Christopher J. Dodd



The information presented below reflects the 2008 election season and is not representative of changes in titles, roles, or policy views expressed since then.

Christopher J. Dodd

Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is a second-generation Connecticut senator (his father Thomas held the office throughout the 1960s). He started his career in public service in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic during the late 1960s, gaining fluency in Spanish. Also a result of lessons learned in the Peace Corps, Dodd has emphasized the importance of national service, making an “American Community Initiative” a key part of his platform.

Dodd is the only Democratic candidate to have spent time in the military, with stints in the Army Reserves and National Guard. He served in the House of Representatives for five years before his 1980 election to the Senate. He has been a rare voice in Congress focusing on Latin American politics, at times taking positions unpopular in Washington, such as his advocacy for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics.

Dodd has made pointed foreign policy critiques of his fellow candidates and the Bush administration throughout the campaign. Though he voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2002, Dodd has attacked front-running Democratic candidates for refusing to pledge to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013.

Dodd withdrew his candidacy in January 2008. In February 2008, Dodd endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign Issues

U.S. Policy toward Africa

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has primarily focused his discussion of policy toward Africa on supporting the Millennium Development Goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and the reduction of child mortality, among other efforts. Dodd told Vanity Fair that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should “sell a portion of its gold reserves and use the proceeds to establish a trust fund with interest generated devoted to financing the debts of poor countries.”

Dodd cosponsored a March 2007 bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to help efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases in sub-Saharan African countries. The bill directs the President to develop a strategy for improved health care throughout the region. It has not yet been passed in the Senate. He also cosponsored the HIV Prevention Act of 2007 with Biden and Clinton. Dodd cosponsored Biden’s resolution demanding the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur.

U.S. Policy toward India

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) voted for the United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2006. Other than that, however, little is known about Dodd’s stance on U.S. policy toward India.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Sen. Dodd (D-CT), like the other Democratic candidates, says the detention center at Guantanamo should be shut down. With Biden, Dodd is a cosponsor of Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007. He also cosponsors Sen. Feinstein’s similar bill to close the prison camp.

Dodd voted against the Military Commissions Act, which he said “does not provide a credible process for bringing suspected terrorists to justice.”

Domestic Intelligence

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) spoke out against warrantless wiretapping. He has said that through the NSA’s eavesdropping measures, the government was “overstepping its boundaries and lawlessly infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Dodd voted against the confirmation of Hayden as CIA director.


Sen. Dodd (D-CT) criticized the Bush administration for “conflating Iraq with the war on terrorism.” He argues that Iraq has distracted the United States from the “looming threat” in North Korea, Iran, and “most importantly, the greater war on terror,” by which he presumably meant the fight against radical jihadists affiliated with Osama Bin Laden.

Dodd voted to approve the use of military force in both Afghanistan and Iraq, though he now supports troop redeployment from Iraq.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) favors promoting democracy but criticizes those who believe democracy is “just waiting to blossom” in the Middle East. “I’d love to see a democratic Middle East,” he is quoted as saying in the New Yorker, “but you’ve got to be a coherent society before you can be a democracy.” Dodd serves on the Senior Advisory Committee for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a U.S.-funded organization whose mission is “to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide,” usually by election monitoring.

Energy Policy

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) supports fuel cell technology as an alternative energy source, and in 2006 he hailed the announcement of a $10 million Department of Energy grant to a Connecticut venture researching fuel cells. He also supports tax incentives for gas stations that provide biofuels. Dodd voted against the Gulf of Mexico Security Act, saying the legislation “does nothing in the short term to rein in the soaring fuel and energy prices because of the lag time it will take to extract the allowed oil and gas.” He also voted against the final version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

In an August 2007 interview with, Dodd called for a 50-mile-per-gallon standard on automobiles by the year 2017. He also said he opposes coal-to-liquid fueltechnology.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has taken a solidly pro-Israel stance throughout his political career, according to pro-Israel lobby groups. At a speech before AIPAC in October 2006, Dodd boasted that he has “supported substantial foreign aid for Israel” since he was first elected to the Senate in 1980.  Dodd cosponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. He also cosponsored Clinton’s Senate resolution in April 2007 urging Hamas and Hezbollah to release captive Israeli soldiers. Dodd, a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposes the recognition of any Palestinian government including Hamas, which won the January 2006 Palestinian elections. Throughout his career he regularly has supported large financial and military aid packages for Israel.

