Bob Dole

Llewellyn King: In search of the real Elizabeth Warren


I went to Boston last week in pursuit of the real Elizabeth Warren. You see, I don’t think that the whole story of Warren comes across on television, where she can seem overstated, too passionate about everyday things to be taken seriously.

Like others, I've wondered why the progressives are so enamored of the Massachusetts senator. Suffolk University (in Boston), mostly known for its authoritative polls, gave her platform as part of an ongoing series of public events in conjunction with The Boston Globe. But whether the dearest hopes of the progressives will be fulfilled, or whether the senior senator from Massachusetts has reached her political apogee is unclear.

What I did find is that Warren has star power. She is a natural at the podium, and revels in it. At least she did at Suffolk,  where the cognoscenti came out to roar their affirmation every time that she threw them some red meat, which she did often.

Here's a sampling:

On student loans: “The U.S. government is charging too much interest on student loans. It shouldn’t be making money on the backs of students.”

On the U.S. Senate: “It was rigged and is rigged [by lobbyists and money in politics]. The wind only blows in one direction in Washington ... to make sure that the rich have power and remain in power.”

Warren's questioner, Globe political reporter Joshua Miller, led her through the predictable obstacle course of whether she was angling to be the vice-presidential candidate if Joe Biden runs and becomes the Democratic nominee. She waffled this question, as one expected, admitting to long talks about policy with Biden and declaring herself prepared to talk policy with anyone. She said  the subject of the vice presidency might have come up.

Short answer, in my interpretation: She would join the ticket in a heartbeat. This is not only for reasons of ambition -- of which she has demonstrated plenty, from her odyssey through law schools, until she found a perch at Harvard as a full professor -- but also age.

Warren is 66  and although her demeanor and appearance are of a much younger woman, the math is awkward. There are those in the Democratic Party who say  that she needs a full term in the Senate to get some legislative experience and to fulfill the commitment of her first elected office. But eight years from now, she'll probably be judged as too old to run for president.

Clearly, Warren didn't fancy the punishment and probable futility of a run against Hillary Clinton. But the vice presidency might suit her extraordinarily well, given Biden’s age of 72.

Warren has stage presence; she fills a room. She is funny, notwithstanding that you can be too witty in nation politics, as with failed presidential aspirants Morris Udall and Bob Dole. She reminds me of those relentlessly upbeat mothers, who were always on-call to fix things in the children’s books of my youth.

Although Warren comes from a working-class background, years of success at the best schools has left her with patina of someone from the comfortable classes -- someone for whom things work out in life. She counters this by stressing the plight of the middle class, the decline in real wages and her passion for fast food and beer -- light beer, of course.

Warren's father was janitor in Oklahoma who suffered from heart disease and her mother worked for the Sears catalog. The young Elizabeth did her bit for the family income by waitressing.

However, it's hard to imagine her at home at a union fish fry. My feeling is  that she'd be more comfortable -- the life of the party, in fact -- at a yacht club.

Progressives yearn for Warren and she speaks to their issues: lack of Wall Street regulation, and federal medical-research dollars, and the need for gun control, student-loan reform, equal pay for equal work, and government contracting reform.

She is  a classic, untrammeled liberal who is less dour than Bernie Sanders, and less extreme. So it's no wonder that so  many  Democrats long for her to occupy the presidency or the vice presidency.

All in all, I'd like to go to a party where she is the host: the kind where they serve more than light beer.

Llewellyn King ( is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. 

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Llewellyn King: The case for American knighthoods

I may have a faded English accent, but I am a true blue American, and I have been for five decades. I do not think that everything that comes across the Atlantic from Britain ought to be adopted here.

I do not believe that there is any virtue in driving on the other side of the road. And I do not believe that every British television program is unassailably wonderful.

While I think that the House of Commons is a fabulous entertainment, but it is not necessarily the best way to govern the United Kingdom, particularly in this time of nationalist stress. I have lived in London, but I do not yearn to take up residence there again.

However, there is one feature of British life that I think would benefit the United States substantially: the introduction of an honors system to reward exemplary people in our society.

What titles we have in the United States are clung to. Former senators still call themselves senator; governors, governor; and ambassadors, ambassador. A few Ph.D.s persist in calling themselves Dr., and most people would like to have a title other than Mr., or Ms. in front of their name. Even firmly republican countries in Europe, like France and Italy, have clung to their aristocratic titles.

Well, we do not want an aristocracy here, but it would be grand if we could single out contributions to our well-being with a nifty title. Various eminent Americans have been awarded honorary titles, but they can not use them. What is the point of a title, if you can not call a restaurant and say, “Sir John Doe, here. I would like a table by the window.”

Here are some exceptional people who I would make honorary knights or dames:

Arise, Sir Brian Lamb, creator of C-SPAN and a massive contributor to television and the understanding of American politics.

Arise, Sir David Bell, a dedicated general practitioner, who treats victims of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, in the northwest corner of New York state. Bell has tended indigent patients since the disease broke out in the village of Lyndonville, N.Y., in 1985.

Arise, Sir Joe Madison (The Black Eagle), activist and broadcaster, who has championed the cause of justice for African-Americans and has fought modern slavery in Africa.

Arise, Dame Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony, who is a visionary conductor and a great contributor to the public good through her promotion of American music and classical music, her mentorship to young musicians, and her founding of OrchKids, a music education program for inner city Baltimore children.

Much of the British system of honorary titles should be left in Britain. Twice every year, on the Queen’s Birthday and at New Year, a list of new honorees is published, and long-serving but unrecognized civil servants and military personnel hope to be on the list. The types of honors include: Knights and Dames, The Order of the Bath, Order of St. Michel and St. George, Order of the Companions Honor, and Orders of the British Empire.

Just in case you are getting confused, these honors do not include the ancient titles of duke, marquess, earl or lord. But the monarch does mint a title now an again, like Her Highness Duchess of Cambridge, conferred on Prince William’s wife, Kate.

No, you have to keep the honorary title simple: knight or dame, awarded for exemplary achievement or service. On my honors list I would include distinguished people in the arts and sciences, educators, entrepreneurs and inventors, humanitarians, retired politicians (provided  that they promise not to run for office again). I think we should have Sir Bob Dole, Lady Olympia Snowe, and, if she were alive today, Lady Barbara Jordan.

On my watch list for recognition are Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Wynton Marsalis and Dean Kamen. If you would want to recognize someone in journalism, Sir Llewellyn King has a nice ring.

Llewellyn King ( is a long-time editor, writer, publisher and international business consult. He is also exeeutive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS.