No one is going to mistake Chris Dodd for a frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nod. The senator from Connecticut is running fourth in the latest poll of voters in his home state. And, while the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may be a well-respected man about Washington, he is rapidly learning that doesn’t count for a whole lot in Keokuk or Dixville Notch.
But Dodd has hit on a campaign theme that is worthy of attention.
He has in recent days made the defense of the Constitution and the restoration of the rule of law central to his outreach to voters.
“One of the saddest days I’ve spent in public life, in the United States Senate, occurred last fall when the Senate of the United States passed the Military Commissions Act,” Dodd says of the Bush-administration sponsored law that eliminates Habeas Corpus protections and retreats from traditional commitment of the U.S. to respect the Geneva Conventions.
“I want to see us get back [to being] a nation that supports the rule of law,” argues the senator, who has proposed legislation that would restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.
Dodd is not alone among the candidates in having cast a vote against the Military Commission Act of 2OO6. Both New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama joined him in doing so, as did Deleware Senator Joe Biden and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich — although, notably, Republicans who should have known better, especially Arizona Senator John McCain and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, backed it.
But Dodd’s “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2OO7” initiative does distinguish him from the field. He is choosing to make his commitment to addressing the damage done by the Bush administration to basic civil liberties central to his campaign — talking about the issue in his campaign swings through early primary and caucus states, featuring his commitment at the top of his campaign website and launching a separate www.restore-habeas.org site that highlights a video of the candidate discussing the roots of America’s commitment to the Geneva Conventions and the rule of law, as well as a set of tools for involving citizens in the fight to restore the Constitution.