Dodd says as president he would send former president Bill Clinton to the region “on a permanent basis for a while" to help negotiate a peace agreement. Dodd joined Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in a controversial trip to Syria in December 2006.

North Korea Policy

Sen. Dodd (D-CT), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, favors direct contact with Pyongyang. After a July 2006 missile test by North Korea, he expressed support on CBS' Face the Nation for bilateral talks with Pyongyang as a “subset” of the Six-Party process. He also said the possibility of a North Korean nuclear sale to terrorists serves as the biggest concern.

Dodd has stressed working closely with China and South Korea on the North Korean nuclear issue. During a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations held shortly after the October nuclear test, he said “we’ve spent too much time probably worrying about bilateral or six-party talks” and that China should play a more central role in negotiations.

Cuba Policy

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has been critical of the Bush administration’s policy toward Cuba and of the embargo more generally, which he says “has failed to bring about the changes in Cuba that all of us wish to see, such as freedom, and democracy, and prosperity.” As such, Dodd is currently cosponsoring the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2007, which would allow Americans to travel to Cuba. "The United States' most potent weapon against totalitarianism is the influence of ordinary American citizens," he says.

In 2002, after ex-President Jimmy Carter called for an end to the embargo and said Castro should respect human rights, Dodd said Carter’s approach to Cuba is “far more constructive” than that of President Bush.

Dodd proposed the 1999 Cuba Travel Ban Amendment, which would have lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba. That amendment was tabled but never passed, however.

In 1996, Dodd voted against measures to place sanctions on the Castro government.

U.S. Policy toward China

In late 2006, Sen. Dodd (D-CT) signed a letter asking Paulson to pressure China to stop the manipulation of the yuan which, he said, gives China a “tremendous unfair advantage in trade.”

In February 2007, Dodd said that to compensate for China ’s military growth, he believes that the defense department should significantly increase its submarine fleet.

Former Ambassador to China James Sasser is a co-chair of Dodd’s campaign. Sasser, who generally advocated a China policy of engagement and cooperation, served as ambassador under the Clinton presidency.

In 2000, Dodd voted for the U.S.-China Trade Relations Act.

Defense Policy

In an April 2007 speech, Sen. Dodd (D-CT) said that if elected, he would “reorient our defense budget to reflect national security priorities, expanding the size of our army and Marine Corps and investing in critical defense infrastructure.”

In 2006, Dodd and fellow Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) supported the 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill, which provided billions of dollars in funds for the United States to expand its arsenal and research and purchase weaponry including new submarines, helicopters, fighter jets, and radar. Dodd has warned that increased submarine production is needed if the United States is to avoid “being overtaken by China”. Dodd's Connecticut district includes the Groton Naval Submarine Base, which is now slated to be closed.

In 1999, Dodd cosponsored the Biden/McCain bill that would have expanded the president's powers with respect to managing the conflict in Yugoslavia. Dodd voted in favor of the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. In 2003, Dodd voted to grant the $87 billion in funding to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and introduced an amendment to the bill that would “transfer $300 million from Iraqi reconstruction funds to U.S. Army accounts for the purchase of equipment vital to the safety of our troops or to reimburse them for equipment they were forced to buy for themselves,” he said in a speech in the Senate at the time.


Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has become a prominent critic of the Iraq war, although he too initially supported it. He has said repeatedly that “there will be no military victory in Iraq.”

Dodd opposed Bush's troop surge plan and has called for a redeployment of U.S. troops. With Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Harry Reid (D-NV), Dodd backed a May 2007 amendment that would implement a deadline for troop withdrawal within ten months and cut off funding by mid-2008.

Dodd has said that he sees no need to create permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, and says the United States already has "plenty of base capacity in the region."


A self-described "free trader," Sen. Dodd (D-CT) nonetheless expressed mixed feelings on the negative effects of free trade in a speech on the CAFTA-DR Act of 2005. He voted against that act, citing the problems presented by globalization for countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala where poverty remains widespread.  “With CAFTA-DR, we are stepping backwards in a region of the world that needs a commitment to lift up the quality of life for its citizens," he said.

Dodd also voted against FTAs with Chile, Singapore and Oman, and against the Trade Act of 2002. He voted in favor of the Africa Free Trade bill of 2002 and NAFTA.

