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A Conversation with Christopher Dodd [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Christopher J. Dodd, Member, U.S. Senate (D-CT)
Presider: Felix G. Rohatyn, President, Rohatyn Associates LLC
October 16, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations New York, NY

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FELIX ROHATYN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Felix Rohatyn, and I’m very happy to be here at the council to introduce my friend and—valued friend and hopefully more than a friend a couple of years from now, Christopher Dodd, Senator Christopher Dodd.

I don’t think you need a lot of introduction. Chris has a history as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, six terms as a congressman, in a family where Chris’s father was at the Nuremberg trials. So he has background.

He’s going off to Iowa today to seek the answer to some questions. (Laughter.) We hope he does. We hope he does. And so it is really a great personal pleasure, with a certain amount of hope, that I’m here to introduce him.

I have asked him, in view of this trip that he’s taking, if he couldn’t think a little bit ahead, of where he might be a couple of years from now—who knows?—and talk about some of the main issues. And I know the list could be like a telephone book, but if he’d pick two or three of the main foreign policy and domestic issues that the leadership of this country is going to face inevitably over the next couple of years and much beyond, that that might be a good place to start.

And it’s a great pleasure and an honor to introduce Senator Christopher Dodd.

(Applause.)

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER J. DODD: Thank you, Felix, very much. Thank you, Felix, very, very much.

What I’m going to do if I can here is I have some brilliant remarks I prepared, which I’m going to put on a website and have all of you—if you’d like to read them, you may at some point here, but rather than going into a long-winded set of remarks here, which I think are valuable, but maybe we’ll move rather quickly to the question-and-answer period. I’ll have a couple of ideas and thoughts here for you.

First of all, I thank you, Felix, for that very generous introduction, and the brevity of it, as well, is always helpful. I’m always leery about introductions. Being in public life, sometimes they’re apt to go on longer than the remarks you’re going to give.

One of my favorite introductions was actually given in this city back some decades ago. A very colorful member of the United States Senate from New York, a fellow by the name Chauncey Depew—it will give you some idea of how the world has changed. Chauncey was not only a senator from New York, he was simultaneously the president of the New York Central Railroad, something we would, of course, frown upon today, having a dual function as he did. But he was asked to introduce William Howard Taft, Felix, at a black-tie dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.

At the conclusion of the meal, Chauncey Depew got up—and thought of himself as rather a wit. And of course, you’ll recall Taft was not only a giant of a figure in his accomplishments, having been the former chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, president of the United States, but also physically a large figure, was well over 6’6” and of substantial weight.

And anyway, Chauncey Depew concluded his introduction, Felix, by saying, “It now gives me a great deal of pleasure to present to you a man who is both pregnant with integrity and courage,” at which point the crowd gave a rather warm standing ovation to William Howard Taft. He slowly made his way to the podium, waited for the crowd to be reseated, the noise to subside, and said, “If it’s a girl, I shall call her ‘Integrity,’ and if it is a boy, I shall call him ‘Courage,’ but if, as I suspect, it’s nothing more than gas, I shall call it Chauncey Depew.” (Laughter.)

So when you hear these rather wonderful introductions of people, you can hold your breath.

Let me just mention a couple of opening comments, if I can. One of my great concerns here is that we’re failing to really come together as a people, both at home and abroad, domestic and in foreign policy. We’ve gone through almost 20 years now without electing an American president with a majority of the votes of the American people. We’re highly divided in Congress, as well, numerically but also on substantive issues at home and abroad. And one thing more so than anything else that needs to override the consideration of foreign policy issues and domestic issues is the ability of national leadership to try and find some bipartisanship, to bring things together.

I’ve been asked a dozen times over the last several weeks what will happen if in four weeks Democrats gain control of the House and the United States Senate. And obviously, the temptation to some degree would be recrimination in light of how Democrats have been treated over the last number of years by the Republican majority. But my fervent hope would be that not only would we have more thorough oversight, which is a primary function that Congress has failed, in my opinion, to engage in effectively over the last number of months, but also in this period, particularly in the area of foreign policy, that we would try and forge some bipartisanship. I don’t think we can afford to wait an additional two years to try and get some of these issues right. We’re going to need to be able to come together as Democrats and Republicans. The statements of John Warner recently offered some hope and opportunity that that may be able to be the case, and I think it’s going to be important, in fact, if we end up in the majority to try and do that.

Secondly is to try as part of that—first of all, getting the political framework to do it right—and then secondly to try and learn from previous past mistakes and successes as well. In my prepared remarks here for you, I lay out the choices that were made in the 20 th century at the conclusion of World War I and then at the conclusion—even at the outset of World War II and then at the conclusion of World War II, where we made the dreadful mistakes for a variety of reasons to disengage from the world in many ways with the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, the decisions dealing with world economic stability—we really walked away from that. And not that we caused obviously the difficulties that emerged less than 30 years later, but the fact is without that participation, without that involvement, I think certainly the environment that was created during those years could have been addressed in many ways had we been more engaged.

And then, of course, the example. I read the other evening the Atlantic Charter, a remarkable document that most people probably haven’t looked at in years. But looking at that document, written in 1941 signed by both Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in talking about a post-world war—which would be rather remarkable when you consider its scope and breadth—and yet that plus the decision in the spring of 1945, which Felix has kindly mentioned, and that is the—my father’s involvement in the Nuremburg trials. We were very much alone in advocating an international tribunal. Winston Churchill wanted to summarily execute the defendants at Nuremburg. The Soviets were interested in having a show trial for a couple of weeks and then executing them. It was the United States, leaders such as Robert Jackson, Harry Truman at the time and others who forged this argument that it was critically important that we be not like our opponents, our enemies, but rather we were different. And it was critically important that we set a moral tone as well, and we did at the Nuremburg trials.

And, of course, the arrangements which the United States—the structures which we created in the period after the end of the war—certainly the—(inaudible)—the World Bank, the IMF, NATO—these structures which did provide great stability for the world, advanced the interests of our own country but provided relative peace and stability for more than 50 years. It is in the framework of that, the absence of that, sort of walking away—it was the isolationism in the 1920s and the unilateralism, which in many ways resemble each other when you consider the results that can occur, that are most troubling in many, many ways.

