Elizabeth Warren

Llewellyn King: The women who would be president


Good morning class, draw near and listen ever so closely.

So, you all want to be president of the United States, arguably the most difficult and demanding job in the world?

Clearly, you feel that you have unique talents which will promote peace and prosperity and block injustice, racism and men hitting on women.

You are sure that you will be able to curb, gently, the imperial instincts of China and its canny leader, Xi Jinping.

And you have a sure-fire plan to contain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East and to persuade our shaken allies that it is worth standing firm with us.

You might want to know what to do about Africa’s soaring population and declining prospects.

You, also, I trust have given thought to the future as the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds with huge consequences for the future of work (artificial intelligence taking away jobs); the future of transportation (autonomous vehicles, ships and airplanes); and remote farming (farms operated from city desks).

If you are all set on those things, we can get down to the ones which may decide the election: the social issues, including abortion, education, gender equity and gender equality, gun control, access to healthcare, immigration and income inequality.

You might want to tell people how you will turn back the tides and solve global warming. Rich people are starting to worry about their oceanfront homes; that means it will become a fashionable topic with those who have been indifferent screaming for action

Now, ladies, step forward for little individual tutelage.

Elizabeth Warren: You have the pole position as the racers line up, but already there are troubling things. Ms. Warren, you must stop taking President Trump’s bait. How the devil did you get into getting your DNA analyzed? Bad move. Lead the debate, do not join it.

Kamala Harris: A few good notices and you are off and running. Just wait until the opposition research pulls apart the cases you prosecuted when you were a district attorney in San Francisco -- and the things you said in court. Two former prosecutors, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, have tarnished the brand.

Kirsten Gillibrand: The announcement on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was, well, weak. It looked like you were there because you had just published a children’s book called something like Snuggles the Rabbit.. Bold statesmanship was not to be heard. It is hard to look presidential on a comedy program. Looking presidential is worth a lot in the polls, especially at the beginning. Now to those giant flip-flops on guns and abortion. Were you not a darling of the NRA? What about your switching from pro-life to pro-getting-elected? Explain your double epiphany.

Tulsi Gabbard: Step forward and salute. Major, you are the only declared candidate with military service: the only candidate in sight who has worn your country’s uniform and seen active duty. Bravo! That is going to be a huge credential, but not quite enough to outweigh the fact that you are too exotic: born in American Samoa, raised in Hawaii and a Hindu. At 38, you have got time, lots and lots of it. Beware hopefuls. This lady may not be for turning.

To the whole class of four: Have you ever run a large organization? Have you a big scandal you think you can keep hidden (you cannot)? Do you know enough people to staff the cabinet? Do you know how you will find 1,200 people to fill the positions that must be confirmed by the Senate? How is your golf game?

Three of you are senators, Gillibrand, Harris and Warren, and Gabbard is a member of the House. Hard to run against Washington when you already have contracted Potomac Fever.

Suggestion: Get a big idea and run with that. Keep out of the granular social stuff, it will bring you down. Prepare to be vice president and bide your time.

House, Senate, White House, America’s women are on the move, and may the best woman win.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email isllewellynking1@gmail.com. He’s based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

Senator Warren's campaign

Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

‘Stranger things have happened, but it seems highly unlikely that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren can win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination; she has staked out some admirable (if maybe unrealistic) positions on addressing yawning income inequality, on breaking up increasingly monopolistic  companies in the tech and some other sectors; on the need for close oversight of the financial-services sector, parts of which engage in massive fraud and out-of-control speculation from time to time, and where some institutions have become “too big to fail,’’ and she backs some kind of “Medicare for all.’’ She has positioned herself as a latter-generation New Dealer.

But she can come across as strident, and coming from Massachusetts is not particularly beneficial for a  national candidate.  Senator Warren also is often seen  as “anti-business,’’ although she calls herself  “a capitalist to my bones.’’ She, at 69, is also old, as are some other possible Democratic candidates (and Trump). I’m leery of people over 70 assuming the presidency; at that stage of life you could be seemingly very healthy one minute, and fall apart in the next, mentally and/or physically. (Yes, I know that Ronald Reagan was in his 70s when he served. Thank God  that he had a superb staff in his second term….)

The Democrats would do best to nominate someone like  Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown or Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. They’re both very smart, have engaging personalities, and, importantly, can’t be accused of being “East Coast elitists,’’ which is how Senator Warren is labeled despite the fact that she comes from a poor family in Oklahoma and has long fought for the socio-economically disadvantaged.

