Love and War, Poetry & Politics

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Questions for Christopher Dodd

A Son’s Story

Your new book, “Letters from Nuremberg,� takes us back to the rubble of postwar Germany, when your father, former U.S. Senator Thomas J. Dodd, was a young attorney assigned to prosecute Nazi criminals. Why did you wait so long to publish his letters? I didn’t find them until 1990. My sister had them in the basement of her house, and she gave them to my brother, and he gave them to me.

What did you think when you first read through them? I wept. My father was one of four people doing interrogations, and in one letter he is interviewing a thug like Hermann Goring at 4 p.m. — a man responsible for the incineration of millions of people — and writing my mother an intimate letter that night. He could really change gears.

Virtually all the letters he wrote to your mom are love letters that offered him what he described as an “all too brief few minutes with you.� He absolutely adored her. And she him. When he was coming home, it was very clear that everything else was secondary. We were there, but we were not the central event. There was never any doubt in my mind as to where his greatest affection was.

You seem eager in the book to contrast the idealism of the American past with the moral disasters of the present. Nuremberg — say the word and it conjures images of moral authority, of global leadership, of responsibility. Say the words Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and what images come to mind?

You’re probably aware that the position of U.S. attorney general is currently available. I don’t think I am a candidate for attorney general. I don’t think I’m on the short list.

I hear you’re running for president. Yes, Ma’am. I hear as well. Thank you for hearing!

You’re barely a blip in the polls. As a fifth-term senator with decades of experience, why do you think you’ve failed to generate at least as much interest as, say, John Edwards? Well, he ran for vice president. This is all about names that people recognize.

Do you think Connecticut is the problem? It’s doesn’t exactly have a populist image. That’s an interesting question. Living between New York and Boston is sort of like living in Alsace-Lorraine, between the French and the Germans. We’re the quiet zone between two very robust cities.

Do you think the recent debates helped you distinguish yourself from the other Democratic candidates? No. At the debates, I felt like I was back at St. Thomas the Apostle School with Sister Louise, trying to be recognized in the room. If you had a parochial education, you’d appreciate how frightening that can be — trying to be recognized.

It’s true you’re not overexposed. The only time you made national headlines this summer was when your office in Hartford was burglarized by a homeless man. Well, as someone once said, as long as they spell your name right.

You came late to fatherhood. You’re 63 and have two young children. Grace was born two days after 9/11. She’s 5, and Christina is 2. Little girls are wonderful. Fathers and little girls have special relationships.

All of this represents a departure from your former image as a longtime bachelor who dated Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher. I wouldn’t even begin to make a comment on that.

Do you think Americans have a right to know about a candidate’s personal life? Well, look. What’s that great line? There’s no such thing as a saint without a past and a sinner without a future.

Who said that? I just did.


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