Few politicians are saints. Many are hacks who couldn’t get a job doing anything else. But most are somewhere in between. There is no better example of that simple rule than former-senator-turned lobbyist Christopher J. Dodd.
Dodd is not, as the Waterbury Republican-American described him in an editorial two years ago, “one of the most corrupt senators in state history.” He served Connecticut mostly well for 30 years and made an abortive run for president. He lost the nomination to Barack Obama and subsequently became so embroiled in controversy that he wisely decided not to run for re-election two years later, vowing along the way that he wouldn’t become a lobbyist.
He abandoned that promise when the opportunity to head the Motion Picture Association of America came along. Apparently, the lure of a $1 million annual paycheck and the furtherance of his high profile was too much to resist.
But since Dec. 14, 2012, Dodd’s stint as spokesman for Hollywood has taken on a relevance he never expected. Indeed, his role as representative for studios that produce violent movies puts him in an awkward place in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.
As he made clear at a recent appearance at the National Press Club, Dodd refuses to even consider the idea that violent films contribute to a culture that inures its viewers to bloodshed. He is quick to point out, however, the uplifting effect good films can have.
“Movies stimulate, provoke, challenge, and educate,” he continued. “The best movies elevate and enrich. They dare us to think differently, to walk uncomfortably in another person’s shoes.”
This has always been Hollywood’s achilles heel. The creative class is quick to to tell us how inspiring its most iconic films can be. But they refuse to acknowledge the gutter effect violent films can have. If Stand and Deliver can fire up a whole new generation of teachers to be the best they can be, then doesn’t it stand to reason that Pulp Fiction can desensitize that same generation to gun violence?
In his National Press Club address, Dodd dismissed the idea that Hollywood should be compelled to reduce the amount of violence in its films. “Getting in the business of regulating content is a slippery slope,” he said, apparently with a straight face.
Hmm. Dodd sounds a lot like someone he probably despises: NRA boss Wayne LaPierre, who has argued that assault-weapons bans are little more than a prelude to door-to-door firearms confiscation.
I still think Dodd would have been a much better fit at UConn, which was looking for a new president at about the same time he was retiring from the Senate. Like Oklahoma’s David Boren, another retired senator who became a state university president, Dodd would have done a great job raising money, lobbying Hartford for increased funding, and boosting UConn’s profile. And the pay is great. But Hollywood is like catnip to Democrats. So with miles to go and promises to break, off to Tinseltown he went.
Newly minted 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty made a rookie mistake late last month when she arranged to meet privately with public officials and other “stakeholders” following the Newtown tragedy. Some journalists were invited to the meetings on the condition that the discussions would be off-the-record. Most of them wisely declined.
Jim Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, told the Record Journal the closed meetings were “absolutely outrageous.” In an editorial, The Courant acknowledged that Esty’s intent was to ensure a frank exchange of ideas but warned that “such meetings could become policy-making behind closed doors.” Over at My Left Nutmeg, Alfonso Robinson penned a scathing blog post entitled “Congresswoman Esty thinks you’re stupid.”
The toungue lashings prompted Esty to apologize in a letter to the editor of the Courant.
Lesson for Esty: sometimes open meetings can be long and inconvenient. One of your constituents might resent being quoted in the newspaper. Some who don’t want to be quoted might pull you aside afterward to bend your ear out of range of the media, thereby using up more of your precious time. But it’s a small price to be paid to be a leader in a great country like ours. Thanks for admitting the error of your ways.