Filling the Donut Hole Back Up: Dodd’s IAFF Endorsement Not Hollow


The other day, I posted a tidbit on the endorsement of Senator Chris Dodd by the International Association of Fire Fighters.
I’m a big fan of Chris Dodd. I think he’s an adult when it comes to thinking through what a serious foreign policy for America’s future would look like. He has set the gold standard — far beyond Hillary Clinton and a bit beyond Barack Obama — in comments on transforming US-Cuba relations. The common sense vision he brings to the Cuba subject is consistent with his thinking on problems in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the like.
But I was intrigued with the fact that a major union was sidestepping Edwards, Obama, and Clinton to endorse Dodd — which I’m sure he deserved but still. . . It was big.
I read a comment by an occasional writer/thinker who works in union politics and who is a sharp analyst on a private listserv about the Dodd endorsement. And he wrote about a donut theory endorsement in which a group endorses someone good — but someone who doesn’t alienate any of the frontrunners in the race. Then if their endorsee finally drops out, they have time for another endorsement of the eventual frontrunner.
Whether the comment was true or not made no difference to me — it was frankly just an intriguing, intellectual comment on a political choice puzzle. I contacted the guy and got permission to post it under his name — which I have subsequently taken down (the name is down, the post is up) — as the person got some heat for being identified.
Nonetheless, it was interesting.
A Captain Mike Hartman of the Muscatine (Iowa) Fire Department subsequently contacted me with a well-articulated counterpoint to my post. It’s a passionate statement that challenges my post. But whereas Hartman thinks he is arguing with me, he is actually arguing with the person who provided the analysis of the union endorsement.
But I wanted to share this former FF union official’s comment, which I do with permission. This from Michael Hartman:

I appreciate Mr. Clemons’ take on the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) endorsement of Senator Chris Dodd, but I hate to say I think he has it flat out wrong.
The IAFF, even though they have been playing around in politics and become more influential in that field, they are still fire fighters and as such are a different breed. Imagine if you would, running a national union of people who are vocal, opinionated, and have no time for political BS. One fire fighter I talked to about the endorsement was concerned that he wanted tot know the candidate prior to the ‘surprise announcement because he didn’t want to be in a camera shot where he could be seen mouthing “what the —-” if the candidate was not one he expected.
When I look at my fire department I see more Republicans than Democrats, but they are all union. They do not support candidates solely based on party, and they did not support Kerry because he was a Democrat.
The IAFF is very sincere in what they say regarding who they endorse. The IAFF looks at fire fighter issues. Period. End of story. They attacked Giuliani not because of his political background, they did it because he took credit for things beyond what he did on 9/11. Rudy also is paying for his attempts to end the 9/11 dig before it was time.
If you don’t believe me look at the records.
In 2004 — Kerry had a record of (I think) always voting for FF issues. That endorsement was not to ‘buy time’ to see how everyone else fared, the fire fighters were repaying a debt to a legislator who supported them.
Look what that endorsement did for that also ran! I have been expecting a Dodd endorsement for the same reason. Take a look at the political activity of Dodd in regards to FF issues. There is a group that works to support fire fighter issues on the Hill. Dodd has been a core member of that group from the get-go. Look at his support for the FIRE act — this provides grants for departments.
Dodd has always fought for it, been a primary signatory on these bills, and every year has fought to increase funding to meet the fire fighter’s needs. Without extensive research I will state that none of the other candidates have been even close to providing the support Dodd has.
Hillary may have been a union supporter, but I have not heard her name near as often as Dodd’s. Obama? Please — he has not been in national politics enough to do much of anything. Edwards does not have the record of Dodd. No one does – the endorsement was easy.
Fire fighters will not support someone who has not supported them. I don’t care who the front runners are, and other fire fighters don’t either. When it comes down to an endorsement like this we have no time for political BS. The IAFF looks at this as a repayment for past support, and as such an investment for future support from other legislators.
Professional fire fighters are an interesting lot, to say the least. However, we are similar in many ways and for the lack of a better word — blunt in many situations. We are not there to play political games — the endorsement is solely based on prior support. Besides, with the diverse and ‘blunt’ membership the IAFF would have lost members if they were to endorse someone based on politics. Hillary very well could have lost the IAFF a quarter of their members!
So, with all due respect for political insiders, including Mr. Clemons, to say the IAFF is waiting for others to make the choice for the IAFF is totally incorrect.
Fire fighters are not little Karl Roves, we do not plan our lives based on politics. To simplify the endorsement in such a way (and to infer that fire fighters are not smart or brave enough to endorse one front runner because another might win the nomination) would be viewed as an insult to many (most?) fire fighters. I would take it as such.
Sorry I went on (and on). As you can see I have some strong feelings on this. To recap — the IAFF does not endorse in order to play politics. They do so to support those who support fire fighter issues.
If they played politics much of the union would quit, in much the same way we have a brotherhood, we also have deep seated strength of character and a loathing for political games (also called political B.S. by most fire fighters).
Even those who work within the beltway do not think as political insiders do — there is a certain strength of character that goes above Rove-esque positioning. We are simple to read if you know us — like I said before I figured the endorsement would be Dodd months ago based solely on his support of us.

