When I read David Broder’s “Viewpoint” column (Washington Post) on November 6th, I was surprised to read this: “On Tuesday night, I asked two of the wisest and most broadminded people I know in Washington what they thought of Obama’s prospects. One of them, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, had opposed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year. The other, retiring Republican U.S. Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois (Peoria, actually), was an early and ardent supporter of McCain. Both of them are very upbeat about what comes next.”
Ray LaHood was my neighbor for many years in East Moline, Illinois on our 3rd St. B court street. At that time, he worked for the Bi-state Metropolitan Planning Commission, and his son, Darren, was an 8th grade classmate of my son, Scott.
One summer day, Scott came running into the house, breathlessly exclaiming that Darren had built a ramp for his skateboard and, sans helmet, had driven over it at warp speed, fallen and apparently knocked himself out. I was a schoolteacher at the time and home on summer vacation, but Darren’s dad was at work and his mom was not at home at the time. Darren was groggy, but semi-conscious, and it appeared safe to move him by car to the emergency room in Silvis, Illinois (Illini Hospital), which I did. I called Ray, who immediately came to the hospital, and Darren was none the worse for wear.
As for Senator Dodd, when he was campaigning in Iowa during the winter caucus season, he actually moved to a house in Des Moines. He appeared as one of the speakers at the Scott County Red-White-and-Blue Banquet in Davenport, Iowa, along with Joe Biden and Walter Mondale. I also covered him at a downtown Irish pub very near the end of his campaign. The crowd was so small that I got quite a bit of face-time with the then-candidate.
On the night of the Iowa caucuses, I drove to Des Moines, Iowa, as I had done during the year that Howard Dean campaigned for president. My friend’s daughter, Emily, wanted a ride downtown and my Prius in the driveway was blocking their family cars. Emily was in the market for an auto, so I told her to drive my hybrid and we struck off for the downtown, where I would drop her off. With Emily at the wheel, I spied a white-haired man I would have sworn was Chris Dodd. I told Emily, “Stop!” and leaped from the car to chase Chris Dodd for fully 3 blocks through the streets of downtown Des Moines. He was surrounded by a small entourage, but I drew near his left elbow, looked him in the eye, and realized that this man wasn’t Senator Christopher Dodd.
“Hi,” the stranger said, somewhat startled.
“Hi,” I said, sheepishly. I immediately retreated to the car, where Emily was convulsed with laughter.
Emily and I then went to the downtown hotel where John Edwards’ campaign group was staying. we saw Madeline Stowe, Jean Smart and James Denton (the plumber on “Desperate Housewives”) in the lobby. We also ended up in the elevator with Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, John’s parents, and chatted with them about their impending move to New Hampshire on the morrow. [All of this was pre-Reilly Hunter Affair/Scandal days.]
Since the party seemed to be over, Emily and I retreated and I dropped her off at her destination and I returned to my friend’s Des Moines home. But as I drove, I was thinking of the foot race I had run to chase down the bogus Christopher Dodd and how I’d be fending off jokes about that for years to come!