The Rehabilitation of Christopher Dodd

The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the past week, for me, has been Chris Dodd. If you had told me a year ago that right now we’d be staring down the worst financial crisis yet, I’d’ve believed you. But if you’d told me that when Hank Paulson took his bailout scheme to an election-year Congress, Chris Dodd would turn out to be the more sober and responsible of the two? I frankly would have scoffed.

Dodd, after all, is the man who, last December, latched onto an odious Goldman Sachs conspiracy theory — one initiated by Ben Stein, of all people — and asked for a formal investigation into the ties between Paulson and Goldman.

But now that he’s given up his improbable presidential bid, Dodd has completely redeemed himself. First he took Paulson’s ill-thought-through bailout plan and made it much more sensible and substantive; what’s more, he did so just in the space of a couple of days. And yesterday, in the hearings, he was talking about the arcana of auction design mechanisms with Ben Bernanke and frankly sounded like he had a clearer view of things than the Fed chairman, whose testimony largely boiled down to "trust us, we’ve got some very clever people working on this".

Rather than (or as well as) hiring academic auction-design experts, said Dodd, why not get the FDIC to do this? After all, they’ve been taking over toxic bank assets and maximizing their value for decades. Seems like a good idea to me: the FDIC is pretty much the one financial regulator which has emerged relatively blameless from this whole crisis.

The result is that the bouffant Washington Senator is widely being described as a missed opportunity for Barack Obama on the VP front, and is even getting 900-word love letters from Moe Tkacik of Gawker. Who’d’a thunk.

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