On Senator Chris Dodd’s Retirement

There isn’t anyone in American politics who I respect or think more of than Senator Chris Dodd. I had the privilege to work for him for most of 2007 and the early days of 2008. I was fortunate that not only did I get to work for him, but helped him wage some of the most important progressive fights of that period — the May Iraq war supplemental fight in which Dodd fought for putting a timetable for withdrawal and the fight against the FISA Amendments Act, which would include retroactive immunity for telecoms that illegally spied on US citizens without warrant. He was also there with the netroots, standing up to Bill O’Reilly’s attacks on the Yearly Kos convention and whipping BillO’s butt six ways from Sunday on his own show. In all of these fights, for different reasons, Senator Dodd made me incredibly proud to work for him.

Beyond the big issue fights where Dodd lead both the Senate and his presidential opponents though, I was able to work closely with Senator Dodd in my role. My job including traveling with the Senator on just about all of his political trips from May through January. We criss-crossed the country, but spent most of our time in Iowa and New Hampshire. The vast majority of these trips weren’t on big tour buses, but rented minivans, packed with staffers and luggage and a Senator who always had energy for the next event. Along the way I was fortunate enough to get to know Senator Dodd very well on a personal level and, to some extent I’m sure, he got to know me. No matter how long I spend working in politics, I do not doubt that my year traveling with Senator Dodd will remain one of my fondest experiences.

It’s common in politics that politicians will put on one face with the public and the press and be complete terrors with their staff. Not Chris Dodd — he was the same guy hosting a town hall with 100 people in Manchester or have coffee with 10 people in Dubuque or talking to a journalist or having dinner with staff at 11pm after a six event day that covered hundreds of miles of Iowa corn fields. He has the same wit, charm and sense of humor, the same commitment to his Democratic beliefs, and the same faith in the goodness of the American people regardless of where he is or who he is talking to.

I also got to know his wife Jackie and his daughters, Grace and Christina.  Though Senator Dodd would not cite his family as the explicit reason he was no longer seeking reelection, the real benefit is he will now get to see his girls grow up without having to commute back and forth from Washington, DC to East Haddam, CT. His girls are fantastic and you could see that today, as Christina was in Jackie’s arms, her big smile, just like her father’s. Some of us politicos may not be happy to see Senator Dodd retire, but I’m sure Grace and Christina will be happy to have him home with them. And I couldn’t be more happy for the girls.

I think there’s a strong case to be made that Chris Dodd is his generation’s most prolific and accomplished Democratic legislator. The Family & Medical Leave Act is the most important piece of social legislation since the 1960s. He’s been an impassioned advocate for children, the disabled, and the disadvantaged. He’s been a leading voice for ending the war in Iraq and an even louder voice in defense of the Constitution and our civil liberties. Just in the last year he’s authored four major pieces of legislation, including a housing bill and the CREDIT CARD Act. He’s also chaired the Banking Committee and be the acting chair of the Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee, ushering the Senate’s best health care reform legislation (which included a public option) through the Senate. The man is a true lion and progressives will be undoubtedly worse off without his voice in the Senate.

But it is because of all of his accomplishments and all of his work fighting for things that I believe in that I am glad to see him leaving the Senate on his own terms. I can’t imagine how hard a decision this was for Senator Dodd and his family, but it is his decision. I hope that he takes the last year he has in the Senate to redouble his efforts in fighting for the agenda he has long fought for. I hope he holds nothing back and bookends his career not just with the passage of health care reform, but financial reform, education, student lending, and restoring the rule of law to America. With a year to work, I know Senator Dodd can still accomplish more than any other one of his peers. Just watch him do it.

Senator Dodd, your voice will sorely be missed in the US Senate. Thank you for all of your service to Connecticut and to our country.

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