At a recent charity event I was approached by a supporter of Senator Chris Dodd who complained to me “we have to start a public relations campaign, the media coverage of Senator Dodd is hurting him. Don’t you people like Senator Dodd?” she exclaimed.
I happen to like Senator Dodd. I really do. He’s always been friendly and easy to talk to and seems really interested in what people have to say. I can count several Dodd supporters among my friends and one of my family members even donated to his campaign. I remember feeling genuinely happy for the Senator when I covered his wedding, and when he became a father.
For that matter, I also like many Republicans, in fact I emceed Governor Rell’s inaugural ball in 2007. I also have a family member who donates to the GOP. At a recent family gathering just after this past election in November, a quick head count revealed half voted for Barack Obama and exactly half voted for John McCain.
I’ll even admit I felt a sense of pride when someone from my state was running for president, and wondered what it would be like if Dodd were elected president. We would probably get invited to the White House for a special media briefing as was the case with local reporters who covered George Bush and Barack Obama, and East Haddam would become the Summer White House. Hartford might have been the site of the Chris Dodd Presidential Library. There is little doubt a Dodd presidency would have been good for Connecticut.
By all accounts, Chris Dodd has been a good Senator and effective for Connecticut, but as a journalist, I still have to ask the tough questions of an elected official even if I like him or her, and even if that politician is popular and successful.
This the case with Senator Dodd. This past week on Face the State the chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party said the media should stop covering the mortgage controversy, calling it a non-issue. We just can’t do that.
I work for you, the viewers, who have made it very clear you want to know more about the mortgage issue. To his credit, the Senator allowed a small group of reporters to look at select mortgage documents, but that was not enough. The Wall Street Journal, whose reporters certainly know much more about mortgages and finance than I do, was not invited that day.
If I were his media advisor I would allow reporters to make copies of what they want, and let those reporters show them to a mortgage expert. If there is nothing to hide, then why is the Senator refusing complete access? If a mortgage expert working on behalf of Channel 3 was granted unlimited access and found nothing, then the issue would be a non-issue.
This once popular senator has watched his support and popularity erode since last summer, in part due to the mortgage controversy. Just about every reporter I have spoken with just can’t understand how the Senator would let his happen. Many Democrats echo that sentiment, telling me if the Senator did nothing wrong, then why hurt yourself by refusing to make everything public?
The Senator has turned a sure thing into a race he may very well lose. It will be interesting to see what he does next.