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Harford Courant - Chris Dodd: 'A Man Of The Senate'

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Harford Courant - Chris Dodd: 'A Man Of The Senate'

Connecticut Democrat bows out after 30 years with good advice

Connecticut -- indeed, the nation -- will miss Christopher J. Dodd after he leaves the U.S. Senate in January. Mr. Dodd gave his formal farewell speech to a full chamber Tuesday during the lame duck session, creating one of the few moments of comity the bitterly divided upper chamber of Congress has known in some time.

It has not been an easy last couple of years for the senator, with his uncharacteristically awkward refusal to make public in a timely manner his records concerning questioned property purchases, and with growing opposition at home.

But in spite of low poll numbers signaling that he'd have a fight on his hands if he ran for a sixth term in an anti-incumbent climate, his outstanding record over 30 years in the Senate will stand the test of time.

Mr. Dodd's Legacies

There is scarcely an American who hasn't been touched by his work in the Senate.

His trademark Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Help America Vote Act, legislation putting the clamps on the predatory practices of credit card companies, and this year's massive health care and financial reforms all bore the Dodd stamp to one degree or another and were only part of an impressive record of legislative achievement.

Careful attention to the health of the defense industry was one of Mr. Dodd's most important contributions to his home state. And his expertise in foreign affairs, especially regarding Latin America, has been a gift to the nation.

Mr. Dodd's lead role in pushing the groundbreaking health care legislation through the Senate (taking over the fight from his dying friend Ted Kennedy) and in marshaling reform of Wall Street was especially telling.

Much of the work came after he announced he was retiring at the end of his term. He could have taken an easy stroll into private life but chose hard work -- maybe the most difficult in his long career -- instead.

The Senate will miss him, too. And he can't help but miss it.

'Maturity In A Time Of Pettiness'

Connecticut's longest-serving senator, Mr. Dodd loves the institution, its customs and history and the physical grandeur of the place. He is proud to point out that Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, state delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, proposed the Connecticut Compromise that created the body.

He was, in a sense, to the manner born -- the son of a senator, Tom Dodd, who served two terms and had been a prosecutor of Nazi war criminals.

The son, like the father, is a picture of a senator, with his distinctive shock of white hair. Chris Dodd is a classic orator, an effective stump speaker and a wonderful storyteller.

He is said to have not an enemy in the Senate and is known as a workhorse who gladly paired with Republicans in shaping legislation.

That is a useful practice sadly idled by the ferocious partisan warfare of today -- pointless, vicious warfare that has placed government in a dangerous stall.

In his valedictory remarks, Mr. Dodd took note of our "completely dysfunctional" politics at the federal level and of deadlock in the Senate, and asked better of his colleagues.

"History calls us to lift our eyes above the fleeting controversies of the moment and to refocus our attention on our common challenge and common purpose," he said, adding wisely, "Maturity in a time of pettiness, calm in a time of anger and leadership in a time of uncertainty -- that is what the nation asks of the Senate and that is what this office demands of us."

As the years have passed, Mr. Dodd has amassed stature and respect among his Senate colleagues to the point that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Tuesday proclaimed him "a man of the Senate," in the same league as modern giants of the body such as the late Mr. Kennedy and the late Robert Byrd.

It's true, and Connecticut should be proud of such distinction.

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