We have begun the 21 st century—at least in the issue in 2001—with hope that we would deal intelligently with the attack on this city and elsewhere by building the international coalitions to go into Afghanistan and then completely walking away from it, the war of choice in Iraq. And what I’d like to do in the question and answer period is get into these issues more specifically with you. But it seems to me that we need to get back once again—Richard has written on this in your new book, “The Opportunity” and so forth but others have also articulated the viewpoint here that we need to find those frameworks. They need to be adjusted, clearly. The world has changed, obviously, dramatically, since the end of the 20 th century. There are new threats out there, obviously global terrorism being a major one that we face, but how do these structures that exist, how do you modify them, how do you construct in the 21 st century so they can deal effectively with the problems we face? That’s some of the great challenges that we’re going to have as a country that should have the appetite and desire to want to lead again.

So again, let me leave for the question and answer rather than giving you a long-winded set of remarks here about how I’d respond to Iraq or Afghanistan or dealing with Iran and North Korea. But I think in the absence of having a sense of bipartisanship within the American public, both public and private sector, and a seeking of common ground internationally, then this ad hoc approach to these difficulties I think is going to be very, very hard for us to achieve. And anyone I think who talks otherwise is placing this country at some peril. And so as one who’s involved on the Foreign Relations Committee, as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, where I have a special interest, I’m very interested in seeing if we cannot a build a construct, these arrangements that I think are going to be so important.

So with that, let me move away from this podium and join Felix up here. Again, congratulations, Richard, I should have said at the outset, on the 85 th birthday of the council coming up.

And I congratulate the council. It’s a pleasure to be—I should have said at the outset, this is a remarkable institution, and not only do I want to hear your questions and try and respond to them, but I say very sincerely, one of the things we don’t do very well in public life in America today is listen very well. So I hope you’ll take advantage not only of asking me a question, but also expressing to me some of your own thoughts and ideas to help inform how you think this debate ought to go forward.

So again, I’m very grateful to the council for the invitation today. Again, we’ll leave these prepared remarks on a website for you to peruse over. If you’re insomniacs, it’s actually great reading for you. (Laughter.) And then, again, respond to these questions as they come up.

But thank you all very, very much for being here today. (Applause.)

ROHATYN: Thank you very much, Chris.

Maybe as a first question, it is a fairly general one, could you—I’ve watched recently the Europeans have more and more difficulty in integrating Islamics into their society and it’s creating more and more problems for obvious reasons. Do you think that there is the possibility ultimately of integrating Islam into the West in a form that would enable us to live together constructively?

DODD: The only answer is I fervently hope so, and I believe it can be the case. I subscribe to the notion that while we’re dealing with radical Islamists and jihadists, that—to coin an expression used by a former American public figure—there is a silent majority, I believe, within that Muslim world that we need to address and speak to.

I try to meet with former Peace Corps volunteers whenever I travel. I’ve found them to be a pretty good source of information as to what’s going on from a different level entirely. This past April I was in Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. We have two Peace Corps programs in the Arab world—one in Morocco and one in Jordan. I met with 20 retiring Peace Corps volunteers in Jordan and asked them, of course, the obvious questions over lunch. First of all, I should point out that 13 of the 20 are going on to graduate school; all are fluent Arabic speakers today. One of the things we ought to try and promote more—I’ve tried to encourage the Egyptians, for instance, to think about a Peace Corps program in Egypt. We need to have more of that kind of involvement.

But I asked them what their impressions were. These are people now who spoke the language fluently, living in these villages throughout Jordan over the previous two years. To a person, they all said there was deep distress over the conduct of foreign policy by the United States in a contemporary sense. You might well imagine the Israeli-Palestinian issue was very much on their minds. But something they said that I found so encouraging, at a time when the temptation here is to just recite the litany of everything that’s wrong, to a person, every one of these retiring Peace Corps volunteers said there is still great hope for the United States leading in the world, that they haven’t given up on us. They still believe we can do the right things and good things around the world. And so I take that as an indication of some hope.

Now, Jordan is different, I understand, than other Arab countries. But I believe that opportunity exists, and the alternative is just unacceptable. And so it requires public diplomacy, a deeper engagement, a greater involvement. We need to be encouraging more language training, we need to encourage at the earliest stages of education in this country a deeper understanding of this very important and global religion that offers great hope and an understanding of the Koran that is far different than what these terrorists are describing.

And so I hope we’ll take that route. But the temptation will be to go otherwise. We’ve demonstrated in the past what can happen when people who demagogue and engage in the fear tactics of politics can do, even in our own country. I mentioned Robert Jackson earlier, the decision by the court, obviously, to incarcerate basically hundreds of thousands—or thousands of Japanese-Americans. So we need to be careful about this, in how we proceed, but I believe it can be done. And I take the words of young volunteers living in an Arab country that there’s an opportunity for hope here. But you’ve got to become aggressively involved, in my view, and if you don’t, then I think you run the risk of having this spreading. As has been pointed out, the numbers of al Qaeda members have now doubled, more than doubled over the last three or four years. There is a real worry, in my view, unanswered, that you’re going to find this cancer—if you can use those words—leaching into broader sections of the population—already is doing that. But we need to act aggressively, in my view, to stop that.

ROHATYN: Do you see—I mean, seeing that already today China’s agreement with respect to Korean sanctions is becoming a little shaky, do you see that we have any alternative other than trying to bring the Chinese, the Russians and India into some kind of—I wouldn’t call it an executive committee, but into some kind of joint leadership with us in the world?

DODD: I think so as well here. Look, obviously, reading over the agreement and the reports this morning about the gaps that exist in the enforcement vehicles are certainly there.

But let me say, this is positive news, in my view. And again, I think the idea that we were able to achieve unanimity with some language here is a step in the right direction.

