Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

July 14, 2013

George Weeks: Benishek, Levin fight military sexual assaults

On the political spectrum, Democrat Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator, who is retiring, and 1st District U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, who is gearing for third term, are far, far apart.

Levin, in the 2010 National Journal conservative ratings on economic, social and foreign issues, got a big ZERO. The 2012 Almanac of American Politics said that in getting elected, Benishek “wooed voters with tea party themes of less spending and lower taxes, and vowed he would not seek appropriations earmarks for the district.”

But liberal Levin and conservative Benishek deserve applause for being champions on an issue that deserves more attention than it has received in Michigan and across the land—escalating sexual assaults in the U. S. military. They have differing approaches but they both commendably are highlighting the issue.

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin in June held hearings on the issue that involved all of the nation’s top military brass, including Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, and top chiefs of each service.

Last week, Benishek, on a swing in northern Michigan that included stops at the Empire headquarters of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and at a small business in Kalkaska, also scheduled a meeting on the sexual assault issue Monday in Petoskey.

Benishek earlier introduced bipartisan legislation to address the sexual assault issue. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, introduced the same legislation in the Senate. She said that unlike the Levin approach, the Gillibrand-Benishek legislation removes decision-making on assaults “from the chain of command and giving that discretion to experienced trial counsel with prosecutorial experience were it belongs. That’s how we achieve accountability, justice and fairness.”

Benishek, a general surgeon who practiced in a U.P. veteran’s facility and now is Michigan’s only member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said:

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