Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Carl Levin: To a true gentleman on his birthday

For 28 years - longer than anyone else in Michigan history - Carl Levin has represented Michigan in the United States Senate with integrity and class. Now, as we approaach his 72nd birthday on Wednesday, I would like to take this opportunity to honor a man whom I respect more than almost any other figure in Michigan and national politics.

His work ethic has earned him praise from both sides of the aisle. His willingness to stand up and truly represent the people of Michigan and the United States earned him praise from TIME Magazine, which a couple months ago named him one of "America's Ten Best Senators." The magazine had this to say about Levin:

No one would accuse Carl Levin of looking like Hollywood’s version of a U.S. Senator. He’s pudgy, balding and occasionally rumpled, and he constantly wears his glasses at the very tip of his nose. Still, the Michigan Democrat has gained respect from both parties for his attention to detail and deep knowledge of policy, especially in his role as a vigilant monitor of businesses and federal agencies. In 2002, a subcommittee he led hauled in Enron’s board of directors to question them about the company’s shady accounting practices; in hearings a year later, he was one of the chief challengers of large accounting firms that had created illegal tax shelters. Congress passed laws in the wake of both scandals in an effort to prevent the abuses from happening again.

Levin, 71 and first elected in 1978, says he considers congressional hearings a critical part of his job, spending as much as 20 hours prepping for each one so an evasive witness won’t outwit him. The former civil-rights lawyer is known for forcing embarrassing admissions from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other Bush Administration officials through his precise questioning. “You’ve got to be very blunt and truly listen so you know when the b.s. is flying,” Levin says.

Although admired by many Republicans for his diligence, Levin rarely sides with them. He opposed the Iraq war, and as the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has become one of his party’s leading voices in criticizing President Bush’s conduct of the invasion, arguing that the Administration didn’t have enough troops in the early stages and, more recently, hasn’t focused enough on training Iraqi troops. But his carefully researched, thoughtful remarks carry great weight with his colleagues. “Nobody in the Democratic Caucus says anything on national-security issues without talking to Carl Levin,” says a top Democratic Senate staff member.

Of our distinguished senior senator, the MDP's Mark Brewer declared:

“The nation is now learning what Michigan already knows: that Carl Levin is highly respected, very knowledgeable and hard-working Senator,” remarked Brewer. “He has been a tireless fighter for workers, civil rights, the environment, ensuring that America remains secure and stopping corruption. Levin has done an remarkable job for Michigan and the country, and we are very fortunate for his service.”

Both articles are very telling - and accurate. As a US Senator, it is Levin's duty to represent the interests of the Great Lakes State in our nation's capital. Since being elected nine years before I was born, Levin has done so with a high level of integrity. While I have disagreed with him on a few votes - I wish he would have joined Debbie Stabenow in opposing John Roberts's nomination, for example - I admire him more than almost anyone else in Washington (okay, besides Russ Feingold and John Conyers). His service in the halls of Congress is something of which we all of us in Michigan - and throughout the country - can be proud.

Happy Birthday, Senator... and many more.


Blogger JT Caldwell said...

I read this when you posted it last year and remember thinking that it was nicely written. Having seen Levin yesterday made your birthday tribute even more meaningful.

5:41 AM  

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