Whether or not Trump runs for re-election, the Democrats should have a good chance of winning back the White House. While congressional gerrymandering and the power of business lobbyists in Washington have usually suppressed reforms sought by liberals, the majority of Americans think that the rich have too much power in Washington and are very concerned about income inequality; support Medicare-for-all; favor raising taxes if necessary to preserve Social Security, and like labor unions.  There’s not as much polarization on policies as you might think. And it bears noting that Democratic presidential candidates got more popular votes than Republican nominees in four of the past five elections.

Then there’s the strong likelihood that we’ll have a recession, perhaps a deep one, between now and the 2020 election. The GOP will be blamed for it, as it was in the 2008 financial crisis.

'Pocahontas' should take a DNA test

Portrait engraving  done in 1616 of  Pocahontas.

Portrait engraving  done in 1616 of  Pocahontas.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s apparently thinking about running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, has been bedeviled by criticism from President Trump  (who calls her “Pocahontas’’) and other Republicans about her assertion that she has Native American ancestors. Other than referring to family stories,  she hasn’t come up with  indisputable proof. Well, she could take a DNA test. Such tests aren’t perfect, but if it does show she has Indian blood that would end the debate.

Some families have myths about their ancestors that last for many generations.  For example, there was long a story in part of my father's family that there been in-breeding between their English colonist ancestors in eastern Massachusetts and members of the Wampanoag Tribe. And indeed, some members of my father's family, including himself, looked a bit Native American -- reddish brown skin, etc. My father looked like an Indian brave crossed with the Arrow Collar Man.

But my sister did a DNA on herself and found no evidence of Native American (perhaps more accurately called Siberian American) ancestry. Maybe they just looked Welsh....


James P. Freeman: Curling toward GOP victory

Curling in Toronto in 1909.

Curling in Toronto in 1909.


“Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,

Lift up your voice like a trumpet blast…”

                                                --Isaiah 58:1a


If voters mean what they say -- constantly expressing dissatisfaction with the current hyper-partisan political class and calling for its removal -- they could convert hyper-pandemonic emotion into action by dismissing Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren in 2018. An able replacement would be Beth Lindstrom. She is the saucer that could cool the Senate’s tea. And, maybe, ferocious minority factions.

If this is, as we are reminded daily, the Year-of-The-Woman in American politics, Lindstrom, a moderate Republican, counters the argument that her party is comprised of old white men, tired and empty. And should she win her party’s nomination to unseat Warren this autumn, her candidacy removes one stone from the hand holding the political rocks  that Warren likes to throw: the progressive granite of gender politics.

If you are Warren, you must hope that Lindstrom is not your challenger in November. For Lindstrom, personable and perspicacious, makes the improbable seem possible -- Warren’s wicked claw paralyzed; the screech silenced; the progressive oppression lifted.

For this column, appearing sturdy, cheerful and thoughtful over English Breakfast, fittingly, at a Boston hotel, the single biggest take-away is that Lindstrom is serious and compelling.

“A strong economy,” she says, is still the biggest issue for Massachusetts residents. Ever since Donald Trump won the presidency stock markets have anticipated the unbridling of America’s economic might. Higher wages, bigger bonuses and lower taxes (mere crumbs to likes of Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) are filtering into wallets and purses. A recent national poll found that the second and third most important issues to respondents were, respectively, the economy and taxes. (Healthcare ranked number one; a relative non-issue in Massachusetts since Romneycare in 2006.) This bodes well for Lindstrom’s focus on economics.

Though never elected to office, Lindstrom brings just enough public-sector experience (executive director of Massachusetts State Lottery (1997-1999); director of Consumer Affairs in Gov. Mitt Romney’s cabinet -- overseeing regulatory agencies including banking, telecommunications, energy, insurance and licensure (2003-2006)) and private-sector experience (a founder and owner of small businesses) to understand the complexities of modern government.

As President Calvin Coolidge noted nearly a century ago, “the chief business of the American people is business.” But today much of America’s business is government. Lindstrom’s skill-sets and her MBA degree, therefore, will come in handy as Trump steers his massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative into a hybrid of public-private partnerships (with lots of still-unknowns).