This obviously isn’t the final step at all. And just maybe here—and I think this has been so important—China is so important in this equation and Northeast Asia and how we handle this, and I think what hopefully has happened here—and it may take them a little bit of time to get there, although I think the process has begun with a vote yesterday—is to recognize that they are critical in the analysis and solution of this issue, given the fact they provide 50 percent or more of fuel and food to North Korea. They have that integration issue, which is certainly a worry to them. They’re obviously nervous about what Japan does. Obviously, a conflict in the Korean Peninsula would be a major problem for them.

And so I think there’s a possibility here recognizing where we’ve arrived at this particular moment that they bear a special responsibility to play a major, major role here now in trying to reduce this problem from going further. So I think that’s the positive news, and obviously, the trip that Condoleezza Rice will make to the region—I gather, Richard, she was going to be here at the council but has abandoned you for other reasons here—that is going to be traveling to the Pacific Rim to engage this. My hope is we’ll pursue them.

And then with North Korea itself, I—again, I think the United States’ participation is critical, and I think we’ve spent too much time probably worrying about bilateral or six-party talks. I think how that happens is certainly important, but I think at this juncture we probably ought to be waiting to give the Chinese a chance to maybe deal with this rather than jumping in here—being available, being around, being anxious, being constructive. But I would allow the Chinese to play more of a role here. I think there’s an opportunity for them to emerge in this is as a responsible. If they want to be a major power—and they are—a major economic power, then they need to also assume the responsibility associated with that success, and this is an opportunity for them to do that. We ought to encourage it.

ROHATYN: If it’s all right with you, I think we’ll open it up for questions. If questioners would identify themselves, please.

Sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Senator. I’m Jim Zirin, and you alluded to the fear tactics, which exist even in our country, and what they can lead to. And I wondered why haven’t the Democrats or why didn’t the Democrats, and particularly in the Senate, do more to oppose the commission’s bill introduced by the administration, which stripped the Guantanamo detainees and others of habeas corpus rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution?

DODD: Well, that’s an excellent question and we should have. Another senator and I did go to see the Democratic leadership privately before the debate ensued and urged a filibuster. We were unsuccessful obviously in that argument, but the two of us did make the case. I thought it was one of those moments where we had an obligation, in my view, to stand up. I’ve said—and Felix was kind enough to talk about what may happen down the road here in my trip to Iowa—but I intend to offer in the lame duck session, if we have one, legislation without any great hopes about it being adopted in a lame duck session, but to restore the Geneva Convention, to eliminate evidence gleaned through torture as proper evidence and to restore habeas corpus.

To me, this is—it gets lost—I don’t know the single Sunday talk show that’s spent any time on this issue. The more salacious events of recent times seem to attract more attention; yet this event was one of the most serious that’s happened in my tenure in the United States Senate.

I’m glad you raised it here. I talk about it in my remarks. I—again, this association with Nuremberg is important to me. I—my father wrote my mother, Felix, some 400 letters between the summer of 1945 and the end of 1946—which we just discovered existed, by the way—and which are remarkable correspondence and talking about the events as they unfolded there. And what a source of pride it was for him—in fact, he called it the most significant event of his life—and the life-changing, altering experience for him.

But the notion that we would be different—and again, we’re talking about thugs, and I know the facts are different, obviously—the conclusion of World War II and global terrorists. But it seems to me at an opportunity for us to, again, carry that message by example that we are different here and that we respect the rule of law as we try to build these institutions. I must have heard my father say a thousand times growing up as a child that maybe, just maybe had there been an ICC, an International Criminal Court, in the 1920s and ‘30s just maybe we might have avoided the conflict that ensued afterwards. He wasn’t sure that would have been the case, but he thought those kind of institutions were certainly, if they worked, could have that effect.

To have the United States at this hour, with all the efforts we need to build, to deal with the issue Felix raised himself, on dealing with the Muslim world and Islam, to be walking away from that, I think was a major, major error. And so my hope would be that we’d take corrective action. But we tried, as I say, to raise the issue of filibuster, but it was rejected.

ROHATYN: Maurice, always nice to see you.

Q Nice to see you. Maurice Tempelsman. One of the great failures of both its domestic but certainly foreign policy area is the lack of an energy policy. I was reminded of it last week. We were meeting with a pretty high-level Russian group, our supposed friends at this point. How much they are basically beginning to use this as a strategic weapon, to go back with a certain level of unrealistic nostalgia and sort of restructuring their empire and the hold they have on Europe, with 30 percent of the gas coming from Russia.

And so I just wonder what your thoughts are on an energy policy, not just purely market driven, that is really looked at from the point of view as one of the weapons that both our enemies and our putative friends are beginning to use against us.

DODD: It’s again a great question. I had anticipated someone might ask the issue of what are the two or three most significant issues you think we face both domestically and in global affairs, and I would include this one as part of the economic framework, as well. You can’t really have a discussion both about domestic ability and what we need to do in the United States. as well as talk about international stability, without addressing this issue.

You mentioned Russia as a major issue; what’s going on, obviously, in the Middle East; what happens in Latin America, for that matter, with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, are all connected. It’s hard to point to a part of the world where this issue doesn’t pop up and raise serious issues.

Again, I think the opportunity exists. Again, for whatever it’s worth, I find that when you address this issue and talk to an audience about shared responsibility and shared sacrifice in order to make us more independent on this issue, you get an incredible response from audiences. And it’s there. People really do—I think would like to be asked by national leadership to do what we could do in order to make us more self-sufficient and independent.

And the irony is that technologies and others exist. This doesn’t require the kind of massive innovation to occur. Clean coal in this country. There are 300 years of supply, and technology exists for us to use that energy resource in a way that would not pose the kind of problems associated. in addition to the economic issues, by the way; the global health issues, which are critically important, obviously; environmental issues, which I think most people today accept as a reality, not some questionable issue of global warming.

So the issues of energy touch on almost every facet you can think of, and the opportunity to challenge the country as well as to develop, in conjunction with allies, policies that would allow us to be less dependent on a non-renewable source of energy which poses so many difficulties for us, I think, is there.

I talked earlier, in fact, to a good friend of John Eastman, John Thornton, who knows China as well as anybody I know, and we were talking earlier, a few weeks ago, about the kinds of things we might do in offering to allies in conjunction with major powers to develop the alternatives. Mentioning going to Iowa this afternoon, obviously things like biofuels offer some real hope as to conservation, alternative energy sources here.

