2007.01.11: January 11, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Dominican Republic: Politics: Congress: Election2008 - Dodd: Hardball: RPCV Chris Mathews interviews RPCV Chris Dodd on Hardball

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RPCV Chris Matthews interviews RPCV Chris Dodd on Hardball

RPCV Chris Matthews interviews RPCV Chris Dodd on Hardball

"John Kennedy, when he sent off the first Peace Corps volunteers...said you know it’s going to be a great thing in 40 or 50 years from now there will have been a million young people in this country that will have served their nation in a foreign nation..That’s going to help us in the conduct of foreign policy with a better understanding of what’s going on. Well, there have only been 170,000 of us, Chris, that have come back as Peace Corps volunteers, but that experience was life altering and changing. You respected other people, you listened to them. It gives you a better perspective on your own country. I came back with a deeper appreciation of what the United States was and what it could do as a result of that experience."

RPCV Chris Matthews interviews RPCV Chris Dodd on Hardball

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Jan. 11
Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Gordon Smith, Tony Snow, Chris Dodd, Richard Haass, Mike Huckabee


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut announced on “Imus” this morning that he‘s running for president. And he was among several senators who took Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to task today on the Bush administration‘s Iraq policy when she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I asked Senator Dodd about the president‘s plan in Iraq and why he‘s running for president.


MATTHEWS: Senator Dodd, you announced for president today, why?

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, I don‘t want to waste a lot of time on the urgency questions. I think all of us understand things at home and abroad are very difficult and the country is desperate for leadership that will be honest with them that will ask them to get involved in solving some of the huge problems we face, in energy, health care, the environment, the like, foreign policy.

I think people want to see a positive attitude about what needs to be done to get us back on track. I think experience matters. In almost every other cycle, Chris, I could think about, if you said I‘ve been in the Senate for 25 years you‘d be disqualified from running.

But I think this time around, in light of what we‘ve been through for the past six years, I think experience matters, experience where you can demonstrate a capability to bring people together, to come up with big ideas, to solve problems in the country. I‘ve had that experience, on the foreign relations committee, on domestic policy.

And so I decided this time around I‘m not going to sit in the bleachers. I care too much about the future of our country. I‘ve got two young daughters who are going to grow up, I hope, with good health throughout the 21st century. I‘m worried about the country we‘re going to leave them, you and I, my generation.

MATTHEWS: Let‘s ask you about—let me ask you about the news of the day. The president last night gave a speech where, out of nowhere, he started talked about the danger of Iran, how we‘re going to intercept their efforts to help our enemies in Iraq. Do you think the president is on the verge of ginning up a war with Iran?

DODD: I think very possible, and Syria. Both countries were mentioned here. And I think, frankly, instead of engaging these countries, as Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton talked about, not because you like them, not because you want to sit down and have dinner with them, but because diplomacy is not a gift to anybody. But if you‘ve got neighbors in that area who could help come up with stability in Iraq, you ought to take advantage of that.

So instead of suggesting almost a military—expanding a conflict there, we ought to be talking about how we can bring these regional powers to help us solve the problem of Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Can the president attack Iran without congressional approval?

DODD: I don‘t believe so. My view is we ought to—frankly, ought to have a debate now about the surge issue. This is a whole new justification for it. And frankly, if you‘re for it, you ought to debate it and vote for it. If you‘re against it, vote against it.

This is not weapons of mass destruction. There are no images of mushroom cloud here. We‘re talking about a whole new justification for this surge.

And in my view the Congress—Democrats got a message on November 7, and we ought to take the time over the next few days and debate this before these kids end up there and then you‘re not going to want to cut off the funds when they‘re on the ground. So the time to debate it is now.

MATTHEWS: How do we debate Iran? Because the president may well claim mushroom clouds. He may claim they‘re about to hit us with a nuclear weapon, like he did last time. Same argument, WMD, different country. Do you think you can stop him or would you stop him from attacking Iran?

DODD: Well, I would. I think that doesn‘t make a lot of sense. I would never take the military option off the table. You ought never eliminate that arrow from your quiver. But you ought to try every way you can. I think there are means by which we could convince the Iranians to a variety of proposals here to reduce the threat they‘re posing with this...

MATTHEWS: But not taking it off the table; he keeps it on. Now let me ask you: my big worry as a citizen, I get up in the morning some day, hear the president attacked Iran‘s nuclear facilities or whatever overnight. And Hillary Clinton is out there saluting.

Is your party going to stand up to him about a war in Iran, or are we going to go along with that war, too?

DODD: I believe my party and others, by the way...

MATTHEWS: I mean, you voted for the last war.

DODD: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to stand by and say to the president, “OK, you know, it was a tricky call. I‘m going to have to go with it.”

DODD: This isn‘t a partisan issue. Listen, you listen to Chuck Hagel today, saying...

