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Carl Levin says he didn’t want to overstay in U.S. Senate

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Carl Levin retires from Congress at the end of the year. He

Michigan’s senior U.S. senator reflects on his career this weekend in an interview on Michigan Public Television.

Levin sat down for an interview with Senior Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick for the show “Off the Record.”

He says he first started to think about calling it quits a couple years ago. He says the decision not to seek reelection freed him up to focus on his official responsibilities without the distractions of campaigning and fundraising.

“I just didn’t want to be doing that instead of two things which I’ve been focusing on these last two years,” he said. “One are the wars. But, secondly, is my responsibility as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations going after some of the abuses on Wall Street.”

In particular, Levin says cutting off the ways that financial firms dodge taxes.

But, Levin also says, at the age of 80, it was time for him to move on. 

“I’d seen too many people in the Senate stay too long.”

Levin also chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. In that role, he’s made several visits to the Middle East. He says the public does not comprehend the progress that’s been made there, especially in Afghanistan.

“It’s a glass more than half full in Afghanistan, and it’s getting fuller,” he says. “But the media depiction of Afghanistan has been so consistently negative that the American people don’t realize the dramatic changes that have taken place.”

Levin has served 36 years in the Senate. He says during that time, the president he was closest to was “probably” Bill Clinton. He says President Obama should go down in history as a good president, but not a great one. He says, while Mr. Clinton reveled in the game of politics and negotiating with Congress, Mr. Obama’s style is very different.

“He’s not a reaching-out kind of a guy, so I don’t see as much of him,” says Levin. “…He’s been engaged, but not adequately engaged.”

Levin will be replaced in the Senate by U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who won the seat in November. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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