Again, it’s been regrettable, everyone who sort of runs for these offices talks about this but yet haven’t really proposed in a very concrete way—and again, coming back to the first point I made here, Maurice, that I think there is an absolute appetite and desire to be a part of a national strategy that would allow us to become more independent. I can’t think of any other single issue which would galvanize the American public more than a common challenge to all of us to work on this issue and to come up with some answers. And I think there’s no quicker way to begin to relieve some of the pressures and tensions that exist as a result of this issue.

ROHATYN: Sir? Back there.

QUESTIONER: I am Takaa Mizuno, bureau chief of Asahi Shimbun, Japanese daily here. I just got back from United Nations. There is the election of non-permanent member of Security Council, and fortunately, Venezuela may fail. (Laughs.) My question is, now last week we have new South Korean foreign minister to be secretary-general of United Nations, and I would like to ask you, how do you see the (fit ?) of the relations between U.S. Congress and the United Nations under South Korean Ban Ki-Moon’s leadership? And my related question is, how do you see the expansion of Security Council, including Japan’s permanent seat?

DODD: First of all, thank you for your question. And congratulations on the elevation of a South Korean to be the new secretary-general. I think that’s good news. I’m anxious to see what happens to that opening seat. We’re left with a dreadful choice, it seems to me, between Guatemala and Venezuela. My hope is we’ll come up with a better choice there than those two. And I think that may happen, based on conversations I’ve had with some people, which would be an important issue.

And again, I think, clearly, I’m a strong supporter of the U.N. system. I think it’s been a remarkable structure that has solved issues time and time again. It doesn’t often get the notoriety, much as the notice of people don’t report about planes that fly, in a sense. And yet, the U.N. system has been very successful in defusing one situation after another. I think of East Timor and the work done by the United Nations on that issue, most recently, for instance.

So it needs to be supported. We need to be more aggressive. One of the things I have trouble with in my own party is too often we end up being the chorus for those who constantly diminish or demean the institution. I think that hurts terribly when we don’t have the muscularity in our defense of the importance of these institutions. I would quickly add that I think it’s also incumbent, then, to talk seriously about what needs to be done to make these institutions more relevant in the 21 st century. And I don’t think we’ve done that as well, either. And so those who criticize it find an audience that’s receptive to the criticism because it’s legitimate, but we don’t have those who are standing up articulating in a very strong way how important these institutions can be. I think there’s a need—and Felix has written about this—but a call for a new Bretton Woods, for instance. Clearly, we need to—again, and recognize the realities that the nations that existed at the end of World War II and those that are critical players today need to have better seats at these tables, if we’re going to have meaningful efforts at global economic issues, as well as security issues.

So I am open to the idea. Now, whether or not you can succeed in all that, obviously the politics are important. And since you’ve raised the issue, let me add here that I think it’s important to have an ambassador at the United Nations that has the ability to be able to communicate effectively and advance the cause of our interests and not be a constant thorn and problem; day after day seen to create more problems than solving, in many issues. And so my hope would be that we would do that. Again, I think that’s very important to be part of a—of the foreign policy of this country—very quickly, by the way.

ROHATYN: Sir?

QUESTIONER: Senator, my name is Roland Paul. I’m a lawyer with the Greenwich, Connecticut, firm of Ivey Barnum & O’Mara.

DODD: Ah, a constituent. We like constituents.

QUESTIONER: (Laughs.) On Iraq, David Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee three things that weren’t well-reported in the press. First, that Saddam could quickly reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction; number two, Kay’s greater fear was that the corrupt scientists under Saddam would sell their technology to terrorists; and number three, in response to a question by Senator McCain, he explicitly said he thought the war was justified. These thoughts obviously resonate with our other senator from Connecticut. I wondered what your view was.

DODD: Someone said about Connecticut the other day that we’re beginning to look like Louisiana with foliage in our politics. (Laughter.) So I—I can’t go anywhere without talking about Connecticut politics, it seems.

Well, look, I mean, looking back, again I make the point I think the war of choice here was ill-conceived. And, obviously, much of what we were told of the weapons of mass destruction, the relationship with al Qaeda, the imminent threat and danger to the United States and our interests all turned out to be false. And worse than that, it appears as though that there were those who were aware of this, and yet, were deceitful in terms of their making the case. To his dying day, I presume that the former secretary of State will cringe at looking at the speech he had to give at the United Nations in trying to build a case.

So it’s important in politics to be able to say that, I think. I voted to give the president the authority to use force—and to be able to say in retrospect, I wish that we had known then what we know today. Had that been the case, there wouldn’t have been a vote, in my view, at all. I don’t think the vote would have come up, and had it come up, I think it would have been resoundingly defeated, had it been raised. And I don’t know why people have a difficult time saying that along the way. It seems to me you can begin to clear out the underbrush.

Now, we’re there. And you can spend a little time going back and, obviously, history will judge accordingly. But the issue is, we’re there, and what do we do about it. Obviously, the issue that everyone talks about is our military presence there, and that’s important. But the discussion can’t begin and end there. I think that’s—in a sense, we’re being terribly superficial and one-dimensional. It requires far greater thought on what we also deal both regionally, politically inside Iraq, as well as the efforts to build the kind of potential economic stability what would give them some chance to succeed. I think in many ways—and said the other day in a talk I gave specifically on Iraq, that in effect, I think we’re hurting ourselves by not laying out a framework here, rather quickly, as to how we redeploy, reposition our forces.

I’ve suggested that we ought to be talking about getting out of the major population centers in Iraq. I think there’s a real desire and legitimate thing to secure borders on the Syrian side, particularly, to still train people, even though they have 300,000 people in uniform. There still is a need for some of that. Could be done in Kurdistan with some forces there to provide some help.

