lost a Democratic primary to a novice Lowell Weicker wannabe from Greenwich. Going into the presidential primaries, Democratic candidates would be wise to bear in mind Lieberman’s humiliation; here was a Vice Presidential candidate turned away from office by a “principled” or “anarchic” – depending on one’s point of view – opposition that had organized around party loyalty and resistance to an unpopular war.
On the other hand, even in deep blue Connecticut, Lieberman was able to rally and win the general election. That is lesson two in the campaign playbook. And the lessons seem to be as contradictory as they are treacherous.
In the future, many seasoned politicians may find themselves similarly caught between primaries increasingly dominated by narrow self interest groups and general elections decided by general rather than particular interests. How to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of modern politics may require the political assiduousness of an Assad, the tricky-dickiest politician in the Middle East, and the question arises: Are Dodd or Hillary Clinton or the other Democrat presidential contenders up to it?