Kudos to Senator Dodd in any case on the endorsement.
But when it comes to my own fascination with political choice and game theory, thanks to the original union official who educated me about “Althusserian absent centers” (i.e., donut holes) — and as well to Michael Hartman for telling us that both Republican and Democratic firefighters disdain Rove-esque positioning in politics — and that the fire fighters really, really, really like presidential candidate Chris Dodd.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “Filling the Donut Hole Back Up: Dodd’s IAFF Endorsement Not Hollow

  1. söve says:

    Having my RSS reader filled up with the vacuous and ad hominem postings of Jamie Kirchick while Andrew Sullivan is away on his honeymoon is almost enough to force me withdraw my support for gay marriage.


  2. boya says:

    There’s a grand dialectical metaphor in there somewhere.


  3. Sandy says:

    Craig, Dodd, etc. etc.
    The only people on this blog who ever say anything truly relevant seem to be the commenters.
    I guess that’s because you are free to tell the TRUTH….whereas others have to tiptoe to maintain ties and future prospects. YUK!
    IRAN should be THE topic of discussion on all our minds. It’s about to be attacked by “the decider”……based on lies….for no good reason.
    We have seen the TERRORISTS, and we (U.S. and Israel) are them.
    Or, George and Dick are….with the Dems propping them up.
    Neo-cons and Israel win again. We, the people, big losers.


  4. Carroll says:

    Dear Dodd….
    I don’t think Iran would have time to schedule talks with you anyway.
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  5. RonK, Seattle says:

    Sadly, Althusser strangled his wife — inadvertently (he claimed) while massaging her neck.
    There’s a grand dialectical metaphor in there somewhere.


  6. Fred says:

    Dodd comes across as a johnny come too lately for me in a lot of his progressive rhetoric. I like what he’s saying now but he hasn’t been very strong on much of it in the past.
    I could care less about the IAFF, they supported Lieberman, ’nuff said.