And then they talk about redeploying in Kuwait and Qatar forces—putting forces in Afghanistan where they’re clearly needed, it seems to me, before we end up losing entirely the advantage we gained, which was the legitimate choice, in my view, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But the idea of committing, as we did the other day, to the continued presence of 142,000 troops in Iraq with no real end in sight, I think, delays what has to be done politically, which gets to the second point, and that is saying to the Iraqi people, there’s not a treasury deep enough or an army large enough that is going to necessarily stop your collapse if you’re unwilling to do so yourselves. And I’m fearful that by not making it clear of what our intentions are in conjunction with them—I’m not suggesting this ought to be done entirely unilaterally—but make it very clear what they are, we delay what Iraq needs to do.

Now, whether or not you end up, as some have suggested, with a Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd federation with some loose, central government or not, if the Iraqi people decide that, that’s one thing. I’d be uneasy about trying to impose that because of the obvious continuation and perpetuation of a civil conflict, particularly over oil and trying to decide who would get the resources from it. But it seems to me they have to make those decisions. And the sooner we force them, in a way—maybe “force” is too strong a word—but at least compel them to move in that direction, then I think this is going to go on indefinitely.

And then thirdly, the reconstruction efforts which, of course, are not going to occur in the absence of some political stability. There was that wonderful scene of Benjamin Franklin walking outside of Independence Hall in 1787 and allegedly Mrs. Powell walks up and says, “What have you given us?” And he says, “A republic, if you can keep it.” In a sense, I mean, the analogy is weak, but the point being we’ve invested a great deal to give them an opportunity now. In the final analysis, they have to decide to take this and grab this.

We need to be talking regionally with Iran on the subject matter, with Syria as well. These are subject matters that people have a hard time with, but Jim Baker said it so well the other day—and it deserves being repeated; many of us have said it for a long time—we are treating diplomacy as if it were a gift—(chuckles)—rather than the notion that this is what responsible leaders do in the world and have done. You imagine what the world would look like today if Republican and Democratic administrations of the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s had embraced this view of negotiation and diplomacy, had Richard Nixon or the Kennedy administration or the Johnson administration or others had not engaged in the kind of robust diplomacy. The great line which I presume, Ted, you may have had something to do with, but you don’t negotiate out of fear, but you never fear to negotiate is something we need to remind ourselves over and over again here. And so I think it needs to be a more thorough discussion than just military troops.

But in the absence of moving on this issue, I think it’s going to make it more and more difficult for us to resolve these other issues, going back to the first question you raised, and that is, is there an opportunity for us here to build a relationship with a silent majority, if you call them that, in the Muslim world? I think it becomes very difficult in the absence of some resolution on this issue.

Yeah, John. It’s a former colleague here.

QUESTIONER: Of course.

DODD: (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: Would you comment—would you comment on North Korea, particularly after what you’ve just said about the importance of diplomacy?

DODD: Well, again, as I mentioned earlier in talking about the role of China here—but—and I think—I regret that John McCain sort of raised the issue the other day in the way that sort of—it was designed to sort of suggest that this problem was all created by the Clinton administration. I think anybody who’s been even a modest student of what happened over the last number of years would take issue with that.

There was a serious effort that President Carter was involved in. Obviously, you’re dealing here with a very troubled regime, to put it mildly, but there was an effort there to try and come up with a solution here. Now, obviously, by enriching uranium and sort of technically getting around the agreement rather than dealing—but not dealing with plutonium, they were able to point out some real problems we had with them. But to walk away as we did, in my view, from that—and there were other issues as well that needed to be addressed—I think was a mistake. I think you’ve got to again stay engaged here.

There used to be a continuum in foreign policy, at least for the most part after World War II, that administrations, while they would differ on various points, there was a sense of seamlessness that would move along. And I think the failure to do that, to pick up where efforts had been made and to work on them has been a major shortcoming here.

We haven’t raised the issue here, but I recall listening in fact to a conversation between President Clinton and former Secretary of State Colin Powell on the Middle East itself, particularly, and while I had not worked the Camp David effort, the strong suggestion to pick it up and continue moving, find your own definition, your own framework for it, but keep at it. And I think the failure to have done that aggressively contributes in a way to what’s occurred here.

So in my view, again, I don’t—I think we can have sort of a power game of whether or not it’s bilateral or six-party talks, but I think the United States has to be at the table one way or the other. I don’t think you want to sit there and necessary prenegotiate all of this, but I think it’s an important role, and I think we’re wasting and have wasted time in a sense by fiddling over the question of how many seats are around the table, rather than figuring out how to get there and what do we want to say and how do we ask China and Japan and South Korea to play critical roles in bringing the necessary emphasis on this issue together so we get the desired results.

And that’s been missing here, and that’s a great, great problem, Mike.

ROHATYN: Yes, sir. Oh, no. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Yes, Gill.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Gillian Sorensen, United Nations Foundation. Senator, you’ve spoken out very forcefully about the recess appointment of John Bolton. Would you reflect a bit further about the impact of his term as ambassador and in particular the effort that seems to be under way now to make another recess appointment or if not to bypass it in some way by naming him to a lesser post and then calling him acting ambassador?

DODD: Well, you’ve described it very well, and that’s exactly what will happen, I’m told, as late as this morning, raising the issue of what could happen. And I need to go into it further. The Clinton administration used that structure to deal with a similar situation with recess appointment and to extend a recess appointment. I don’t want to get you down in the weeds too far in all of this, but they’re—the issue of how you get a recess appointment can only last until, of course, that Congress adjourns, and that will happen fairly soon, in which case how could they continue him in the role. Putting aside all of that, they can do this. I think they can talk about an acting—they can call him an acting ambassador in a sense.

And let me explain something here. It’s not been my style to object to presidential appointees. I think Democrats and Republicans over the years do this too frequently and too often. People get elected and then they argue on whether or not they deserve to be elected, but nonetheless, once that has occurred, they’ve been sworn into office, who they choose to be part of their official family is something we ought to watch and pay attention to. And there are obvious cases where they’re not qualified, for whatever reason object to them. But overall, the presumption ought to be going in that if you’re elected to the presidency of the United States, you ought to be able to have your Cabinet. The presumption ought to be there and the rebuttable presumption for those of us who may argue it.

