Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dodd’s Dilemma

US Sen. Chris Dodd, whom the lustrous but air-headed Paris Hilton might well consider “a wrinkly white guy,” is still playing his seemingly nefarious connections to Countrywide close to his vest.

Wrinkly white guys sometimes wear vests, and in fact they are once again becoming popular among what used to be called the jet set.

Way back when Countrywide, the Robin Hood of mortgage lenders, was reeling from disclosures that it had lined the pockets of powerful politicians like Dodd with special discounts and rates, the media began sniffing around Dodd’s closet. Dodd was and is the chairman of the US Senate Banking committee, and as such became a magnet for funds freely given, no strings attached of course, by the financial wizards who even then were paving the way for the current Wall Street collapse.

What about this special treatment you have received from Angelo Mozilo, the serpentine head of Countrywide, the dogged media wanted to know?

The legislatively pampered Countrywide was not simply the first in a chain of financial dominoes that now lies flat; it was the moving finger that pushed the dominoes, the precipitating cause of the Wall Street meltdown.

Dodd as much as said – and the head of the banking committee is not to be quoted here – “Go fish. There’s nothing there.” Then he said he would disclose his dealings with Countrywide sometime in the future. Not now, said Dodd -- later. I’m busy putting Humpty Dumpty together again.

Well, the media went a’fishing. The media is becoming impatient. The media smells a mackerel stinking in the moonlight.

And so, this Sunday we have a few shotgun blasts at Dodd in the Hartford Courant, a paper that used to feel about Dodd the way the national media used to feel about Ms. Hilton’s “wrinkly white guy.”

John McCain, Mr. Wrinkly White Guy, was beloved of the guys and gals who buy ink by the barrel -- so long as he was an annoyance to a Republican Party right-winging it over the abyss. Then, McCain was a “maverick,” the highest accolade the critical media can bestow on a tolerable Republican.

Now? Not so much.

In a Sunday story, the Courant’s Mark Pazniokas noted that the usually garrulous Dodd answered questions concerning his delay in releasing documents he said he would release four months ago with “the inscrutability of a Zen philosopher.

"’I think it will become obvious at the time when it's the right time, and I'll explain that at the time when I do so,’ Dodd said Friday after a speech in Norwich.

“Confused? The senator refused to elaborate.

"’My answer is what it is, and in the right time, it will be there,’ Dodd said.”

Courant columnist Kevin Rennie wrote, “Dodd went from it's outrageous to think he would profit from his office, to he didn't know he got valuable special deals, to he thought everyone who refinanced with Countrywide got that kind of treatment. Those dizzying contradictions on the easy questions must have left Dodd cowering as he contemplated explaining documents that would show he knew what Countrywide was doing for him — each answer putting the lie to his past protestations.”

Left holding an empty promise, reporters, commentators and editorialists across Connecticut can only speculate what the hitch may be.

1) The records, once released, will show that Dodd knew from the first that he was receiving special treatment from his trainers at Countrywide.

2) Dodd is reluctant to release damaging information “at this time” because there is a good prospect that multiple investigations might be softened after Sen. Barack Obama occupies the White House, the Waterbury Republican American speculates.

3) Extra-legislative investigations may also be curtailed.

4) Dodd can’t talk about the records because a federal investigation by the FBI, employing RICO statutes to prosecute congressional malefactors, now is underway and his lawyers have advised the usual garrulous senator to button up his lips.

Perhaps the truth concerning Dodd’s tied tongue lies in a combination of all of the above.It will not be uncovered by assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy, former governor John Rowland’s prosecutor. She has been assigned elsewhere.

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