In January, Lindstrom launched a Business Growth Tour, intended to “collaborate with Massachusetts business owners on the steps that can be taken to help them grow and expand.” Lowering costs and reducing regulation present a “fair opportunity,” she insists. Small business owners make a big voting bloc. In 2016, there were nearly 640,000 small businesses in Massachusetts. They employed 1.4 million workers, representing nearly 47 percent of all  workers in the commonwealth. And nearly 90,000 of these businesses are minority-owned.


Warren, meanwhile, defends her questionable lineage, and her support of Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- both saturated with excessive regulations. Do small-business proprietors think that  there are too few regulations?

Perhaps unintentionally, Lindstrom’s presence is that of a restorer of Rockefeller Republicanism -- to frustrate today’s right-wing pathology; and repairer of the breach -- the chasm between professional politicians and everyday citizens. She speaks in tones of incrementalism, not extremism.

For the doubters -- those wondering if she knows how to win in liberal Massachusetts -- Lindstrom managed Scott Brown’s successful Senate campaign eight years ago. The inconceivable to the achievable.

Lindstrom senses a tremulous electorate in 2018, like what she felt in 2010. But today it’s harder to define; and it’s not yet articulated into a slogan. (In 2010, Brown ran to capture “the people’s seat.”) She may be forgiven for defining herself as an abstraction: “A common-sense Republican.” But what does that mean? Standard definition is yesterday’s technology and yesteryear’s candidacy. It will need some high-def refinement before Warren pounces. (In 2012, incumbent Brown called himself a “Scott Brown Republican,” letting Warren ill-define him.)

Her fractured party and its national leaders pose problems, too.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky bemoans Republicans embracing Trump’s $1.5 trillion in new debts (reminiscent of Obama-era levels) and projections for unbalanced budgets for the next decade. Ironically, Rand joined Warren in opposing the recent “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018,” which increases the debt ceiling and spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two years. Lindstrom believes that the GOP must remain “the party of fiscal responsibility” and determine whether spending that is “necessary versus nice.” She favors congressional term-limits and a presidential line-item veto to force the government to think long-term, not each election cycle.

Like many Americans, she winces at the president’s “tone, temperament and tweeting” but thinks that more Americans will continue reaping the benefits of Trump’s economic policies by this year’s mid-terms. And, like many Americans, she supports his tax cuts; she expects that higher growth rates (not the paltry, so-called “new normal” touted after the Great Recession) will “temper higher debts and deficits.”

Talk of voters abandoning the GOP en masse in November may be premature. Just this month, a Politico/Morning Consult poll showed Trump’s approval rating equaling the percentage of voters who disapprove of his job performance (47 percent). And on a “generic congressional ballot” basis, the same poll found that the GOP now enjoys a one-point advantage over Democrats, as of Feb. 12. Will Americans reward his policies and ignore his personality this fall?\  

Still, while Trump may be the elephant in the room, he is not on the ballot in 2018.

Fortunately for Lindstrom, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker will be on the ballot. Baker, like Lindstrom, is a moderate. And more importantly, he is also the most popular high-level politician in Massachusetts. A January WBUR poll found that 74 percent of Massachusetts voters approve of the job that Baker is doing. That means  that he is more popular than Warren, and Lindstrom hopes  that his coattails will carry Republican votes down ballot.

(Incidentally, the same poll found that: “The one somewhat positive number for Trump is that a plurality of Massachusetts voters (43 percent) say the president has been good for the overall economy.”)  

For the next few months, Lindstrom looks to build her brand. Currently fewer than 8 percent of Massachusetts residents know who she is; Warren is recognized by nearly 95 percent of residents. That’s a challenge also facing her principal Republican opponents, state Rep. Geoff Diehl and former hedge-fund executive John Kingston. But all three Republicans are confident that they will meet April’s GOP state convention threshold to appear on September’s primary ballot. It’s still early.

Voters have been watching more Olympics than politics lately. Nevertheless, they may soon understand that Lindstrom’s campaign is analogous to the winter sport of curling, which requires resistance, patience and persistence to win. Whereas Diehl and Kingston are the two-man luge. Exciting and daring, certainly, but susceptible to crashing.

James P. Freeman, a former banker, is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal, newenglanddiary.com and nationalreview.com.

Looking for indigenous affirmation

N ative American tribes in southern New England as of about 1600.     -- Map by Nikater, adapted to English by  Hydrargyrum

Native American tribes in southern New England as of about 1600.

