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Representative Sander Levin (D - MI).
In Their Own Words

Congressman Sander Levin and Senator Carl Levin

---interviewed by Joe Magid

Congressman Sandy Levin was first elected to Congress in 1982 and has represented Michigan’s 12th Congressional District since 1992. He currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all tax, trade and economic growth policies and entitlement spending, including Social Security, Medicare, welfare and unemployment compensation. He is the Ranking Democrat on the Trade Subcommittee and is known as a leader on trade issues, persistently challenging unfair trade practices that threaten U.S. manufacturers and U.S. jobs. He also serves on the Human Resources subcommittee and works on a variety of health care issues from children’s health care, transitional Medicaid, and mental health and was recently appointed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to the State’s Mental Health Commission. Levin is a leader on welfare reform issues and the federal unemployment insurance program and has introduced legislation to include preventative services in Medicare.

Senator Carl Levin, Sandy’s younger brother, is the senior Democratic Senator from Michigan and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services having been the Democratic ranking member on the committee since January 1997. He has been in the Senate since 1979 and Michigan's senior senator since 1995. He is the longest-serving US Senator ever to represent Michigan and is currently running for his 6th term. Levin is chairman of the Armed Services Committee and serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. Levin voted against the Iraq war, has argued strongly that the War in Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror and has repeatedly called on the Bush administration to provide a timetable for the withdrawal of troops.

The Levin brothers made two campaign stops in Philadelphia and Newtown, Bucks County on Sunday, October 5, 2008 to talk with members of the Philadelphia metropolitan Jewish community on behalf of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. En route to Congregation Shir Ami in Newtown, the Congressman and Senator spoke by phone with Philadelphia Jewish Voice contributing editor, Joe Magid.

PJV: It's my understanding that you've been on the road talking with members of the Jewish community in small events on behalf of the Obama/Biden campaign - how has it been going?

CL: We've been doing both smaller as well as larger events - we're on our way to Congregation Shir Ami right now after a smaller event at an apartment in Center City Philadelphia and they've really been going quite well.

PJV: What concerns have been cropping up most frequently?

CL: Well - people want to know that they can count on Sen Obama's support for Israel, that he is just as strong as McCain which of course he is as his record clearly shows. People are concerned not just about Israel, but also about the economy, energy policy and health care. There are a lot of concerns out there and they want to know who will best be able to deal with them. I think that people are getting more and more comfortable with Sen. Obama and confident in his ability to tackle these important issues.

Senator Carl Levin (D - MI).

PJV: As we know there has been a lot of misinformation circulated both within and outside the Jewish community. Do you believe that the campaign is successfully dealing with this?

CL: We are in a new world with e-mail being distributed to thousands at the press of a button and so these things have unfortunately spread far and wide. But the Obama campaign has been quick to act to rebut the lies and smears and I think people are realizing that thinks just are not true; if anything it really has begun to be a problem for John McCain. These activities have not reflected well on him and it is tarnishing his reputation and I think that is hurting his campaign.

PJV: As the polls in key battleground states have turned in favor of Obama, word is that the McCain campaign is going to turn even more negative than has already been the case. Do you expect this to make the task of winning over skeptical Jews even more difficult?

CL: Perhaps, but you can't let these attacks stand for even a minute and the Obama campaign has managed to respond quickly and effectively up until now and I expect that they will continue to do so in the remaining time until Election Day. Senator Obama has a positive message of change from the disastrous policies of the past eight years and that is resonating with voters.

PJV: What impact, if any, do you see as a result of the financial near melt-down and the Wall Street bailout on foreign affairs in general and the Middle East in particular?

SL: The financial markets today are international markets and this is one of the reasons we had to act and voted for the rescue bill. It was very important to calm the international markets and show our allies around the world that we will take responsibility for the situation and deal with it. We need to restore confidence and the rescue bill helped to do that. We need confidence in the US if we are going to be able to restore our role as a world leader.

PJV: Will it make it harder to focus the country's attention - and Congress' too for that matter - on dealing with Iran and Israel's rather precarious situation with regard to Hamas and Hezbollah?

CL: Definitely yes it will, but these are still important issues for America and while we have to deal with the pressing economic situation, we still need to pay attention to foreign affairs. It's one of the downfalls of the Bush administration, the “you're with us or against us” mentality that hasn't worked at all. This has to change if we are going to address our challenges around the world. We need to get back to working in concert with our allies and that is a big difference between what an Obama administration will do and McCain continuing Bush's policies of not understanding how to use diplomacy and relying only on the military.

PJV: Do you see a link between the debt we owe to Russia and China together with the influence these two major powers wield in Africa and the Middle East as a significant short, mid and/or long-term problem?

CL: Yes I do; this is extremely important. The Bush policies have put us in a very bad situation owing all this money to countries whose interests are not the same as ours. Bush came to office after two years of budget surpluses and many would have liked him to continue to pay down the debt, but instead he gave big tax cuts to the very wealthy who did not need them and plunged us into all this debt. These policies have been very detrimental to most Americans, made things much worse for the majority. The wealthy have done fine, but everyone else has fallen far behind and now we have this situation with Russia and China and it gives them leverage that again makes our position much more difficult.

PJV: What is it about Sen. Obama that gives you confidence that he will be able to deal effectively with arguably the direst economic situation we have faced in over 80 years while at the same time juggling two active military engagements and a festering Middle East?

 Sen. Obama is fundamentally an extremely ethical and community minded person who understands the need to come together to deal with America’s problems. He is extremely capable; I've known him for a long time and I'm confident he has what it takes and is by far the best choice for President in this election. We certainly don't need another four years of Bush economic and foreign policies and remember, McCain has voted with Bush 90% of the time. He will continue the same failed policies and that is certainly not what we need.

PJV: Thank you both for taking the time to talk with us – I hope your event this evening goes well.


To view previous editions of "In Their Own Words", please click here.

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