Homeland Security

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has backed homeland security reforms on several occasions. He voted in favor of the Patriot Act in 2001 and voted to adopt the conference report to reauthorize it in 2006, but he also cosponsored the 2005 SAFE (Security and Freedom Enhancement) Act, which would have amended the Patriot Act to include limitations on wiretapping. That bill did not pass. Dodd voted to make FEMA independent from the DHS in a 2006 bill. He also voted for the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.


Sen. Dodd (D-CT) differs from many of his fellow Democratic contenders in that he has said that the United States should not engage (AP) with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he once called a “thug.”

In a 2007 Town Hall Meeting, Dodd said he would support military action against Iran without congressional approval “under extreme circumstances,” though he thinks the president should seek that approval “after the emergency.”

In March 2007, Dodd cosponsored the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, which would impose tighter multilateral sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear activities. The act would expand the ban Iranian exports to the U.S. and further limits food exports from the U.S. to Iran. It also would freeze assets (PDF) of Iranian officials. That bill would also support categorizing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. It has not yet been voted on in Congress.

Climate Change

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) says he supports legislation that would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Dodd cosponsored the Clean Power Act of 2005, which would implement a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide emissions. That bill never became law. Dodd is a cosponsor of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.


Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has expressed uneasiness regarding some of the commonly proposed immigration reform initiatives, including a border fence and a blanket guest worker program. Dodd voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, though, he said in a conversation with Felix Rohatyn at the Council on Foreign Relations, “I'm uneasy about these walls being built, although I understand the American public's appetite for security.” He also voted for the comprehensive Senate Immigration Reform Bill of 2006, though he criticized the bill for including conflicting provisions with regard to the English Language, “one of which,” he said, “could result in some of our own citizens being denied full participation in our society and opportunities to improve English proficiency.” He also said in May 2007 that he is not comfortable with a "blanket guest worker program" (Des Moines Register), though he said he is not opposed to it necessarily.

Dodd voted for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program in 2006, which grants federal aid to states with a disproportionate number of incarcerated illegal immigrants. Dodd also voted in favor of a failed “compromise amnesty” proposal in April 2006, which would have increased the allotted number of visas for foreign workers.

Dodd opposed an amendment to the 2007 immigration reform bill that would have prevented immigrants with a criminal record from becoming citizens.

United Nations

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) supports UN reform. He has said that the United Nations “seems at times to be crumbling under the weight of its own imperfections. Since the end of the Cold War, it has become increasingly polarized and less effective.” However, he says, the UN charter itself does not need to be changed. “The authors of the UN Charter were on the right track when they wrote that document,” he says.

U.S. Policy toward Russia

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) says the United States should engage Russia diplomatically and call on Russia to “support freedom and democracy” at home and “to eliminate the conditions that export terrorism and allow our enemies to thrive.”

In 2000, Dodd traveled to Russia to participate in talks on national security issues, including missile defense and nuclear treaties.

In a 2004 interview with PBS’ Online NewsHour, Dodd urged cooperation between Russian and U.S. intelligence agencies to fight terrorism toward the United States and by Chechen militants toward Russia. He said the United States has not taken effective action to facilitate a relationship with Russia on Chechnya and “in connection with the other issues we face in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

U.S. Policy toward Pakistan

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) has been critical of the Bush administration's policy in Pakistan, and says Bush “never should have outsourced winning the Afghan war of necessity against al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime to General Musharraf and the Pakistani armed forces.” In November 2007, Dodd said the United States should “maintain relations with the government and people of Pakistan, including Pakistani Armed Forces, as we support internal efforts to broker a political compromise to the internal conflict.” He opposes cutting off assistance to Pakistan, and said additional aid “might even be necessary.”

A 26-year member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dodd has traveled to Pakistan and says he got to know Bhutto “very well over the years.” After her death, Dodd said the United States must “do everything in our power to help Pakistan continue the path toward democracy and full elections.” He said the “first priority must be to ensure stability in this critical nuclear state.”


Primary Sources

Senator Dodd's Speech on FISA

Senator Christopher Dodd gave this speech on the Senate floor on December 17, 2007, during a hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He argues that companies have violated their customers' privacy rights in handing over information to the government without warrants and that they should not be granted immunity.

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