 -- Map by Nikater, adapted to English by Hydrargyrum

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

There was  a brief uproar last week when Donald Trump, speaking at a ceremony at the White House to honor Navajo “code talkers,’’ who were very helpful in the U.S. military in World War II, made a joke about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim to have some  Native American ancestry. He yet again called her “Pocahontas.’’ Like most of this con man’s jokes, it was stupid and nasty.  Still,  I, too, doubt if the Massachusetts senator has any Native American blood, though she has suggested she does. How about having your DNA tested, senator? That would clear this up.

(Some of my relatives have insisted that we have Cape Cod Wampanoag blood. Another romantic family myth. Or looking for some casino money….)

More troubling was that on the wall behind Trump and the honorees was a big portrait of the horrible President Andrew Jackson, the thug who helped force thousands of Indians from their homelands in the Southeast to west of the Mississippi. Many thousands died on this “Trail of Tears.’’

Trump has frequently expressed his admiration for Jackson, and indeed had that portrait hung there.


Speaking of Warren, I wonder if the Democrats will be crazy enough to nominate her or Bernie Sanders for president in 2020. The Dems should be in a strong position to win back the White House in three years because of Trump’s corruption and incompetence and what’s likely to be a recession in the next couple of years. But the stridency of Sanders and Warren is unlikely to be a big hit in the next campaign. And they’d both be too old. By that point, I think, Americans will be looking for a calm and only slightly left-of-center leader, preferably someone who had been a successful governor. (But watch Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand, of New York....)

Or it may be a name  that few Americans would recognize now.



Warren: Trump budget would whomp New England's economy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D.-Mass.) remarks to the New England Council last week included her saying that:

President Trump's  proposed budget cuts would be “devastating” to Massachusetts, such as the "meat axe'' against the National Institutes of Health. Massachusetts is a huge bio-tech center.

She said that Mr. Trump’s executive actions on immigration “threaten how we have really built an economy in New England going forward”.

“It’s a serious problem because it hurts our families, it’s a serious problem because it has the potential to hurt our economy, but it’s a serious problem because it threatens how we have really built an economy in New England going forward, with our colleges and our universities, with our innovation economy, with our tourism economy.''


Don Pesci: These progressive Conn. pols are libertarian about two grim things

The Republican plan to abolish and replace Obamacare has now collapsed. After much huffing and puffing, Republicans pulled their replacement plan, such as it was, shook the dirt of medical-care reform from their feet, and vowed to move on to the next big issue -- tax reform. One imagines U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.), who made some frantically intemperate remarks in the House before the Republican replacement plane crashed and burned, was delighted.

 U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), move over: Mrs. DeLauro has now become the chief progressive maenad of Congress. She brought to her performance suitable demagogic props, a large sign that said “Get Old People,” the words arranged horizontally and the first letter of each word – G-O-P – in fierce bold script. C-Span captured the historic moment here. Mrs. DeLauro was not wearing her pussy hat at the time; so the members of the House were spared that indignity.

Seen from a progressive bubble, Obamacare is a crashing success. It is, in fact, a political success but a real-world wreck from within, and it has been so from the beginning. Obamacare has never been more than a program hardwired to fail that would lead, when it did fail, to universal health care, a nationwide government healthcare program palely imitating European models that would drive many insurance companies -- unable to compete with a tax-supported, progressive driven healthcare system – out of business.

Under a universal healthcare system one fourth of the economy in the United States would move from the private to the public sector, and insurance companies in Connecticut would become boutique providers serving rich people – mostly wealthy Republicans who, in DeLauro’s view, want to Get Old People (GOP). Mrs. DeLauro’s gerrymandered lair is Connecticut’s 1st District, an impregnable progressive fortress; so then, she need not fear that she will be undone politically by championing a lost cause.

And Obamacare is a lost cause. Even in her home state, insurance providers have pulled out of the program with their pants on fire; premiums have skyrocketed across the nation, and the coroner has been sent an e-mail.

The authors of the U.S. Constitution supposed that legislators would be unwilling to pass ruinous laws under which they themselves would suffer. How quaint! Barack Obama himself is now wealthy enough to buy retirement properties worth millions anywhere in the world the chooses to live, in or outside the United States; socialist Bernie Sanders owns three houses; millionaire Connecticut U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal had money enough to send his children to expensive private schools that many of Mrs. DeLauro’s constituents could never afford.