So I’m not comfortable and have not been comfortable in spending as much on the Bolton nomination as I have, and I’ll tell you why more than anything else, putting aside what they may do to get around it. I think that’s a mistake. Candidly, given the importance of these issues and given the reception that Mr. Bolton gets, that’s not a reason to filibuster, in my view, the nomination. We have plenty of people. Being obnoxious is not a unique quality in Washington. (Laughter.) And so this is—this would not be a means by which you ought to be excluded from high post in service.

My basic difficulty was that Mr. Bolton tried to fire defense analysts—intelligence analysts, excuse me, and I think that’s an unpardonable problem. I don’t care what administration that occurred in. I would strenuously object to anyone being promoted who engaged in that. This is what we—this is—going back to the issue raised about Iraq and information that was available to us at the time, we now know that books will be doctored and so forth—a lot of that information. The idea that there were people in government would sit there and literally try to fire people—I have no objection to a heated debate, to strenuous objections to people’s conclusions; a vibrant, open government ought to tolerate and welcome that in fact—but if you try to fire people because they disagree with you for ideological reasons and then be promoted, to me that is inexcusable.

And so I’ve been strong in my opposition because of that one reason. I don’t want junior officers at the CIA or the Defense Department or the State Department to believe you can be promoted in this business by engaging in that kind of behavior. And by the way, I’m not—this is not a questionable set of facts. We’ve had over eight or nine members of the Bush administration publicly express their opposition to this nomination, rather unique in the annuls of Senate confirmation. And so when that occurs, it seems to me—aside from the particular problems associated with the nomination today—the idea that we would say to junior officers, “This is what you can do and still be promoted” is dangerous, in my view.

ROHATYN: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Senator. Alan ( Lincoln ?) (sp), The Washington Center. This is a walk-away question again. When the president of Pakistan was here—I don’t know—two and a half-three weeks ago, he said, as important an issue as Kashmir is to his people, a more important issue is the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. We have—or this administration had walked away from it. What do you think an administration or a future administration ought to be doing on that issue today?

DODD: Well, first, listening to Musharraf is interesting and that whole set of issues associated with Pakistan. Did he appear here?

MR. : Yes.

DODD: That’s great. That’s wonderful.

By the way, let me just say—let me commend the council for having the president of Iran here. I realize that was an issue that provoked a lot of debate here. But I think, Richard, that’s the role of a council here. In fact, Felix had a great answer, he said he had no idea how bad this guy was until he appeared before you here. (Laughter.) So it provided an opportunity for you to really realize how dangerous this fellow is. So this is the role of a council, and I commend you for it.

Again, I think the issue involves, again, the issue of engagement here. You can’t outsource your foreign policy, in my view. And I think too often we’ve allowed this to happen here. And there’s a strong relationship that goes back more than a half a century between the United States and Israel, and that bond is tremendously important and it’s critically important that we articulate that. It’s also critically important that as a good friend, our best friend, our most reliable ally in the region, and someone who embraced a value system overall that we associate with very directly, that we do what good friends do, and that is remind people who go off in a different direction that you’re not only hurting your own interests, but we have our own interests as well. And from time to time, the interests of our allies and our own do not coincide, and we need to be sure that in the process of watching out for those issues that we don’t isolate ourselves, in my view. And that’s—for those who take exception to that, I think they’re wrong. Now, it need not be done with a lot of bombast and public statements, but it certainly ought to be very much a part of how you conduct your foreign policy. In fact, it has been, in my view.

Republican and Democratic administrations, by and large, with the exception of not picking up in this case here, among other things, in the past have engaged and provided that kind of leadership, which I think has been critically important. You need only look to the proof of what’s happened with that kind of an approach with the number of nations that have recognized Israel’s right to exist, as it’s grown tremendously, under leadership of Democratic and Republican administrations that have been mindful of reminding our good friend of decisions they may make that are not in their interest or ours.

So at this point here, the issue of how do we get this rolling again—and I think what needs to be done, you’ve got allies in the region that I think could help provide that role, that are, to some extent, already. Here there’s been some call, I think, that has legitimacy for an international gathering that would bring people together. We cannot do this on our own.

The Quartet has laid out three criteria that would have to be present before Hamas could be at that table. I think that’s important. You cannot—if you’re going to be a part of a negotiation and call for the annihilation of the state of Israel, and to continue to engage in terrorist activities, and not recognize previous agreements—all part of the Quartet’s understanding—then it’s very difficult to anticipate how this could move forward.

I think the ability and the urging Fattah and Hamas to sort of come together both would deal with the domestic problems that the Palestinians are facing today, and also allow for the moderation of Hamas’s views for us to get back to the table.

I think we ought to be dealing with Syria, when it comes to Hezbollah. Hezbollah cannot get armed unless Syria allows it to happen, no matter what Iran may want to do. And again, I think kind of exploring ways, my sense is that Syria may be looking for some opportunities here to reestablish some relationships, and I think we ought to take advantage of it.

I’ll tell you just as an aside, I mentioned being in the region back in April—and this goes to the heart of, again, what I think is problematical about this administration’s conduct of foreign policy. I know this may sound sort of quaint today, but I always call the State Department before I travel anywhere and offer any help I might provide on matters that may be of common interest. And so I called the State Department to let them know my itinerary, which included Syria at the time. And the call back I got was, “We don’t want you to go to Syria.” And I said, “Why not?” And they said, “Well, we’re not talking to him.” It was almost sort of a high school kind of mentality here to it. (Laughter.) And I don’t know, maybe they thought I was going to offer him an internship or something, I guess. But why wouldn’t you go and talk—what’s the reason? “You’re going to Lebanon?” “Yes.” “Well, we don’t want you talking to Lahud, the president of the country.” “Why not?” “Well, he’s friendly with Assad.” “Well, I know that.”

This idea of not taking advantage of a Democratic senator, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, going to the region to find out if there was some commonality here which might reinforce the position where there were agreement here is the kind of mentality—I recall a few years ago being in Central America, again, which I go to quite frequently, and asked to see Bolanos and various other people in the government of Nicaragua, the president of the country. And said, “By the way, I’d like to see Ortega.” “We’re not meeting with Ortega.” Well, you know, this is ridiculous here. He’s a guy who may emerge being the president of that little country in a matter of days, and the idea that we’re not talking to them at all is frightening to me, in a way. Now, again, I’m not suggesting—well, you know what I’m suggesting to you. But you’ve got to have that approach.

