Saturday, March 09, 2013

Michigan personalities pay respects to Senator Carl Levin

local Lansing radio personality Walt Sorg
I had the pleasure of working for Carl Levin during his first campaign for the U.S. Senate. At the time I owned a small twin-engine plane, and had the honor of flying him around Michigan.
I learned then that he was 1) a really nice guy, 2) a really smart guyu, and 3) a very patient man, especially on that Sunday morning when a radio problem resulted in us landing in the wrong country:
After flying above the clouds from northern Michigan, the navigation radios went out so I was working on instinct and compass. We ended up in London, Ontario -- a few miles east of Motown. Carl was way cool about the whole thing, at least after I assured him that we were in no danger but just a little lost.
Years later, on my radio show, he was a favorite guest because he always answered questions directly and never berated the interviewer for being so ignorant on so many issues.
Carl Levin's record is five decades of public service. He will leave the U.S. Senate as one of its most distinguished members in the proud tradition of Michigan's Phil Hart.
From Dave Akerly, (retired journalist)
once flying back from Reagan National airport had the pleasure of being seatmates with Mr. Levin and his assistant on the flight to Detroit. It was educational and very good conversation. He would not recall it, but I do.
From Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Democrat
Carl Levin gave his all and made Michiganders proud in a long political career. He was the epitome of a public servant. He has been a quiet inspiration to many and a relative anomaly in politics: A modest man who took the job much more seriously than he took himself. The man has earned some peace and quiet with his family. Thank you, Senator Levin.
From Attorney General Bill Schuette
Carl Levin has had a distinguished and honorable career in the United States Senate. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors. As for myself, I've got plans to keep working as your Attorney General for six more years.
From Ron Dzwonkowski in a column for the Detroit Free Press
Seemed like every time we met, Carl Levin was wearing the same suit -- not quite gray, not quite brown, always a little wrinkled. Add the ever-present plastic reading glasses on the end of his nose and a wild swirl of gray hair that covered less of his head every year, and this was either a carefully cultivated professorial image or a guy who had more important things on his mind than how he looked.
After just a few of the regular meetings we had during my years on the Free Press editorial page, I knew it was the latter. But that's not to say there wasn't some of the former in the mix.
In an era when politicians take courses in telegenics and sound bites, Carl Levin was pretty much ... Carl Levin, and that was apparently OK with the voters of Michigan, who elected and re-elected him six times to the U.S. Senate and probably would have given him a seventh term next year if Levin hadn't said Thursday that he's done running.
Levin, once derided by the Wall Street Journal as "the senator from the UAW," wasn't shy about being a liberal Democrat... His was a predictable vote, but also a principled one, never politically expedient. he delighted in working the arcane and often-archaic Senate rules to score points against less seasoned and less knowledgeable opponents.With vast knowledge of military and foreign affairs from his Armed Services Committee hearings and travels, Levin could discourse at length on the difficulties of waging a ground war in Afghanistan or the best way, in his view, to get the most bang for our billions of Pentagon bucks.
But Levin's eyes would really light up -- from way back of those glasses -- when he leaned forward, lowered his voice and described some parliamentary maneuver he was planning in the days ahead to thwart a colleague who was expecting to thwart Levin on moving an obscure amendment to some massive bill into position for a secret subcommittee vote.
"He won't be expecting this," Levin would say (as we all thought "expecting what?"), "but I know the rules on this, and we're going to just spring it next week. But let's keep that in this room for now ..."
Right. As if we could even figure out what to tell, much less to whom.
Levin always arrived early for Free Press meetings (and we always wondered if he had slept in the suit) and usually stayed long, not because he ran on but because we enjoyed the conversations and kept the questions coming.
Professor Levin gave us regular courses on U.S. Senate 101, always prefacing his discourse with, "This may not seem to matter much outside the Senate, but ..."
Then he would be off on a tutorial that, if nothing else, underscored for me the ongoing need for an overhaul of Senate rules, or at least their translation into a known language... And he clearly loved the Senate as it was, arcane rules and all, rather than the partisan snake pit it was becoming. The avuncular Levin counted Republican and Democratic colleagues among his close friends -- political differences not withstanding -- and clearly was unhappy with the chamber's recent atmosphere.
That may have had as much as anything to do with his decision to call it quits. He is a senator from another time, when the Senate really was something of a very exclusive club but also earned its description as "the world's greatest deliberative body."
There is something to take from each of these tributes. None of them serve as a biography and most do not quite touch on his political ideology but it is clear that he did not hide his beliefs, was not dishonest regarding his politics, and enjoyed the details of his work rather playing for a particular team.

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