  7. Carroll says:

    I don’t see Dodd as “consistent” at all between Cuba and the ME.
    I have posted his remarks to AIPAC before which were basically ..”we will sacrfice every US dollar and life to advance Israeli interest”.
    Steve seems to say that Dodd’s views on diplomacy with Cuba and his attitude toward the ME are the same.
    What I see in his remarks below is that he is “selective” about his willingness to talk to other countries.
    His exception to diplomacy being necessary for America stops short when it comes to Israel’s desire to wipe out Iran.
    Tell me….how do you have any meaningful advances in the ME when your policy is still built around Israel? One of the main sources of US resentment in the ME?
    We should talk to everyone but Iran? We should bring the other rouge states to our side against what purpose? To satisfy Israel and the Lobby’s desire to destroy Iran? For Dodd’s campaign coffers?
    How is keeping the Iran government out of any dialogue about the region going to lead to stability?
    Since Iran is now touted as the BIGGEST threat to Amurkins and the world ..another HOLOCAUST…why would they be the ONLY ones we Won’t talk to?
    Sorry, Dodd is another one of the hedging hypocritics. He can’t have it both ways…as he keeps trying to do….if it’s American, not Israeli interest he is seeking to represent.
    “The notion that America should treat these five countries the same is naive at best, irresponsible at worst.
    Meeting Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad would be a mistake; no leader who denies the Holocaust ever took place and actively calls for the destruction of Israel should be rewarded with a face-to-face meeting with a US president – although in a Dodd administration this would not preclude American diplomats from meeting other high level Iran ian officials.
    In contrast to Iran, I would be open to meeting other difficult leaders. Indeed, I have already met Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez as a US senator on the foreign relations committee. I have also met Bashar al-Assad, because engaging with him was – and is – in America’s interest.
    What is not in America’s interest is letting the actions of bad actors fester. For all its flaws, Syria should play an important role in stabilising Iraq, and a constructive role in achieving a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
    Syria can also enhance Israel’s security by applying pressure on Hamas and Hezbollah while ceasing interference in the political life of Lebanon. Likewise, by engaging with Mr Chávez in Venezuela – to whom we are somehow losing a PR war – we can re-establish US leadership in our own hemisphere and shine a light on the importance of upholding democratic institutions and practices in his country. And while no one likes Kim Jong-il, if we can de nuclearise the Korean peninsula by engaging with him, we should. Responsible leadership engages with the world. It does not needlessly provoke nuclear powers by declaring in favour of specific military actions, as Senator Obama did recently.
    The Bush administration has been loath to engage Syria and Iran directly regarding the Lebanon crisis, viewing them as deeply unhelpful actors in the region.
    Senator Dodd criticized what he called “this sort of juvenile attitude that we’re not going to talk to people we disagree with.”


  8. Sandy says:

    Grin. Well said, POA!


  9. David Helms says:

    Off-topic, I know, but can I please state this somewhere for the record.
    Having my RSS reader filled up with the vacuous and ad hominem postings of Jamie Kirchick while Andrew Sullivan is away on his honeymoon is almost enough to force me withdraw my support for gay marriage.
    Whoever that the cost would be so dear?
    Please, please, Andrew come home!


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    A union, a political and lobby oriented organization, such as the IAFF, is presented as representing the views of the average fireman. It would be interesting to ask my local firehouse if they were polled about Dodd. My bet would be no. And rest assured, I will ask.
    However, all these issues still seem like irritating side noise, nothing more than static. The terrifying fanaticism that drives Bush policy continues unabated, unchallenged by Dodd or the majority of the rest of our “representatives” in Washington. The IAFF’s endorsement of Dodd, or Dodd’s beliefs in regards to relations with Cuba, seem irrelevant and distracting when confronted with the spectre of Iraq, a war with Iran, or this administration’s continued ability to ignore the Constitution, and the rule of both domestic and international law.
    Frankly, Dodd can express political views on a whole spectrum of issues, or the IAFF can endorse Mickey Mouse for all I care. None of this directly confronts the huge emergency that our nation faces, a leadership that places itself above the law, and is activelly pursuing policies that may well result in world war, or worse.
    In any other time, the identity of Dodd’s benefactors and supporters might have some relevance, and Dodd’s own opinions as they relate to “foreign affairs” might actually mean something. But as long as this Administration is allowed to ignore the rule of law, and to pursue genocidal and illegal war policies, all the other issues pale in their significance.
    When Dodd stands before the American people, and endorses the impeachment, indictment, and prosecution of Richard Cheney and George Bush, he will become relevant. Until then, he can go fuck himself.


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