Turning the tables remains the first refuge of liars called on their mendacity.
“I was hurt,” Elizabeth Warren relays in her new autobiography, “and I was angry.” The second-year senator speaks of her 2012 political opponent using her claims of Native American ancestry against her during the campaign. Elizabeth Warren could pass for Bull Connor’s sister. She couldn’t pass for Sitting Bull’s second cousin five times removed.
So when the 2012 debate descended into genealogists arguing over whether Warren’s great-great-great grandmother was or wasn’t partly Cherokee, the law-professor-turned-candidate winning the question meant that she had already lost it. How would American Indian blood running through such a distant forebear justify her touting herself as Harvard Law’s first tenured female minority?
One surmises that she long ago watched the movie Soul Man, and modeled her academic career upon it. But unlike C. Thomas Howell’s Harvard Man in Hollywood’s last black-face flick, the Massachusetts senator refuses to cop to the canard of portraying herself as something that she’s not. She writes in her new book that Scott Brown’s contention that she used the fishy background to advance her career “simply wasn’t true.”
When I combed through Harvard Law’s list of professors and assistant professors two years ago, I found that more than half of them received law degrees from the school at which they taught. Every professor and assistant professor, save for a few specialists who had obtained doctorates in fields outside of law, boasted a diploma from a law school in the top ten. So selective, or snobbish, is the Cambridge school that a mere five of those assistant or full professors obtained degrees from schools in the bottom-half of that top ten.
Elizabeth Warren graduated from the pride of Newark, New Jersey, Rutgers Law School. U.S. News and World Report pegs it as the nation’s 83rd best law school. At Harvard, at least, they value a Rutgers Law diploma the way Warren’s fake forebears learned to value the parchment the white man printed his treaties upon. So to say it “simply wasn’t true” that Warren’s embroidered lineage didn’t aid her employment prospects indulges a delusion not even a peyote-filled peace pipe could induce.
Marrying Bruce Mann, the school’s Carl F. Schipper, Jr. Professor of Law, surely helped. But not as much as her other family ties. Warren listing herself as a minority in the American Association of Law Schools directory from 1986 through 1995, with that designation abruptly removed once Harvard named her its Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, indicates that Warren knows this better than most.
Warren’s new memoir, and ill-advised doubling down on a suspicious story she should have long ago folded on, suggests that running for president runs through her thoughts. For every candidate there exists a campaign book. And rather than a disqualification, telling a crooked tale with a straight face now works as a prerequisite for the highest office.
“Read my lips…,” “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…,” “If you like your health care plan…” Different politicians, same transgression.
The political price for lying to constituents isn’t what it used to be. But deceiving oneself still comes at great cost. Warren narrowly won office in the bluest of states. She did so while dramatically underperforming the top of the ticket. Elizabeth Warren could win the presidency of Harvard Law’s faculty senate by acclamation tomorrow. Winning the presidency of the United States, a more diverse place than a politically monolithic community that nevertheless prides itself on diversity, makes for a more daunting task.
Alas, a blue-eyed blonde who can convince herself that she belongs to Sequoia’s tribe can convince herself that her popularity at Harvard College will translate to popularity in the Electoral College.
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