By Dave R. Choate
Herald Sunday, March 18, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Democratic presidential hopeful and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd blasted the war in Iraq and the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy while visiting Hampton's fire station #2 Saturday.
Dodd also said it was "wrong, naive and dangerous" to assume that an influx of 21,000 troops into Iraq was the solution to ending the conflict. He said that he would begin redeployment "today" if he was the president.
"We would still need troops for border security and training purposes, but not this big a force. I think it offends the intelligence of the soldiers to say that leaving Iraq would endanger their safety," Dodd said.
Dodd said he also disagreed strongly with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace's defense of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and his criticism of the homesexual lifestyle. He said he would like to see the policy repealed.
"There have been plenty of soldiers who have served in the military who were highly respected and revered and were gay and lesbian," Dodd said. "It should be realized that we need every good person in the armed forces we can get, and that the idea of excluding for an orientation is ludicrous."
Dodd was in Hampton to meet with firefighters at the station on Winnacunnet Road.
Dodd said he wrote a pair of pro-firefighter bills, the FIRE and SAFER acts, which he said have provided more than $2 billion for training, equipment and staff for municipal fire companies around the country.
Dodd and Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe discussed the troubles of having only a small pool of personnel, which in Hampton means that the fire engine is run by what Lipe called a small crew of three firefighters. As if to illustrate the situation, the company's truck and its three-man crew were called out mid-conversation to deal with frozen power lines.
Dodd compared firefighters to "domestic guardians" and said he would like to ensure that they have the numbers necessary to deal with emergencies.
"I think the biggest issue is personnel and the shortage of it, and we'll keep trying to deal with that as best we can," he said as the engine's sirens faded into the distance.
After his visit to the station, Dodd headed to the Old Salt on Lafayette Road to have lunch, meet with patrons and have a Guinness. Later in the day he was scheduled to go to Concord for the Merrimack County Democrats St. Patrick's Day Dinner.