If Sen. Chris Dodd truly cares about President Obama's reform agenda, Connecticut and his party, he will gracefully step back and not run for re-election next year.
That might be the only way to save this seat for a Democrat and snatch the red meat out of the right wing's mouth. Right now, in Dodd's hands, this Senate seat is radioactive.
The reason why the senator should not run can be summed up by looking at yesterday's devastating headline in The Courant: Dodd's Flip-Flop.
On Thursday, Dodd offered more clarification, telling reporters in a conference call that he was "completely unaware" that a change in the federal economic stimulus legislation would result in million-dollar bonuses for AIG executives.
"It wasn't my idea, my proposal, my suggestion. That came from the administration," Dodd said. "If I didn't say it as clearly yesterday, then I'm sorry."
Why is there always so much confusion when we ask Sen. Dodd to explain?
This is the real issue that is not going to go away. Unless he decides not to run, we are going to hear about this constantly for the next 18 months. Already, it is turning Rob Simmons — who struggled to win the 2nd District for years until he finally lost to Joe Courtney — into a formidable opponent. Is there any more reason that Democrats need a fresh candidate?
More to the point, there would not be a dead heat poll if Rob Simmons were facing Attorney General Richard Blumenthal or U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
Even if Obama eventually turns the economy around, Chris Dodd is branded with words that immediately evoke groans from constituents.
Countrywide, Friends of Angelo, AIG, Irish cottage. An entire campaign for office could be built around just those seven words.
One political insider told me that Dodd is chronically "off his game" and seems unable to get it back. But another said that despite the "white-hot anger" erupting across the state, November of 2010 remains a long way off.
There is no coming back from this manure storm, even a year and a half before election.
I want to believe the words of William Cibes, the savvy political observer, politician and former top state official, who told me that Dodd should steer through this hurricane.
"He seems to be a victim of a concerted effort to discredit him, probably orchestrated by the Republican National Committee and probably aided and abetted by certain media outlets," said Cibes. "He has done a great job for Connecticut and is a great representative for our interests in Washington."
I do miss the Sen. Dodd who stood up for housing, children, Indian tribes, the homeless and families. But you can't run for re-election on what you were.
What I don't want is what is piling up, ever deeper. I don't want the Dodd who announces his run for president on Imus and who "moves" to Iowa. A senator running for re-election doesn't waffle on alleged sweetheart mortgage loan deals. This political veteran now can't seem to get out of the way of controversy.
Interestingly, Dodd said Thursday that he understands the ramifications of how the country views what is happening as Washington attempts to pull the economy out of recession.
"If you don't maintain the credibility of the American people," he said, "if there is not confidence that what we are doing here is in their best interests, then it will be almost impossible for us to come out of this mess."
Therein lies Sen. Dodd's problem. Lately, we are often left with the feeling that we aren't getting the full story, whether it's the Countrywide fiasco, the financial deals with his Irish cottage and again this week with the AIG bonuses.
"I'm determined to do everything I can to try and get this right, to get back on our feet again, to restore people's confidence and trust," Dodd told Connecticut reporters Thursday.
He has a year and a half to give the Senate his best effort to restore some of that confidence. Then he should give another Democrat a shot at the job.
• Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. Read his blog at courant.com/rick.