MSNBC host Chris Matthews was astounded last July when DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to tell him the difference between a Democrat and socialist.
Curiously, however, Hillary Clinton and Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, both Ivy League law school graduates, subsequently demurred.
However, at the Christian Science Monitor press breakfast Thursday, Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin, although clearly astounded anybody would need to ask such a thing, gave a definitive and obvious answer to the question.
“What’s the difference?” he first said, rather quizzically. After about five seconds of apparently stunned silence he dissembled.
“Look, traditionally I think there have been major differences between socialists and the Democratic Party.”
“The role of government.”
Well, specifically, what does that mean?
Christian Science Monitor bureau chief and breakfast host Dave Cook, mistaking himself for Levin’s press secretary, quickly interjected to run interference for the congressman.
“Well, we’re at the end here,” he instructed. “So if you want to talk to him afterwards you can do it.”
Take it outside, buddy!
This columnist was about to apologize for bizarrely thinking it is appropriate for a journalist to put a congressman on the spot at a Washington press breakfast when Levin, seated and giving no indication he needed to leave, proceeded to give more details.
“There has been a major, major difference as to role of government and the role of the private sector,” said Levin, ranking member of the House Ways and Mean Committee. “I think Liberal Democrats like myself have dedicated ourselves to trying to make the free enterprise system work to change it to make it more response to the needs [of individuals] to find a blend between individual initiative, ingenuity and the role of government to find that right balance. And socialism has traditionally had a different balance.”
But the 17 term congressman, who refreshingly calls himself a “liberal” not a “progressive,” deserves credit for being man enough (pardon the phalocentric term) to answer the question. Of course, anybody who got a C- or better in a freshman political science class should know the distinction.And Levin, 84, came of age politically when Democrats strenuously objected to anybody equating them with pinkos. So he happily went where the significantly younger Schumer and Clinton would not.
Meanwhile, in a small but telling example of journalistic sloth and tunnel vision reporters from Politico, the Washington Post and New York Times who attended the breakfast, which was otherwise entirely devoted to Levin declaring his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, failed to report his truly newsworthy remarks.