“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones."
So said Mark Anthony in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Cesar” during Cesar’s funeral oration. Anthony, who took no part in the assassination of Cesar, the bloody work of Brutus and others, all honorable men, was determined that the good Cesar did should not be buried with his bones and that the evil done by his assassins should not outlive them.
U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s farewell speech before the senate serves a like purpose. Farewell speeches by senators of long standing and exit interviews recorded in newspapers are like brief autobiographies, and there never yet was an autobiographer who was not the hero of his own reminiscences. Eventually, the encomiums are overwritten by sober historians far removed from the partisan atmosphere that colors all the deeds, evil and good, of their subjects.
Mr. Dodd’s errors in office lie just beneath memory’s skin. His three decades in the senate are hardly ancient history. It may be recalled – though not of course by Mr. Dodd, and especially not in a farewell address to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate -- that Mr. Dodd was the senator who, to speak metaphorically, assassinated the Roosevelt era Glass Steagall Act, a measure that prevented rapacious financial institutions from meddling with the bankbooks of Mr. Dodd’s constituents, as noted by Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell:
“I suspect,” Mr. Powell noted in an interview a little over a year ago, “that Connecticut's Senate election will be determined more by doubts about Dodd's personal integrity than by doubts about his record, particularly his long subservience to Wall Street. That will be too bad, since, in providing what turned out to be the crucial support for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and thereby letting commercial banks and investment houses merge, Dodd bears as much responsibility as anyone for the collapse of the world financial system. His Irish "cottage" and the terms of his mortgages are trivial by comparison, not that those things don't imply his having lost touch with Connecticut, a sense of entitlement as part of the ruling class.”
The crushing Dodd-Frank regulatory bill may be Mr. Dodd’s feeble attempt at repentance.
It will not be long before the regulations in that bill are offset by exceptions awarded by the commanders of the nation’s new command economy in Washington. Companies too big to fail – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for instance, both Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) responsible for the swelling housing bubble the bursting of which preceded the collapse of the mortgage industry in the United States – always have been able to purchase the ears of congressmen prepared to dole out tax dollars to favored failing enterprises.
Before Mr. Mr. Dodd decided not to run for re-election, the Chairman of the Banking committee, always attentive to opportunities, was hauling in campaign dough from major financial institutions, among them Countrywide, the now bankrupt GSE whose CEO, the odious Angelo Mozillo, regarded Mr. Dodd as a “Friend Of Angelo.” Mr. Dodd recently pointed to a lack of reform in Fannie and Freddie as one of the biggest gaps in the new legislation.
In his Senate Swan Song, Mr. Dodd also lamented that “Powerful financial interests, free to throw money about with little transparency, have corrupted the basic principles underlying our representative democracy. And, as a result, our political system at the federal level is completely dysfunctional."
He signed off by quoting from 2 Timothy 4:1 – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
The author of those words, concerned that Christians following him in later years would “turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths,” earned his crown of suffering and kept the faith by dying for it. St. Paul suffered martyrdom near Rome at a place called Aquae Salviae (now Tre Fontane), somewhat east of the Ostian Way, about two miles from the splendid Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura, which marks his burial place.
Mr. Dodd, no doubt, will enjoy a more pleasant end. It has been rumored that Mr. Dodd has been offered a job as chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. Should Mr. Dodd accept the position, he will earn a handsome salary of a little over a million a year. Should he decline the offer, his future still promises to be more remunerative than that of St. Paul -- and his final years less agonizing.