Chris Dodd reflects and looks ahead

As the chairman of the Banking Committee, he is overseeing the formation of a new consumer protection agency to regulate the deep-pocketed financial services industry whose lobbyists and surrogates regularly surge onto the Hill like a brigade of infantry.

The phone calls into Dodd's Russell building's cornflower blue painted offices overwhelm the multiple receptionists who politely answer the never ceasing flow.

We were supposed to sit down one day and talk about his upcoming last St. Patrick's Day as a senator, but it soon became clear that urgent negotiations would take precedent. The appointment was rescheduled, but before getting to the elevator, staff called out to come back for one second.

"I wanted to apologize in person," said Dodd coming to the door in a waist length Donegal cardigan over shirt and tie.

"It's just crazy today."

Many would think it crazy that, after three decades of representing Connecticut in Washington, Dodd, lately under a cloud tinged with some murky personal financial transactions, would announce his plans to retire, only to then ride a wave of power over, yes, federal regulation of personal financial transactions.

That is Washington.

A few days later, we are seated in his "hideaway" in the Capitol building. Adorned in federalist style chandeliers and furniture, only the most senior members of the Senate get these rooms close to the Senate floor, in addition to their regular office.

Dodd is a politician's politician. He tells genuinely funny stories, and recounts the past with vivid detail.

The predicaments that led to his decision to retire from the Senate, a questionable loan and concerns on the provenance of his country cottage near Roundstone in County Galway, seem to be behind him now.

He is at peace with his decision to retire. There's a lot to do between now and the end of his term next winter. But he is, nevertheless, contemplating his future. He clearly would be interested in an academic affiliation with an Irish university.

Reflecting on his time in Washington, and what assistance he was able to offer to the Northern Ireland peace process, Dodd says his efforts to persuade a then recently elected President Clinton in the early 1990s to grant Sinn F

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