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All they had to do was turn where the five police cars were parked to keep peace between the attendees and the 15-20 protesters on hand to protest the guest speaker, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
Marion Township resident Steve Williams was leading a protest by the Livingston County Chapter of Michigan Citizens for a Sound Economy over what they call Levin's blocking of the federal judicial nominations made by President Bush.
Williams said six of the 16 seats in the Court of Appeals are empty and five of them are considered judicial emergencies, and blocked nominations have caused judicial crises around the country.
"It is important to have a good, stable, constructionist judiciary to have a good economic climate," Williams said. "We want to make sure Sen. Levin gets that message."
Williams, a former Republican candidate for Legislature in the 66th Congressional District, said this is about more than party politics.
"I'm not concerned with past history," he said. "I also want to point out this is not a Republican-sponsored event."
Levin is the ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. He has served four terms in the Senate, and he was just re-elected to a six-year term last year.
Levin said he was surprised to see the protesters.
"When I saw the word judge, I thought they were there to congratulate me for confirming so many good judges," Levin said. "We have confirmed quite a few judges, something like 120 out of 123.
"We did so much better than the Republicans did under Bill Clinton," he said. "That's an incredible batting average."
Levin said the few judges who weren't confirmed were not confirmed for good reason.
"Some of these judges I hope we never confirm," he said. "They are too right-wing and ideologically driven, and we already know how they are going to rule."
Joe Carney, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said he was confused why a group calling itself Citizens for a Sound Economy would care about judges.
"I don't know what they have to do with judges," he said. "They should be concerned about equitable tax rates and protecting working people."
Levin, who attended the dinner with his wife of 41 years, Barbara, teed off on Bush's economic policy.
"The question is can we survive the Bush brand of economics," he said. "It's going to drown this country in a sea of red ink."
Levin said the tax cut bill Bush signed last month in a very public ceremony occurred the day after he signed another bill in private that raised the national debt ceiling that's already at $8 trillion.
"It's based on an old Republican theory they call the trickle-down theory," he said. "If you give a tax break to the rich they will invest it, and jobs will trickle down to everybody else."
Levin said under Bush, 2.8 million private-sector jobs have been lost, and he said Bush inherited the first tax surplus in 50 years that was created onlyafter some tough decisions and belt tightening, and has proceeded to create a huge national debt.
He said Bush took over an economy that was producing an annual surplus and created a debt of $300 billion a year.
"That's a debt our children and grandchildren will have to pay," he said. "That's an amazing statistic, and that's what people will remember in the next election."