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George Will writes: Why Voters Should Listen to Chris Dodd

George Will writes: Why Voters Should Listen to Chris Dodd

"There is," Dodd says, "a hollowness to this campaign." If, however, Dodd distills his anger into a message about how a swollen presidency threatens the constitutional balance between the two political branches of government, that message might resonate. Certainly prosecuting the case against presidential aggrandizement would give the son of the Nuremberg prosecutor a distinctive theme. It also would give him a seriousness largely lacking in a campaign that is indeed hollow because its pervasive subtext—loathing of this president—is more visceral than intellectual. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's.

George Will writes: Why Voters Should Listen to Chris Dodd

White-Haired Guy Gets Mad

By George F. Will

Aug. 13, 2007 issue - Chris Dodd's modest ambition is to get Democratic primary voters to say: "We want to give the white-haired guy a chance." The color of his hair is the most that most Democrats know about the five-term senator from Connecticut who in 1994 came within one vote of being elected leader of Senate Democrats. The chairman of the banking committee is amusing, experienced and a plausible president. But because of candidate clutter, he is competing for crumbs of time during the endless purgatory of the mis-begotten and misnamed "debates."

Dodd remembers Sen. Eugene McCarthy long ago saying that it would be nice if the Senate were a place to which people of reputation came, rather than a place where people come to make reputations. When Dodd says he wishes presidential contests were like that, he might not have Barack Obama in mind but should be forgiven if he thinks Obama has reversed the proper sequence.

Dodd has raised enough money to spread his message in early contests and be, he says, "structurally ready" if it resonates. But what is it? There was no sign of it in a recent conversation until, in response to a question about what makes him angry, something rare enough to be riveting appeared—unfeigned indignation about the lawlessness, as he sees it, of the Bush-Cheney doctrine of inherent, and inherently illimitable, presidential powers.

Dodd will soon publish a book he considers pertinent, one containing many of the more than 400 letters written in 1945 and 1946 by his father—a future senator from Connecticut—to his wife while he was a prosecutor assisting Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials.

Jackson's opening statement, delivered in a city reeking from the decomposition of 30,000 bodies still buried in the rubble, said: "That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason."

Nuremberg, says Dodd, was "the place where America's moral authority in the second half of the 20th century was born." That perishable resource has, he thinks, been squandered by Bush administration decisions inimical to the Constitution and international law. If Dodd makes this his message, he will soon find in bookstores a compendium of examples— "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy" by Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe.

Contrary to the Constitution's mandate that the president "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed," the current president, much more than any other, has issued "signing statements"—essentially, line-item vetoes, which are unconstitutional—to tell the executive branch that some provisions of bills he signs into law need not be enforced for constitutional or policy reasons. As Savage writes, "If a president has the power to instruct the government not to enforce laws that he alone has declared to be unconstitutional, then he could free himself from the need to obey laws that restrict his own actions."

Contrary to the Supreme Court's rejection of President Truman's 1952 claim of an inherent power as commander in chief to seize steel mills to prevent a wartime strike (Justice Jackson concurring: "No penance would ever expiate the sin against free government of holding that a president can escape control of executive power by law through assuming his military role"), this administration claims not merely inherent but exclusive presidential powers to:

Treat all of America as a battlefield on which even American citizens can be declared "enemy combatants," seized and held indefinitely, and intelligence can be collected by any means the president orders.

Disregard—or interpret into nullities—provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture or U.S. law that inhibit the president from acting as "sole organ" of the nation regarding national security.

"There is," Dodd says, "a hollowness to this campaign." If, however, Dodd distills his anger into a message about how a swollen presidency threatens the constitutional balance between the two political branches of government, that message might resonate. Certainly prosecuting the case against presidential aggrandizement would give the son of the Nuremberg prosecutor a distinctive theme. It also would give him a seriousness largely lacking in a campaign that is indeed hollow because its pervasive subtext—loathing of this president—is more visceral than intellectual.

With his support measured in little amounts, Dodd has little to lose and a large role to gain. It would be the role of a constitutionalist candidate who promises that, as president, he would prune from his office much of the grandiosity it has acquired from audacious recent assertions of uncircumscribed powers.

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Headlines: August, 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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Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings Date: July 25 2007 No: 1178 Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings
Read PCOL's executive summary of Senator Chris Dodd's hearings on July 25 on the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act and why Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter does not believe the bill would contribute to an improved Peace Corps while four other RPCV witnesses do. Highlights of the hearings included Dodd's questioning of Tschetter on political meetings at Peace Corps Headquarters and the Inspector General's testimony on the re-opening of the Walter Poirier III investigation.

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August 4, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: August 5 2007 No: 1182 August 4, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
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Dodd issues call for National Service Date: June 26 2007 No: 1164 Dodd issues call for National Service
Standing on the steps of the Nashua City Hall where JFK kicked off his campaign in 1960, Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd issued a call for National Service. "Like thousands of others, I heard President Kennedy's words and a short time later joined the Peace Corps." Dodd said his goal is to see 40 million people volunteering in some form or another by 2020. "We have an appetite for service. We like to be asked to roll up our sleeves and make a contribution," he said. "We haven't been asked in a long time."

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A post made on PCOL from volunteers in Tanzania alleges that Ambassador Retzer has acted improperly in revoking the country clearance of Country Director Christine Djondo. A statement from Peace Corps' Press Office says that the Peace Corps strongly disagrees with the ambassador’s decision. On June 8 the White House announced that Retzer is being replaced as Ambassador. Latest: Senator Dodd has placed a hold on Mark Green's nomination to be Ambassador to Tanzania.

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A PCV writing home? Our editor hard at work? Take a look at our Peace Corps Funnies and Peace Corps Cartoons and see why Peace Corps Volunteers say that sometimes a touch of levity can be one of the best ways of dealing with frustrations in the field. Read what RPCVs say about the lighter side of life in the Peace Corps and see why irreverent observations can often contain more than a grain of truth. We'll supply the photos. You supply the captions.

PCOL serves half million Date: May 1 2007 No: 1120 PCOL serves half million
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Suspect confesses in murder of PCV Date: April 27 2007 No: 1109 Suspect confesses in murder of PCV
Search parties in the Philippines discovered the body of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell near Barangay Batad, Banaue town on April 17. Director Tschetter expressed his sorrow at learning the news. “Julia was a proud member of the Peace Corps family, and she contributed greatly to the lives of Filipino citizens in Donsol, Sorsogon, where she served,” he said. Latest: Suspect Juan Duntugan admits to killing Campbell. Leave your thoughts and condolences .

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One year ago, Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul (RPCV Kenya) carried on an ongoing dialog on this website on the military and the peace corps and his role as a member of a Civil Affairs Team in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have just received a report that Sargeant Paul has been killed by a car bomb in Kabul. Words cannot express our feeling of loss for this tremendous injury to the entire RPCV community. Most of us didn't know him personally but we knew him from his words. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was one of ours and he served with honor.

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Story Source: Newsweek

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