Politics has been good for Mrs. DeLauro and her millionaire husband, Stan Greenberg, both of whom own expensive property in the Washington Beltway, where they entertain similarly minded progressives in lavish splendor that might bring a blush to the cheek of the Great Gatsby.

It may strike some hearty rationalists as unseemly that two millionaire politicians who favor partial birth abortion and euthanasia – which clips life it its beginning and end – should profess such a touching concern for old people. Only on questions of life and death are Mrs. DeLauro and Mr. Blumenthal, the Senator from Planned Parenthood, excessively libertarian. Blumenthal, who never met a regulation he didn’t like, would leave Planned Parenthood – which makes most of its profits from abortion – as the only unregulated big business in America.

China still pursues a policy of forced abortion; in that totalitarian country women, liquidated as infants in the womb, are perceived as somehow less valuable than men. International Planned Parenthood has in fact been working hand in hand with the population control program in China, almost since its inception. China joined the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in 1983.

In December of last year, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers wrote a letter to President Donald Trump calling for “a full-scale investigation of International Planned Parenthood to determine the exact nature of its operations in China… Transparency is demanded by the fact that IPPF receives taxpayer dollars from the United States and other nations as well.  I believe it is impossible to partner so closely with the Chinese Communist Party’s forced abortion machine without being complicit in its atrocities.  This is especially the case when this year we learned that the number of abortions in China is not 13 million, but a staggering 23 million a year.”

What a pity the group did not address its petition to Mrs. DeLauro, defender of the poor and oppressed, or Mr. Blumenthal who, as the Senator from Planned Parenthood, may possibly exercise more leverage with the IPPF than does Mr. Trump and the entire Republican Party which  -- as we all know, thanks to Mrs. DeLauro’s campaign bumper-sticker outburst in the House – wishes to oppress if not euthanize their grandmothers.

Don Pesci (donpesci@att.net) is a political and cultural writer who lives in Vernon, Conn.



Don Pesci: The old-time party bosses are looking better and better


A shrewd political observer once said that Americans rarely solve their most pressing political problems; instead, they amicably bid them goodbye.

Take the primary system by way of example. The primary system itself has been attended, especially during the current presidential election campaign, with glaring problems that pretty nearly everyone has studiously ignored. It is the primary system that has given us two of the most unpalatable presidential candidates in U.S. history. Nearly 50 percent of voters on either side of the political spectrum this year will be voting against the presidential candidates, according to a September Pew Research poll.

Primaries lengthen the political season, an unintended result of a “participatory democracy” that benefits news producers, editors and candidates but few others.

The current primary season began on the Republican side 18 months ago when Texas  Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the presidency. In due course, 16 other Republican hats were thrown into the ring. After the Republican Nominating Convention dispersed 16 months and millions of dollars later, Donald Trump, whose conservative bona fides and political affiliation still remain in question, emerged with the Republican nomination clenched in his teeth. Among the vanquished also-rans were three anti-establishment Republicans – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ron Paul – all Tea Party favorites and thorns in the side of the ancient Republican Party regime.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was almost defeated by Socialist Democratic senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Votes tallied at the Democratic Nominating Convention showed Sanders winning a not inconsiderable 1,865 delegates before he put forward a motion to nominate by voice vote Hillary Clinton, who, hacked e-mails later disclosed, had turned her efforts to subverting Sanders’s presidential bid.

During his primary campaign, Sanders refused to dwell on Clinton’s e-mail scandal, remarking to a smugly smiling Hillary Clinton during one of their debates that America was “sick of hearing about your damn e-mails," in hindsight a fatal strategic mistake. Sanders did mention that his campaign had been subverted by the Democratic National Committee, a charge later confirmed by hacked e-mails that Sanders thought tedious and not worth mentioning.

Almost everyone, except true-believers on both sides of the current political barricades, will agree that both Republican and Democratic Party nominees are scarred with defects that would not have made it past the jeweler’s eyes of the party bosses of yore.

The last real Democratic Party boss in Connecticut, John Bailey, would not have failed to notice both Mrs. Clinton’s glaring defects, not the least of which was her husband,  and Mr. Sanders’s leftist drift from what used to be called among Democrats the “Vital Center” of American politics.

