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Dodd Rejects Carter Criticism of Ted Kennedy
U.S. Senator Chris Dodd on Monday came to the defense of his old buddy, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, against new criticism by former President Jimmy Carter.
Dodd rejected Carter’s charge that Americans could have begun enjoying the benefits of sweeping healthcare long ago if Kennedy hadn’t stopped a plan by Carter in 1979.
Speaking at the Reuters Summit, Dodd declared, “All I can say is that no one cared more about the issue” of healthcare than Kennedy, a fellow Democrat.
Dodd said Kennedy admitted to missed opportunities in his long crusade to provide healthcare to all Americans, but didn’t see his failure to back Carter’s unsuccessful bid as among them.
“I will take the Kennedy side of that debate,” Dodd said in standing up for the liberal icon who died last year of brain cancer. “I think he did the best he could in ’79.”
President Barack Obama signed into law this year legislation Kennedy helped inspire to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system and provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Carter, in an interview that aired on Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” said such legislation could have become law decades ago if Kennedy hadn’t opposed his proposal.
“It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill,” said Carter, who survived a challenge by Kennedy for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.
Carter gave the interview in discussing his new book, White House Diary, a personal account of his presidency.
Dodd noted that “there was a lot of bitterness” between Kennedy and Carter, who lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan.
“To this day I think President Carter believes that he lost that election in 1980 because of the challenge Teddy posed to him,” Dodd said.
“I don’t subscribe to that,” Dodd said. “I think there were a lot of other factors.”
Dodd said other factors, too — unrelated to Kennedy — led to the failure of Carter’s health plan.
“At the time … you had 22 percent inflation, you had gas lines going everywhere,” Dodd said. “The idea that healthcare was going to be a major debate in ’79 is sort of selective history. I don’t think there was any room for that debate in ’79.”
Dodd, a member of the Senate since 1980, having earlier served in the House of Representatives for six years, said he has no regrets about leaving Congress and not seeking another term.
“People have said to me, ‘Do you have any second thoughts?’ (about retiring from Congress).’”
“I say, ‘The only second thought I have had is how impressed I am with the first thought I had” to finally leave Washington, Dodd said with a broad grin and a chuckle.
Married with two young daughters (ages five and nine), Dodd, 66, said he hasn’t decided what he will do next, but a major factor is his family.
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque(Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd speaks at the Reuters Washington Summit Sept. 20, 2010)