Senator Elizabeth Warren has had an interesting relationship with – let’s call it credibility. She tends to reweave her past to make it fit political themes. In recent days she has seemed unable to stop saying things that can easily be researched and shown to be dubious. Even where there’s no definitive proof of an outright lie, listeners begin to suspect that she’s embroidering to create appearances that don’t accurately reflect reality.
The themes of her fictive musings run to claiming minority status, and/or describing a life of challenges and discriminatory treatment she never actually faced. Her stint as “Fauxcahontas” is the best-known episode. It ran for decades, involving her claim on official documents to be of Cherokee descent, on the strength of a family tradition about high cheekbones and the tale of an elopement by her parents (the latter point apparently being called into question by information in the public record).
More recently, media investigators discovered a hole in a story Warren has often told of being fired from an early teaching job because she was “visibly pregnant.” She’s been retailing this tale for years, usually implying that it’s a situation many women can relate to. The fact that it would have happened in the early 1970s may have made at least some reporters skeptical, since it was not at all common by then for schoolteachers to be fired for being pregnant.
Sadly for Warren’s story, there are county records of her employment at the time. Far from being fired, she was offered a renewed contract for the school year in question. When she did leave the school that year, the administration expressed apparently sincere regret at seeing her go.
Warren has now been called out on yet another attempt at depicting herself as relatable due to the special challenges of womanhood. She posted video last week on Twitter from a recent campaign appearance, introducing it with these comments:
When I first ran for the Senate, they told me that a woman couldn’t win. But we built a movement, made history, and won. And I’m ready to do it again to fight for the big, structural change that we need.
When I first ran for the Senate, they told me that a woman couldn't win. But we built a movement, made history, and won. And I'm ready to do it again to fight for the big, structural change that we need. pic.twitter.com/UUmixPPbhZ
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 4, 2019
For emphasis, a quote to this effect decorates the vidstill, and toward the end of the 5-some-minute video, Warren talks to the audience about being told in 2011 that she should run for Senate in Massachusetts, even though she wouldn’t win, and that she wouldn’t win because she’s a woman.
The prediction, as she tells it in the video, was specifically about running in Massachusetts. But as numerous Twitter users weighed in to point out, women had been winning elections to the U.S. Senate for decades before Warren launched her 2012 campaign in September 2011.
You ran for Senate in 2012 when 20 other women were elected that same year and 52 years after *two* women ran against each other for the same Senate seat and 80 years after the first woman was elected to the Senate. “They” are either stupid or don’t exist as you made them up https://t.co/GDZmRtxap6
— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) October 7, 2019
In fact, 39 women had already served in the Senate before Warren ran in Massachusetts in 2012, and 18 of them had been elected in their own right (i.e., were not appointed to fill seats vacated by others, usually their husbands). Hillary Clinton, incidentally, was one of those women, running and winning in New York 12 years before.
If Massachusetts was an especially hard case, with a lingering prejudice against women as late as 2012, senior Democratic officials didn’t seem to know about it. According to the New York Times, top Democrats working the 2012 slate were already “wooing” her to run against Republican Scott Brown in May 2011, when Warren was still in Washington setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for Obama. There is no hint in the NYT article that those Democrats assumed she would lose if she ran for the seat.
It would seem rather curious if they did, and tried to recruit her anyway. The Senate seat was the one occupied for decades by Ted Kennedy. Even the least calculating Democrat would normally think it was important to put a Democrat back in that long-safe seat (which Brown, elected in 2010, had only held for a year and change when Democrats were planning for 2012). There wouldn’t be much sentiment for taking chances on experimental candidates with a low likelihood of victory.
It doesn’t help that little else Warren says in her video clip is actually true. She refers to the 1990s and early 2000s, for example, as a time when “bad mortgages” were being inflicted on people of color, yet that was exactly the time when the Clinton administration, and community organizers like Barack Obama and the activist group ACORN, were coordinating closely to earmark billions for special lending advantages for minority borrowers.
She does get one reference right, discussing the attitude of Republicans when she was setting up the CFPB in 2011:
I set up this agency, spent a year doing it, and the Republicans told President Obama, “We will never confirm her to be the permanent head of the agency.”
Well, almost right. What the Republicans actually said (when they were still the minority party in the Senate, by the way) was that they would block any nominee to head the CFPB. The CFPB had been created against Republican objections to be immune to congressional oversight, and Republicans wanted to change that before considering a formal nominee to take charge of it.
Even the left-wing Atlantic Monthly thought Republicans had a point. Besides the lack of congressional oversight (the CFPB was set up to be funded from U.S. Treasury revenues that would be independent of the congressional budget process), Atlantic’s Daniel Indiviglio, writing in 2010, didn’t like the way the agency was being created:
[T]his strategy [for creating the CFPB] is really quite shady. This isn’t just the President appointing another czar, like the car czar or pay czar to oversee some temporary program already in motion. Warren will be responsible for creating an entirely new major federal agency from scratch. And the CFPB is arguably the most significant new financial industry regulator since the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Association was created in 1974. Now we learn that an unconfirmed Presidential appointee will be its central architect. How is that okay?
Warren tells one too many stories from which the important parts are missing – or are misrepresented. It seems to take a lot of yarn to make up for that, and keep her story-board going.