Sen Dodd: Assassination Points to Need for President With Foreign Policy Experience



LOGAN - When 83-year-old Zoe Leonard got her chance Saturday to shake hands with Chris Dodd, she told the presidential candidate that she was quite worried about Pakistan.

Leonard, who lives on a farm near here, has a son who used to live in Pakistan and now lives in Morocco with his wife and daughter. "I want a strong diplomatic corps," she said, and said she believed Dodd could bring stability to the Middle East, especially in light of Thursday's assassination of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. "He has had the experience."

Dodd has served in the Senate for about 26 years and is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But the Connecticut senator is still a long shot for the Democratic nomination, trailing far behind in the polls.

He said that the renewed focus on U.S. foreign policy, brought about by the assassination, could help strengthen his campaign in these final few days.

"What's been brought home to us, in very stark ways in the last 48 hours, is the importance of proven experience and ability in dealing with domestic and foreign policy issues," he said. "Caucusgoers had a sobering experience with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and they're now going to think twice about maybe earlier choices, or they will solidify their decision to go with a lesser-known candidate but a more experienced one."

On Saturday, he continued a last-minute push through the state with his "Caucus for Results" tour taking him north through Western Iowa.

After shaking hands and talking one-on-one to about 30 people at the Bunk House cafe here, he was scheduled for stops in Denison, Carroll, and Sioux City.


At the cafe table with Leonard and her friends, he talked about ethanol, fuel efficiency, and other issues before winding back to foreign policy. He told them that Bhutto, a long-time friend of his, called him on his cell phone while he was at a Starbucks in Des Moines about a month ago while she was under house arrest in Pakistan.

"I knew her very well," he said.

Campaigning with Dodd at the cafe was Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The union backs Dodd because of his actions in Congress that have improved funding and resources for fire fighters and his promise to continue his support.

Schaitberger said at least 800 fire fighters have pledged to caucus for Dodd and bring at least five of their friends. Dodd crosses party lines among firefighter ranks, Schaitberger said, referencing a Council Bluffs Republican firefighter who was bringing 16 friends to caucus for Dodd.

Firefighters across Iowa also are using an exchange program in which firefighters who want to caucus, but are scheduled to work, can trade shifts with those who don't plan to caucus, he said.

He said he was suspicious of the city of Des Moines' plan to offer overtime pay to be fully staffed on caucus night, hoping that doesn't detract possible Dodd supporters.

"They have never authorized overtime to what we call 'fully staff' the department," he said. "Now for some reason they're offering overtime on caucus night to fully staff every rig."

A spokesperson for the fire department could be immediately reached.