Speaking before a packed room of students yesterday, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) explained his controversial vote on the bailout of financial firms and called Democratic presidential nominee the perfect candidate to handle the nation’s problems.
“The last time that I saw the possibility of change for the better in this world was John Kennedy in 1960, and I haven’t seen this opportunity to really change direction since then to the same degree,” Levin said. “So this is an opportunity which cannot be lost. It’s a once — maybe twice — in a lifetime opportunity.”
Levin cited former President Kennedy several times in his talk, which was hosted by the College Democrats and held in the Michigan Union. He made mention of Kennedy’s well-chronicled speech in Ann Arbor in October 1960 on the steps of the Union. In it Kennedy first broached the idea for a service program that would become the idea of the Peace Corps.
The senator took issue with the Republican presidential nominee’s criticism of Obama’s speech in Berlin this summer. Upon Obama’s return, McCain called Obama “the biggest celebrity in the world,” citing a crowd of 250,000 that flocked to hear the Illinois senator speak.
“The truth of the matter is that if we can have an American running for president of the United States who can inspire that kind of reaction, we should not be mocking him,” Levin said. “We should be applauding him, regardless of who that person is and what party that person is from.”
Levin also honed in on the nation’s current economic crisis. He contrasted Obama’s policies with McCain’s by tying the Republican to the current administration.
“We can get this economy going again if we do the necessary things the way Bill Clinton did the necessary things at the beginning of his administration,” he said. “But we’re not going to be able to do the necessary things and get this economy going again if we simply continue the policies of George W. Bush.”
Levin expressed admiration for the young Obama volunteers, saying that he has never seen a “get out the vote” project as impressive as this one. Still, he said, Obama supporters shouldn’t take an Obama victory in Michigan for granted.
Levin spoke sparingly of his own reelection campaign, saying that he was making both it and Obama’s campaign a priority. The Detroit native, who’s been in the Senate since 1978, currently leads Republican candidate Jack Hoogendyk by a 2 to 1 margin in numerous state polls.
Event organizers opened the floor to questions following Levin’s 30-minute talk. One student asked how the senator could justify voting for the $700 billion economic bailout bill, one the student called “unconstitutional.”
Levin said he believed the bill was constitutional, saying there was precedent for such action and that it was in the best interest of the American people.
“This has nothing to do with Wall Street,” he said. “This has everything to do with protecting people’s pensions, savings, 401(k)s. This is about jobs; it’s about savings; it’s about protecting people’s lifelong nest eggs.”