I remember, we were talking to (some ?) people over breakfast this morning when there was an effort on SALT talks. And I recall an earlier American president actually inviting members of the United States Senate who played critical roles on arms control and defense policy of going with the president to make the case at the table to the Soviets at the time—“This will pass, this won’t. If you insist upon that provision, the Senate will not ratify it.” Instead of treating them as if somehow it was the opposition, how do you involve them in the process here so that you get clarity over what your positions are, whether it’s arms control of the Middle East policies? I just—very, very dangerous to me, and it’s created, in my view, much of what we’re looking at today. Not to suggest that conversation alone is going to achieve it, and I don’t want to suggest to you here that that’s some substance of what you’re arguing for here.

I’m very worried about the condition of our military today and what’s happened. I offered an amendment on the floor of the Senate a few weeks ago increasing—at the request, by the way, of the uniformed services—of some $7 billion just to make up the difference in what’s happened to two-thirds of our combat divisions today. The bombasts, the false threats, these are creating huge problems for us all over the world.

Sorry about the length of the answer, but it’s obviously made—

QUESTIONER: Ted Sorensen.

DODD: Yeah. Ted, how are you?

QUESTIONER: Senator, it’s wonderful to have you here—

DODD: Nice to be with you.

QUESTIONER: I knew your father. In fact, he came to see me in the White House once.

DODD: Oh.

QUESTIONER: Don’t get too puffed up about that.

DODD: No, no—(laughs.)

QUESTIONER: Usually, the president sends people to see me that he didn’t have time to see.

DODD: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Anyway—

DODD: But then again, maybe he wanted to see you and not the president. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Anyway, when I was—you know, 50 years or more ago, when I was a young senatorial assistant, the leading Republican on the Senate floor was Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

DODD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTIONER: And even during the bipartisan days of the Cold War, he said the duty of the opposition is to oppose. There’s a lot of Democrats—some apparently in Connecticut—who don’t think the Democratic party in the Congress has been fulfilling that duty. Do you think it has? And if not, what’s the excuse for them not opposing the Bush disastrous foreign policy?

DODD: Well—and again, being an apologist for Congress is dangerous territory—(laughter)—given the warm reception that Congress receives from the American public. (Laughter.)

But I will say that during the consideration of the resolutions, for instance, on Iraq, no one pays much attention to the House of Representatives—strictly the minority in the House of Representatives—I shouldn’t say the House, but the minority in the House. And a number of people in the House were rather articulate and outspoken. In fact, a majority of Democrats in the House expressed opposition to those resolutions and offered alternatives, by the way. There was very little coverage of it. And again, I understand in the—Washington, where the White House and the majority always attracts more attention than the minority in the House would, but there were people who spoke out, and unfortunately, we were not listening and paying enough attention.

There was a bit of a cheerleader mentality that went on both within the political community and outside of that community. I say this with all due respect, but I remember being on “Larry King” in March several days before the war actually began—doing the “Larry King” show with John Warner and Bob Woodward of recent notoriety with his most recent book—and Bob making a rather strong case about the weapons of mass destruction and the legitimacy of the administration’s view on this. Now, that was the first book. (Laughter.) The second book—now, it gives you a different viewpoint, but the press itself was not really doing its job, either, in terms of covering. I say with all respect to several who are here today, but that really was a failure in that regard.

Ted, I think “opposition” is not a bad word, but constructive opposition here is what is important, I think, if you’re going to be listened to in offering alternatives. And we’ve done that in a couple of recent occasions—the most recent one on the Armed Services bill in trying to at least bring together 45 Democrats—which is not easy, obviously—with different points of view, and my colleague from Connecticut is not unique in his regard about the issue of Iraq. Maria Cantwell, a wonderful friend who serves in the state that is obviously in some ways much more liberal, if you will, than the state of Connecticut, has a similar view that Joe does on the war in Iraq; faces different political considerations for different reasons. But getting unanimity among Democrats on issues like this is not easy. But offering alternatives that can (fashionably ?) bring people together—and I don’t like the word “consensus” because “consensus” can result in nothing more than sort of polenta here politically—but an effort has been made.

We could do a better job at this, I think, without any question, of articulating more dramatically what the differences are. And I think we’ve not been as successful in that regard. Even if you’re minorities within the minority, I think it’s important to do that and get a voice.

I’m going to stop picking here. I’m going to be in trouble if I do it.

ROHATYN: Madame, back there?

DODD: Yeah.

QUESTIONER: Senator Dodd, Julia Sweig with the Council on Foreign Relations. I want to bring you back to the hemisphere where your heart is from your Peace Corps years and other experience in the Congress.

DODD: (Chuckles.)

QUESTIONER: In the 1980s, we had insurgencies raging in Central America, and you played a role in the bipartisan agreement that ultimately helped bring about the peace processes in Central America and the beginning of democracy there. That was in the context of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was still standing.

Today we’re back to an enormously polarized hemisphere. I’ll tell you that just a few minutes before we started the meeting, in the first round of the vote at the U.N., neither Guatemala nor Venezuela won.

DODD: Aha. (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: So we’ll see what emerges, but I guess I’d want to throw you a difficult question that I don’t have the answer to, so I’ll—having testified before your committee, ask you to answer it this time.

DODD: (Laughs.) The last time you’re going to come to that—

QUESTIONER: (Laughs, laughter.) And that is, you know, on the question of Iran or North Korea or the Middle East, these very tough, tough security issues, there’s an obvious, rational reason to be talking to our adversaries and our enemies.

In a country like Venezuela, where you have a guy who depends on very, very high oil prices still for his domestic and international position, we supply him with almost 70 percent of the revenue he gets from oil. What is there to talk about? That is, to say—and the broader question is, in this hemisphere, what ought the basis be for a dialogue with these very polarized countries with populist leaders who are very anti-American? And is there domestically within the United States the basis for a bipartisan approach to the hemisphere?

