Interviewing former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd on Sunday for Meet the Press's Press Pass, host David Gregory described Dodd's exit from politics this way: "...you stepped out of politics, and one of the things that you were really disappointed about what – the state of the politics in Washington, the inability to compromise, the venomous relationship in Washington..."
That was quite a charitable characterization of Dodd's decision not to run for reelection. In 2010, The Washington Post explained the real reason for Dodd's retirement: "Dodd's political star fell over a two-year period...[he] was linked to a VIP mortgage loan program overseen by a controversial Wall Street financier. He also drew harsh questions about his oversight of Wall Street, as chair of the Senate Banking Committee, in the years when the nation's financial system was heading toward near collapse."
In response to Gregory, Dodd claimed: "The decision to leave was just after 30 years it was time. I mean, I think too many people in this business, they all know when to get into it, but [not] when to leave it." Gregory failed to ask Dodd a single question about the accusations of corruption or the Connecticut Senator's contribution to the collapse of the housing market.
The interview began by Gregory declaring: "Your name is out there everywhere in this Republican primary fight and in these debates. Repeal Dodd-Frank, the regulations for the financial sector. You should go to jail, the former Speaker of the House said, Newt Gingrich, you and Barney Frank." He then wondered to Dodd: "How do you react to that?"
The open-ended question allowed to Dodd to defend his banking legislation and Gregory never explained the reasoning behind the Republican criticism.
Here is a transcript of the November 13 exchange:
DAVID GREGORY: Your name is out there everywhere in this Republican primary fight and in these debates. Repeal Dodd-Frank, the regulations for the financial sector. You should go to jail, the former Speaker of the House said, Newt Gingrich, you and Barney Frank. How do you react to that?
CHRIS DODD: I should be flattered, I suppose, to begin with. But first of all, I was never crazy about having a bill with your name on it, I say that respectfully. In financial areas, whether it's Glass-Steagall, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Sarbanes-Oxley, I don't know why financial bills seem to always attract names with it.
But I'm – no one's really asked them or pressed them about what's the alternative. I don't know of anyone who wants to go back to the fall of 2008, when you had banks without capital standards, liquidity requirements. You had a shadow banking system, you had mortgage regulations that would allow anybody to get a mortgage, regardless of whether they could pay for it or not. I don't know of anyone who wants to return to that.
So, the idea you're going to repeal it, what do you replace it with? No one's asked that question or even what they're really opposed to in the bill, specifically. I'm not suggesting that it was totally bipartisan, but a lot it involved both Democrats and Republicans. So, ironically, the bill really was a bipartisan product in my ways and I wouldn't have passed it without Republican support.
GREGORY: On the one end of the political spectrum, on the right, Republicans say too much regulation is a bad thing. On the other side of the political spectrum, there are a lot of liberals who think that the fundamental problem is that banks are still too large, that they should be broken up, that they're still too big to fail.
DODD: Yeah, and I understand that. I had to put a bill together. I'm not a columnist, I'm not just a pundit talking about it. I had to get 60 votes in the Senate and half of the House, working with the administration, stake holders, putting a bill together of that complexity and passing it in the environment we're in, was hard. But the fact that the right thinks we went too far, those on the left think we didn't go far enough, indicates to me we may have it about right, in a sense.
GREGORY: Does your financial regulation, encapsulated in Dodd-Frank, does it survive?
DODD: Yeah, I think so. First of all, it's going to survive for the next year and a half regardless, because you have the President who would veto any effort to repeal it. And I think as people think about it and do you really want to go back?
GREGORY: Let me ask you about your current job. I mean, you stepped out of politics, and one of the things that you were really disappointed about what – the state of the politics in Washington, the inability to compromise, the venomous relationship in Washington, and so you sought out the warm embrace of the motion picture industry. So what fascinates you about that world and about this job?
DODD: Well, I had no idea when I was leaving this is what I'd be doing. They recruited me in the late winter and I went through a long process with them before I decided to do. So I thought I'd be doing something else. The decision to leave was just after 30 years it was time. I mean, I think too many people in this business, they all know when to get into it, but when to leave it. And that's true of a lot of professions. And so, while I loved it and enjoyed it and my colleagues – it saddens me to hear people talk about people in public life. I would say 98% of the people I served with were honest and patriotic and cared about the country, determined to do the right thing.
I wonder why some run for a legislative body, while they're not running for mayor or governor in their states. You're elected to serve collegiately with 99 other people in the Senate or 434 others in the House, and by the very nature of the institution that you've sought to be a member of requires you be partisan, bring your point of view, but at the end of the day, the hour, you've got to come to some conclusion that the country expects you to arrive at. And I'm just stunned, in a way, that people want to be there, but then don't want to do what's required of you to be successful there.