Norwich - Sen. Joe Lieberman offered a defense of fellow Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd Monday, saying the veteran Democrat was among those pushing hardest for limits on executive pay at banks bailed out by American taxpayers.
”I felt badly for Chris,” Lieberman said, during a stop at The William W. Backus Hospital here, where the senator hailed the increased funding for health programs in the recently passed federal stimulus bill.
Dodd was unfairly made the scapegoat last week in the furor over bonuses paid to executives at AIG, the insurer that has received billions in federal bailout funds to stay afloat, Lieberman said.
”There's a certain unfairness to this,” Lieberman said. “He was way out front in the Senate in trying to prohibit bonuses and high pay for any executives at companies getting money from the taxpayers.
”Part of the intensity now is that everybody is so anxious about the economy, and of course everyone's furious, as Chris is and I am, at the executives,” Lieberman said. “These folks are living in a world that doesn't exist anymore. They think that they can continue to get these multimillion-dollar bonuses, as if it was two years ago, three years ago, forgetting ... (they) wouldn't have a job if taxpayers hadn't put money into” their companies.
Lieberman, still a controversial figure for many Democrats, missed few opportunities to lavish praise on Dodd's record Monday, and also offered support for President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was unveiling a new recovery plan for the nation's damaged credit markets Monday morning.
The nation's most recent “boom times” were “a bit artificial,” Lieberman warned, and might not be replicated. But the senator also said he thought Geithner's plan to stimulate investment and unstick the frozen credit markets could help lead the nation back to economic growth within a year or so.
”I don't think we'll get back to where we were,” Lieberman said. “I think we're going to come back to economic growth by the end of this year (or) early next year, and that's good. But part of what was happening - as we look back - we were borrowing too much, in a sense we were living too high, and to some extent people were just cooking the books.”
Geithner's latest plan, he added, is “a smart idea, and I hope and pray it works.”
Lieberman knows a little of Dodd's dilemma. A little more than two years ago, the senator faced a deeply unpopular war of which he had become one of the nation's most visible supporters, losing a Democratic primary and eventually running a petitioning campaign to hold onto his Senate seat. The episode drove a wedge between Dodd and Lieberman, the latter now concedes, but he said the fences have been mended, and that Dodd can save his political fortunes by continuing his work as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
”He knows what to do,” Lieberman said. “Just keep doing what he thinks is right, and trying to do the best he can for the state, which he's always done. And the politics will take care of itself ... I honestly believe that.”