MATTHEWS: I say it‘s an American issue. Why are we going to war with another Arab country, another Islamic country?

DODD: I don‘t think we ought to be at this point, and I think there are plenty of people beyond Democrats in my party, to use your language, that believe that that would be a mistake, as well.

You listen to Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback and Norm Coleman and others who feel just as strongly that this administration is taking us down a dreadful path in the Middle East.

I‘ve been going to the Middle East for a quarter of a century. I just came back three weeks ago. I‘ve never seen it in rougher shape than it is today. And we‘ve been AOL (sic), Away Without Leave here and policy issues in this countries. Lebanon, Syria, the problem with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Iraq, it‘s a mess.

MATTHEWS: Why is the president taking that hands-off attitude?

DODD: I don‘t—I can‘t explain it, and no one else can over in the region, other—as well. They don‘t understand why we basically have been out of touch. During that entire conflict between Hezbollah and the Israelis for 34 days, I‘m told the president never talked to Siniora, the prime minister of Lebanon, and never talked to Olmert, the prime minister of Israel. For 34 days.

MATTHEWS: Is it because his farther took a lot of heat for being tough with Israel with the loan guarantees and all that? Does he go the other way and say, “I don‘t want to get involved in pushing anybody around over there?

DODD: I think it‘s their failure to understand the value of diplomacy. Diplomacy means telling your friends when you think they‘re wrong and when your enemies are doing something that may help you, you engage them. They see it as weakness. They think diplomacy is a favor to someone, rather than standing up and using those vehicles to enhance your own interests.

MATTHEWS: I think you have a different world view than the president.

Am I right?

DODD: I hope so. Very much so.

MATTHEWS: How‘s yours different than his? He‘s got a very hawkish world view, which is engaged, forward leaning, preemptive, preventative, let‘s go to war if anything goes on, let‘s go fight them over here, rather than here. What‘s your view?

DODD: My view is you ought to engage it. I believe in sort of the Jim Baker view of these things. Accept the world as it is. Try to make it better if you can, but understand what it is today. And then, understand you‘ve got to constantly work at this.

If you are going to lead in the world, use your power effectively and be careful about jumping to military options unless you absolutely have to, never eliminate that as an option. But this administration has been so quick on the trigger, they have got huge problems of instability. Stability has been the password in the Middle East for more than 50 years, or almost 50 years. And this administration is the first administration, Democrat or Republican, which is disrupted that notion of stability.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the cause of democratizing the Middle East has gotten in the way of the cause of stability?

DODD: I do. I do—look, I‘m all for democracy, but you have to develop societies, not just nation states, before you can get to democracy. Be careful what you wish for, if you had free elections in these Arab countries today, these modern Arab countries, I‘m telling you that the Islamic Jihad or the Muslim Brotherhood would win 80 percent of the vote. Be careful what you‘re asking for.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that you know more about the world because of your Peace Corps experience? You were in the Peace Corps. you were in the Dominican Republican, correct?

DODD: That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS: Do you think growing up in your early 20‘s, seeing this country from a third world perspective, was helpful to you?

DODD: Absolutely. No question about it.

MATTHEWS: Because the president doesn‘t have that background.

DODD: No he doesn‘t. In fact, John Kennedy, when he sent off the first Peace Corps volunteers, turned to Harris Walker, to help him organize the Peace Corps, and said, you know, it‘s going to be a great thing 40 or 50 years from now, there will have been a million young people in this country that will serve their nation in a foreign nation coming back that is going to help us in the foreign policy, with a better understanding of what‘s going on.

Well, there have been only been 170,000 of us, Chris, that have come back as Peace Corps volunteers. But that experience was life-altering and changing. You respected other people, you listened to them, it gives you a better perspective on your own country.

I came back with a deeper appreciation of what the United States was and what it could do as a result of that experience.

MATTHEWS: And you understood after you came back that other countries are just as jealous of intervention and just as nationalistic as we are.

DODD: And just as hopeful for the future, about their families and kids and the kind of world they would like to create for them.

MATTHEWS: I guess I agree with you on that last point, that‘s why I fed it to you.

But the president doesn‘t have that kind of background.

DODD: I don‘t think so. He doesn‘t understand it. I thought in many ways that he‘d understand—I think he had an option in the Latin American case because he was the governorship of Texas—on the border with Mexico. But I think 9/11 threw him off. I think his awareness, and understanding or appreciation for what was going on in the rest of the world was a real void.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Good luck in your campaign for president.

Chris Dodd, you are definitely a candidate. You are not—you don‘t have an exploratory committee.

DODD: I don‘t put my toe in and then my ankle and my knee. I go—when you‘re going to go, make a decision and go for it.

MATTHEWS: Total immersion.

DODD: Total immersion.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chris Dodd.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: January, 2007; RPCV Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic); Figures; Peace Corps Dominican Republic; Directory of Dominican Republic RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Dominican Republic RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Connecticut

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