Mr. Bailey would have allowed liberalism, but not libertinism, and he would have put the kibosh on Democratic candidates who favored an administrative repeal of any of the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Pragmatic to the bone, Mr. Bailey almost certainly would not have sanctioned a measure to force The Little Sisters of the Poor, first brought to the East Coast of the United States by Abraham Lincoln, to dispense condoms to fellow workers who were not nuns or priests. He also would have counseled against any polity that refused adamantly to make reasonable accommodations with Evangelicals and members of the Catholic Church.

America began to experiment with presidential primaries as early as 1901. From 1936 to 1968 only 20 states deployed primaries, which were useful, progressives realized, in wresting political power and influence from party bosses like Mr. Bailey – and vesting political power… in what?

We now know the answer to this question.  Political power and money is now controlled by political party outliers. We have got rid of John Bailey, and replaced him with political PACs that furnish negative ads and dark money in the service of political actors who, petite parties themselves, are independent of either of the major two parties.

Because incumbent politicians are able to tap into money and power resources unavailable to their competitors, the political campaign table has been tilted in favor of incumbents favored by the county’s left of center media – which means that the correlation of forces pushes moderate Democratic candidates off center and, in some cases – c.f. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – very far left. These correlations of force have produced an ever widening, unbridgeable gap between the two major parties.

What Mark Twain said of the weather in New England – everybody talks about it, but no one wants to do anything about it – is also true of the modern primary system, which had been put in place long ago by progressives to mitigate what they felt were the defects of a strong two-party political system.

A party system that once depended upon sometimes corrupt party bosses for financing and direction now depends upon PACs that operate outside campaign-financing laws, provided they do not engage in promoting specific candidates. These party outliers are the wellspring of vicious ads that have only a nodding connection with the truth. The parties themselves are poor.

Primaries have reduced national conventions to rote political thought and action, breaking the indispensable live connection between state and national politics, which is now run by the whimsical nominal heads of parties. In November, the nation will reap what it has sown.  This time around, the primary system has allowed access to the presidency of two of the most unloved candidates for the presidency in modern times. And dark politics has produced nation-wide cynicism, dark thoughts and dark deeds.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist, mostly on political topics.

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 (lking@kingpublishing.com) is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. 

Co-host and General Manager,

"White House Chronicle" on PBS

Don Pesci: The Democrats' star slavers dinner

In case anyone has not noticed, we are in the midst of a Nietzschean transvaluation of all values epoch.  Last week, the U.S.  Supreme Court raised the roof on marriage to accommodate gays, striking down with one bold stroke state laws governing marriage that the justices and the editorial board of the New York Times thought primitive and unnecessary.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, WFSB reported, “called the decision historic and had a LGBT pride flag flying at the Governor's Residence in Hartford on Friday. ‘This is a historic moment, and we should recognize and celebrate its significance. Equality, freedom, justice and liberty – all recognized by the Supreme Court in this ruling that moves our nation forward,’ Mr. Malloy said.” His administration, Mr. Malloy has said previously, is the gayest in state history and has been full of historic moments.

“Well, Scott Walker, if you believe the next president’s job is to encourage bigotry and to treat some families better than others, then I believe it’s our job to make sure you aren’t president. That’s just a taste of the ugly picture of Republican leadership,” said progressive flamethrower U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, during the Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey dinner at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Ms. Warren disappointed progressives when she refused to enter the primaries as an alternative candidate to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some progressives, Connecticut’s own Bill Curry among them, think that Mrs. Clinton is a middle-of-the-road Democrat of no strong principles who, once in office, will surrender to the blandishments of non-progressive Democrats.

In addition, she seems pox-marked with various scandals she may not be able to overcome. The loss of the bully pulpit after eight years of autocratic rule by progressive President  Obama would amount to a revision of values that would put a serious dent in the good humor of progressives as displayed by Ms. Warren in what might have been a thumping presidential stump speech. Scott Walker, she says twice elected governor of Wisconsin, is a bigot; Jeb Bush wants to privatize Social Security; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to repeal Obamacare and provide tax breaks for Big Business; and former President  Reagan’s trickle-down economics was “nothing more than political cover for helping the rich and helping the rich become more powerful.”

That sort of bumper-sticker thought went smoothly down the throats of the 1,300 Democrats in attendance who purchased tickets beginning at the non-proletarian price of $185 to hear Ms. Warren spank the behinds of Republican presidential candidates. Not a serious candidate for president herself, Ms. Warren is under no compunction to lay out a domestic and foreign policy program that might garner a sufficient number of votes to propel her into the White House; this is the unhappy lot of Mrs. Clinton, whose candidacy Mrs. Warren has not yet fulsomely endorsed. However, progressive Friends Of Warren (FOWs) here in Connecticut, among them uber-progressive Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, have thrown in their lot with Mrs. Clinton and her scallywag but loveable husband.

