PORTSMOUTH — He'll be the first to admit it was by no means a scientific survey, but Sen. Christopher Dodd said he was encouraged by what he heard during a recent discussion in Jordan with 20 retired Peace Corps volunteers.
He wanted to know how the rest of the world perceived America. And after being bombarded for 20 minutes with commentary on the war in Iraq, he got the good news. Dodds said the former volunteers told him: "There is a tremendous hope that the United States is going to reappear and re-emerge as a positive force."
And the best way to facilitate that ascent, according to Dodd, who was at the Harborside Sheraton on Friday, is with new leadership — leadership he said he can provide.
"I think there's a hope just as there was three years ago that we can change direction," Dodd said. "People believe there's an alternative here on the horizon that could get us back in a different position."
It's also the reason campaigning has started so far ahead of the actual election, he said.
"It's been hyped up by the media, but it's also coming from bottom up," Dodd said. "I think people would like the election tonight if they could. They're worried about Iraq and health care and energy and foreign policy, and they want to hear answers and ideas to make choices in preparation for change."
Dodd's plan for Iraq includes redeploying troops immediately and continuing to do so over the next year. He's convinced there's no military solution to the conflict.
"Knowledgeable people have always said there is no military solution here with the enemy engaged in civil war," Dodd said. "They're trying to dominate each other and we're trying to sort that out, and I don't think we're capable of that. I don't think there's anyone I know who believes we can do that for them without their desire to do if for themselves."
The plan would also provide funding until April of next year, according to Dodd.
"Nobody wants to deny troops what they need to protect themselves," he said.
He said he routinely hears stories from troops that are frustrated with the war.
"They tell me they spend a month and a half to clean out something and think they've got it in good shape, and a half an hour after they leave, it's right back where it was a month and a half earlier," Dodd said of his conversations with troops.
The 30-year Capitol Hill veteran has also released an energy plan that has been praised by former Vice President Al Gore, Sen. John Kerry and former Sen. Bill Bradley.
The plan, which he admits is aggressive, includes a corporate carbon tax, increase in fuel economy standards in automobiles to 50 miles per gallon, and a requirement for all government vehicles to be hybrids or fuel-efficient models — all leading to an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse produced by the United States by 2050.
"A vast array of issues are positively affected by having an aggressive energy plan that gets us away from fossil fuels, and transportation and the grid are the two areas you have to do it," Dodd said. "Anyone that tells you they're going to successfully solve global warming and doesn't get into the carbon tax issue or fuel-efficiency standards is just not being candid."
Dodd said he doesn't buy into the idea that the automobile industry can't do better than it already is with regard to fuel efficiency.
"With all do respect to the auto industry, with everything else we've done, it's a little hard to convince me that they can't do any better."
And once the technology and production fall into line, the market will take care of itself, he said.
"If you pull up to a place and it's $3 for unleaded and there's something for $1.10, even if you're not motivated by ecology, you are by price," he said.
He also said the technology may actually do more to save the auto industry than people think.
"Sticking with an internal combustion engine and relying on gas makes no sense whatsoever," he said. "Instead of desperately trying to hold on to jobs that are harder and harder to hold on to, why not be talking about expanding into new areas of technology."