President Biden spoke at the renaming the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center as the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut this past Friday. The White House has posted the transcript of Biden’s remarks here. (The transcript faithfully notes Biden’s use of the nonword “interdiced” in lieu of “introduced.”)
Thomas Dodd was the father of Biden’s former Senate colleague Christopher Dodd — Senator Thomas Dodd. The elder Dodd was defeated for reelection and left office in some disgrace in 1971 with an assist from Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. Biden just missed serving with him. Dodd the younger is Biden’s buddy Chris. The University of Connecticut has now renamed the center to honor both Dodds. UConn Today has posted background here.
Despite his inglorious exit from office, Thomas Dodd was a man of substance. He filled an important role as one of Robert Jackson’s right-hand men in the Nuremberg Trial prosecuting senior Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. In his handy history of the trial, Joseph Persico notes that a mass exodus of staff took place after the prosecution rested its case. Persico writes: “Jackson had been hard put to hold on to his next in line, the colorful Tom Dodd. Dodd was, underneath the raconteur and party lover, a family man who wrote to his wife every day and longed to go home. Jackson had to beg him to stay.”
Biden opened with a painfully fulsome tribute to the officials in attendance, including Chris Dodd:
Chris and I have known each other for a long time. But if you’ll excuse a point of personal privilege, as we used to say in the Senate, I saw up close how he fought for human rights and human dignity in the Senate.
But do you know my measure? Madam Ambassador, Ambassador Kennedy, do you know what my measure is? People who tell me they care about people and then disrespect the waitress or a waiter. People who tell me they care about how, in fact, people are entitled to be treated with dignity and walk by someone at a shoeshine stand and doesn’t say “hello.” People who do not do the just simply decent things for ordinary people. That’s the real measure.
I’ve never seen Chris, figuratively or — speaking, walk by anybody….
For anyone who follows these things, Biden’s remarks would bring to mind the anecdote involving Dodd, Ted Kennedy, and the waitress in the middle. Michael Kelly recounted it in the classic 1990 GQ profile “Ted Kennedy on the rocks.”
Biden also recited this passage weirdly: “[A]s we look around the world today, we see human rights and democratic principles increasingly under assault. We feel the same charge of history upon our own shoulders to act. We have fewer democracies in the world today than we did 15 years ago. Fewer. Not more — fewer. Cannot be sustained.” Something is wrong with him.
President Biden: “We have fewer Democracies in the world today than we did 15 years ago. Fewer. Not more, fewer.” pic.twitter.com/Dicv7l1ARm
— The Hill (@thehill) October 16, 2021
Beyond the weirdness, I think it is a disgraceful and disgusting speech in several respects from the guy who just returned Afghanistan to the Taliban and can’t wait to make nice again with the mullahs of Iran. Indeed, Afghanistan and Iran go unmentioned in Biden’s substantive remarks on the importance of human rights in his administration, but that is not weird at all.