Ms. Warren’s appearance at Connecticut’s Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey fundraising dinner was rich in irony. The event itself is named after two slavers and an Indian killer; Andrew Jackson, the founder of the modern Democratic Party, was both a slaver and an Indian killer. John Bailey, the last Democratic Party boss in Connecticut, was innocent of these crimes against humanity, and he was an upstanding Democrat too, though politically he was not as ferocious a progressive as Ms. Warren.

On  slavery, Jefferson was somewhat torn. Unlike George Washington, he did not liberate his slaves in his will; he thought blacks were primitive and therefore unworthy of full manumission. Both Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Jackson breeded slaves for private gain. Of the two, Mr. Jackson was less conscience-stricken by what the founders called our “peculiar institution.”

Not only did Mr. Jackson own hundreds of slaves, he vigorously prohibited abolitionists from distributing tracts condemning slavery, tabled abolitionist activity in Congress and was himself a slave trader, according to a piece in Salon.

But it was as an Indian killer That Mr. Jackson excelled. T.D. Allman argues in “Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State” that brutality was a habit of mind for Mr. Jackson long before he prepared the ground as President for the Trail of Tears, the forced death march that killed 4,000 Cherokees in 1838-39.

Slaving and Indian resettlement were not unrelated in that brutal mind. As early as 1816, then-U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson displaced Spanish-speaking black and Choctaw Indian in Florida because he feared that a free black community nearby might serve as a magnet for runaway slaves. Mr. Jackson convinced his subordinates that the blacks and Indians, free under Spanish rule, were bent on “rapine and plunder,” when in fact they were small farmers raising crops.

The news that there is a move underfoot across the nation to re-title all Jefferson Jackson dinners trickled down late to Connecticut. Blue Virginia may already have gone Jacksonless by the time this column appears in print. As a progressive, Ms. Warren’s conscience is exquisitely tender, which is why she called the inoffensive Mr. Walker a bigot. How a woman of such refined feelings could bring herself to participate in a function that honors both herself and Mr. Jackson, a slaver and Indian killer, is a deep puzzlement. Following Ms. Warren’s appearance, The Democratic Party in Connecticut belatedly scrubbed the names of both Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Jackson from their annual fund appeal dinner.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political writer.

Chris Powell: Stop honoring the genocidal Andrew Jackson

  Manchester, Conn.

Congratulations to Connecticut's Democratic Party for landing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as keynote speaker for the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey fundraising dinner in June. Unlike the party's presumptive next presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Warren at least poses as the scourge of Wall Street, though conveniently for Wall Street she also opposes auditing its great enabler, the Federal Reserve.

But another big irony in Warren's appearance should be addressed too. That is, many years ago, possibly to obtain ethnic hiring preferences, Warren claimed Cherokee Indian ancestry, and the “Jackson” of the dinner is President Andrew Jackson, perpetrator of a disgrace of the country's history, the genocide of the Cherokee Indians, the expropriation of their land in the southeastern part of the country, though they were living at peace with their neighbors, and their deadly forced march to wastelands beyond the Mississippi River.

In part because of that disgrace, there is a growing movement to replace Jackson's portrait on the 20-dollar bill with the portrait of a woman, women being unrepresented on U.S. paper currency. The best candidate seems to be Eleanor Roosevelt, the great advocate of human rights, politically incorrect in her time but vindicated by history.

So why keep honoring Jackson at the Connecticut Democratic Party's biggest event? Eleanor Roosevelt's husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, the greatest Democratic president, did far more for the country than Jackson did and could ably replace him as a dinner honoree. (While Roosevelt's internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during World War II was a disgrace too, at least nobody died from it and it was a consequence of war.)

Like the Democratic Party's subservience to Wall Street, Andrew Jackson has become just a bad habit. It would be good if Warren could persuade the party to dump both. At least dumping Jackson won't cost the party any campaign contributions.


As he seems about to be sent to prison a second time for political corruption, former Gov. John G. Rowland is becoming an ever-easier target for any grievance involving his 9½ years in office, and now the state employee unions are claiming a great if bitter triumph over him in the settlement of their federal lawsuit challenging what turned out to be Rowland's temporary layoff of 2,500 union members amid state budget difficulties in 2003.