DODD: Well, it’s a great question, Julia, and an important one.

Again, I’m not—I’m critical to the administration’s failure to pay attention to this hemisphere. I’m not quite as critical—haven’t been for some time, although I’m changing that, because of 9/11 and obviously the attention properly focused or now unfocused—but focused on other parts of the world here. But we need to pay far more attention—I actually had some hopes, when President Bush was elected, that he might pay more attention, given his affinity, having been a governor of Texas and feeling more comfortable with Latin America, that we might see more attention paid to that area. The problem has been, of course, we’ve walked away to a large extent.

But before people get absolutely wound up on the issue of Venezuela, I think certain things are worth noting. One, the price of oil is coming down, and the ability of Venezuela to have as quite the bit of influence in the region as it did even a few weeks and months ago is less.

Secondly, it’s worthwhile to note that in some of these elections around that occur in the region, despite Hugo Chavez’s deep involvement and desire to elect people like Evo Morales in Bolivia, or Correa in Ecuador, his association, at least initially, with Lula in Brazil, that we’re watching—Hugo Chavez is not quite the popular figure. Many people expected in Ecuador yesterday that Correa would win or get close to that 40 percent of the vote that was required in order to avoid a second round, and apparently this morning Noboa, who is a very successful Guayaquil businessman, has emerged with more of a vote than Correa has. And there will be a run-off now, and how that comes out, I don’t know. But the point being that this thing isn’t runaway, despite the language of Chavez.

The opponent that Chavez has, I’m told—now again, I haven’t been down there in a while, and I’ve met with him on numerous occasions, as I have with Castro and others—is that this opponent is serious and this race could get very close in Venezuela. And I think how we handle that is something we ought to be mindful of as well.

Thirdly—so change can happen. Lula feels very differently about Chavez today, by the way, than he did before; Morales is having very significant problems in Bolivia; and Ecuador is a separate case. And you’ve got responsible leadership in Chile. Kirchner is very responsible. I listened to Kirchner talk to me about his—in fact, one bright light in the Bush administration’s conduct of foreign policy, the constructive role the United States played during Argentina’s most significant economic crisis. When Europe was walking away from them, the United States was actually supportive on debt relief. Didn’t make much noise about it, but in fact was appreciated in the region.

The third thing is, what Chavez and Morales and Correa are talking about is not something we ought to be opposing. I mean, in a large sense, putting aside the fact he’s running off to Iran and North Korea, I mean, this also is an indication of the kind of trouble Chavez is in. He’s not making trips around Latin America. I don’t think he gets many invitations. He’s now seeking out places around the world that are willing to have him, but places that are kind of in the darker corners of the world, politically speaking. So that’s an indication that his cachet in the region isn’t quite as strong as it has been.

Even Ortega in Nicaragua is making a point of saying, look, if he wins this election, he wants to have a close working relationship with the United States. Obrador in Mexico, the assumption being there that this was going to sweep in, he went out of his way during the remaining weeks of that campaign to disassociate himself from Chavez.

But the point I want to make is, how do we reestablish this? You know, as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, as someone who watched the Alliance for Progress, the good-neighbor policy of Franklin Roosevelt, we were the country that was associating and engaging with the aspirations and hopes of people on the ground, and we’re treating it as if somehow this is a liability, in a sense, and that Chavez gets the high ground on this issue. How you lose a public relations battle—the United States does—to Hugo Chavez is rather difficult, in my view. You almost have to go out of your way to do it—(laughter)—in a sense. I think the opportunities are there.

Latin America has had a special relationship with our country. It’s been a difficult one, but it’s important to note that through some very difficult times, Latin Americans have been pretty good allies of ours. I’m deeply troubled about the relationship with Mexico on the immigration issue, that requires a lot of work. I’ve chaired for 26 years the Interparliamentary Meeting with Mexico and have spent a lot of time with my counterparts down there, know many of them very, very well.

This is a very important relationship. I think Calderon is probably going to be looking, because of the difficulty he’ll have in his own Congress on being able to do much, that I suspect he may be looking south to solidify and improve relationships in the hemisphere in the coming years. And that can be helpful to us if we work closely with him and others. We need to get more cooperation from Mexico on the immigration issue, clearly. I’m uneasy about these walls being built, although I understand the American public’s appetite for security.

So Chavez can be dealt with, in my view, and we ought not to assume that he’s larger than life. Too often we become more of the reason why these people end up with the reputations they do than sort of putting them in context.

And this president needs to do things. Let me just end on this note on this particular subject matter, just some of the contrast and difference. I remember George W. Bush’s father, President Bush’s father, once in a conversation asked me the following question. He said, “Senator,” he said, “if I can make one call to Latin America, one head of state, who would you have me call?”

I said, “That’s a pretty good question.” And I said, “I can’t answer. Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.”

And whether I saw him again or whether I—I forget how I communicated back, but I thought about it. And I thought the best guy I would pick if I could only pick one would be former president of Uruguay Sanguinetti, who had great—a small country, but had very good relations and was highly regarded in the region.

The next thing I discovered is that out of the blue one day, President Bush 41 picked up the phone and called Sanguinetti and just had a conversation with him about Latin America. What a contrast when you consider just the simple gestures. I can’t tell you how often I ran into heads of state in Latin America who received a phone call from George Bush on a birthday, on something that happened with a child. The relationships there were rather remarkable. This has happened with other administrations as well. I don’t want to overemphasize this point.

But that’s the kind of leadership that’s necessary. It’s labor-intensive, it takes time, but the value is immeasurable in what can happen in difficult moments when you’re trying to build relationships or get votes or create alliances. You know, good politics is good manners. (Laughs.) It’s not much more complicated to some degree than that. Listening to people, paying attention to what they say—what a difference when you consider just a gesture. The fact that he even asked a senator, it’s not a bad question to ask a senator who spends a lot of time in the region. I was rather impressed that an American president would ask that question. But that’s sort of what is necessary.

ROHATYN: Chris, I think we’ll end on that note because it’s a very good note.

DODD: Well, thank you all very, very much. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. (Applause.)

 

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