View From The 11111
The Levins give their take
on current events.
Washington, .D. C.
hen nothing but bad news seems to come
out of Washington these days, the Jewish
News asked Sander and Carl Levin their
views on what to expect in the near future.
JN: Is there any sense that the country is going to
crawl out of the grim news coming from North
Korea and Iraq?
Sander. Carl and I are not pacifists, but we both
thought that [invading Iraq] unilaterally is a mis-
take. We should try to work with the United
I think that when we make it appear that we're
going to go in regardless of what happens, we under-
mine the chances of U.N success in inspections.
North Korea is the same way. Our position is that it
is a serious problem that needs a forceful effort with
other countries to get the North Koreans to disarm.
North Korea, in a sense, is a more serious threat,
but is not a crisis. Iraq is a crisis, at the same time
legislative bodies also has an effect on
"The majority does more than rule the
House," said Sandy, "It runs the place."
The Republicans are very ideological
and very conservative, he said, especial-
ly since the 1994 Newt Gingrich revo-
lution, when Republicans took over.
"There are relatively few [Republican]
moderates and they feel so intimidat-
ed," Sandy said. "They're quite isolated
and it's hard to identify them."
Carl said 435 members running
every two years makes the House
much more partisan than the Senate.
He called the political climate in the
Senate somewhat worse than it's been,
"but still not awful, no matter how
much it appears when we're debating."
Only 100 members serving six-year
staggered terms makes for better rela-
tionships in the Senate, and the fili-
buster ensures it.
"You can't get anything done in the
Senate without getting some other peo
ple from the other party," he said. "We
operate on unanimous consent — 100
Senators have to agree on the process of
everything unless 60 Senators vote to
shut you up."
With a Republican majority in the
Senate, Carl gives up his powerful
chairmanship of the Armed Services
we're trying to determine the extent of the threat.
JN: Will President Bush give a Cuban missile
crisis-type speech before unleashing the troops?
Sander: During the Cuban missile crisis, we knew
the missiles were there.
I think what the president does is more compli-
cated. We're not sure what's there [in Iraq]. It may
well be that we have information we haven't told
the U.N., but we can't tip our hand.
JN: Since 9-11, grim news from abroad got worse.
How much worse did it get as far as the weight of
what you were dealing with?
Carl: Significant. We were attacked, it was like
Pearl Harbor, but if you start adding two additional
One, you're dealing with terrorist groups, not
nations. That complicates it tremendously. They
don't abide by any rules, no diplomatic relations.
With nations, you can break diplomatic relations
and you can send ambassadors home. There's plen-
ty you can do.
The other is dealing with weapons of mass
destruction. Now you can get a crazy fanatic group
that wants to drop anthrax, which is far more devas-
tating than traditional weapons.
JN: Is there any good news?
Carl: In terms of being attacked by terrorist groups
in the future, we can lessen the odds of success by
Committee to Sen. John Warner, R-
Va. Though they face each other across
the aisle, Warner and his wife stop by a
reception in the Armed Services
Committee Room given after Carl's
"We have worked together all these
years on this committee together," said
the energetic Warner on his way to the
next reception. "We have some philo-
sophical differences, but the key thing
is we trust each other, we respect each
other, and we're absolutely honest with
Their desks are neat, and their offices
are large, an entitlement for years of
Photographs, political cartoons, let-
ters and old Michigan maps line the
walls in Carl's second-floor office in
the Russell Senate Office Building.
A picture in his private office cap-
tures the moment when Carl present-
ed then-President Ronald Reagan with
his high school yearbook.
"I spent a couple hundred dollars on
the chance that he didn't have his own
yearbook, and I was right," Carl said.
Pictures of Carl's father-in-law,
Benjamin Halpern, who celebrated his
Sandy and Carl share stories in Carl's office.
being smarter, by putting resources on the border.
We can do a far better job of coordinating informa-
tion and holding people responsible and account-
able. There are things we can do to reduce the risk.
On the other hand, if I can find in a very, per-
haps, a weird way to be optimistic, I think people
affected by terrorist groups want their kids to live
normal lives. The terrorists win when we have alerts
every day. This :fan also be a negative if people
We in the government have a huge responsibility
to harden our country, if you will, harden our
infrastructure — do everything we can humanly do
to thwart terrorist attacks and to capture terrorists
without scaring people. 0
100th birthday in 1998 with President
Clinton share room with other family
photographs including their older sis-
ter and best political adviser, Hannah
Gladstone, who died in 2001.
Halpern died in 1999.
The walls also display letters written
by Presidents Harry Truman and
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a
receipt for the loan of a musket signed
by a man in 1776.
The bookcases are filled with an
eclectic collection and show signs of
being well read with passages marked
post it notes and paperclips. Along
with books on Michigan, Detroit and
American labor, Perestroika by Mikhail
Gorbachev is found next to The Joys of
Yiddish by Leo Rosten.
Wife Barbara said Carl has the abili-
ty to leave the gravity of his office at
"He's been able to deal with these
issues when he needs to, then cut
them off when he comes home or
wants to be with the kids," she said.
"He's one who will take an issue and
work hard on it — but if he's in a sit-
uation where he can't do anything
about it, he's able to lay it aside, shift
gears and deal with ones that he can."
His sense of humor, which borders
on arid, is seldom seen in public.
"I think he comes across to the pub-
lic as a very, very serious person," she
said. "He's got a very humorous side to
him. And a very warm side that doesn't
come across when he's on a Sunday
news program talking about Iraq."
Sandy's third-floor office in the
Rayburn House Office Building is no
Family pictures also line the walls,
including his favorite taken six years ago
at Carl's victory party when Sandy posed
with Carl's trademark reading glasses on
stage, next to his smiling brother.
Displayed in his private office is a
visitor's gallery pass to the House of
Representatives used by his grandfather,
Morris Levinson, on March 1, 1908.
A thank-you letter signed by Pres-
ident Clinton for helping to pass the
China free-trade bill in May 2000
hangs beside a framed front-page copy
of the Washington Post signed by vari-
ous members of Congress, including
co-sponsor and friend Charles Rangel,
D-N.Y., announcing the bill's passage.
"He was a leader in turning the
Congress around in order to get bipar-
tisan support," said Rangel, who
serves with Sandy on the House Ways
and Means Committee. "He's an out-
LEVINS on page 70