The unions call Rowland's action a great crime. But the lawsuit got to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, where the unions won, only because the state had prevailed at the federal district court level, so it's not as if the state had no case. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court might have gone either way, and the unions figured, as did Gov. Dannel  Malloy and Atty. Gen. George Jepsen, that the parties would do best to settle rather than go for broke.

While the nominal value of the settlement is said to be $100 million, the attorney general says it has been structured so that most of the money will be paid to the state employees over many years as vacation and personal days off and thus not require special appropriations.

The unions say the settlement's structure demonstrates their generosity amid state government's latest budget difficulties under an infinitely friendlier governor. But the structure seems more like an admission that state employees are not much missed when they don't show up for work, as they didn't show up a few weeks ago on Good Friday, one of their already innumerable paid holidays, which closely followed Martin Luther King Day in January and Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday in February.

If, as the unions' posturing suggests, state employees spent those days mostly steaming about their oppression, they'll be able to do it again in October on Columbus Day, when, for some reason, Connecticut will honor the destroyer of the Indians of the Caribbean.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, based in Manchester, Conn.

Richard J. Eskow: What Democrats can learn from Cantor's defeat


Cartoon by KALIB BENDIB for OtherWords.org

David Brat, the man who unexpectedly defeated Eric Cantor in a recent Republican primary, is an ideologue. That should be a source of encouragement for candidates on the populist left — but not for the reasons that you might think.

Brat is a professor whose college chair is endowed with libertarian money and ran a campaign rife with Tea Party slogans. Yet it would be wrong to minimize Brat’s victory, as Hillary Clinton did, as solely the result of his across-the-board opposition to immigration reform. That theory deflects attention from the populist side of Brat’s campaign, thereby minimizing a movement that presents a potential threat to Clinton and a number of other Democrats.

Brat made Cantor’s Wall Street ties a key campaign theme by tapping into a frustration with corrupt Washington politics that spans the political spectrum. “I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits,” Brat declared on the campaign trail. “But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.”

It’s no wonder that reporter Ryan Lizza described Brat in The New Yorker as “the Elizabeth Warren of the right.” When Brat says “the Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street,” he echoes the Massachusetts senator’s theme that “the system is rigged for powerful interests and against working families” — and the argument that progressive Democrats are making about their party’s dominant wing.

That’s why Brat’s candidacy doesn’t belong in the standard Tea Party basket. Cantor more closely fit this mold, with his fiery Tea Party-like rhetoric belying the fact that he was very much part of the Beltway elite, a Republican apparatchik, and a friend of the corporate class.

When Brat called Cantor out — “the crooks up on Wall Street and some of the big banks…they didn’t go to jail. They are on Eric’s Rolodex” — the underdog garnered enough votes to win a race against a top dog.

His mix of messages comes as no a surprise to people such as me who track polling data on economic issues. It’s been clear for years that anti-corporate populism appeals to voters across the political spectrum.

Inside-the-Beltway consensus thinking tends to dismiss voices on both the left and the right as unimportant to the political process. The mythical “truly undecided centrist voter” — that legendary creature situated precisely halfway between the Republican and Democratic parties on key issues — has led the political class to ignore the electoral power of ideological voices.

Many Democrats are making the mistake of embracing the same pro-corporate positions as their Republican opponents while losing touch with what’s happening back at home.

Far-right media personalities, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, gave Brat a tremendous leg up among conservative-populist true believers, stoking their enthusiasm and fueling both organizational efforts and turnout.

The left has its voices, too, and insurgent Democratic politicians shouldn’t be reluctant to rely on them just because they’re afraid that the “in crowd” in Washington will marginalize them. As Brat’s victory shows, distancing yourself from the in crowd can pay off.

Ideology has gotten a bad name from members of both parties who would rather push a Washington-corporate consensus than have a real debate on the issues and principles that should drive our nation’s decision-making.

What will happen if Republicans like Brat, with their anti-immigrant populism, face off against Democrats like Elizabeth Warren imbued with a populism grounded in economic justice? We might finally have a real debate about how to break the corporate stranglehold on politics and the economy.

Richard J. Eskow is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and the host of "The Zero Hour'', a nationally syndicated radio show. He wrote this for OtherWords.org.