Watch: Warren Struggles To Answer 'Why Did You Check Those Boxes?'


I hate to admit it, but if Elizabeth Warren were ever to give a full and comprehensive mea culpa, there really wouldn’t be anything I could realistically criticize her for because she claimed Native American heritage once upon a time.

Ever since the Liewatha scandal became an issue during her 2012 senatorial campaign, there was a simple way Warren could have ended it. “Look,” she could have said, “I made the stupid decision to identify as Native American at one point in my life. It wasn’t based in evidence but in familial hearsay. I don’t think it helped me get a job, but I can’t be sure. Let’s move on.”

One could argue over the truthfulness of the statement, but it would have effectively killed the controversy seven years ago and we wouldn’t be talking about high cheekbones and elopements as Warren tries to jostle into a prime position in the Democrat field for the 2020 presidential nomination.

And then there’s the fact that the story, such as it is, seems to change so often. The latest curveball was that Warren filled out a 1986 State Bar of Texas application card where she listed her race as “American Indian.” This was slightly further back than most of her previous claims of Native American heritage and more proof that the controversy didn’t arise because of the fact that others pushed claims about her heritage on her behalf.

Surely she could clear that up on David Axelrod’s podcast, though. “The Axe Files,” easily the most sleep-inducing thing produced by CNN, involves the former senior adviser to President Obama asking the tough questions of a bevy of guests from across the political spectrum — guests like Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, and former Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, and FiveThirtyEight impresario Nate Silver, and Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell, that guy who (jokingly, of course) threatened nuclear war against AR-15 owners who didn’t turn over their weapons to the government when his confiscation plan went into effect. This guy, he really reaches across the aisle.

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Anyway, this wasn’t exactly the most difficult venue in the world and Axelrod exudes the tenacity of an 11-year-old pug with minor but clinically significant bronchial issues, so you would think that this would be a slam dunk when he asked her why she “checked those boxes” regarding her lineage.

Given the fact we’re even talking about this, it obviously wasn’t a slam dunk.

“So, like I said, I grew up in Oklahoma, I learned about my family the same way most people learn about their families — from my mom and my dad and my aunts and my uncles. And based on what I learned growing up and the fact that I love my family, decades ago I sometimes identified as Native American.”

She insisted it “never had anything to do with any job that I ever got. That’s been fully documented.”

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How this can be fully documented without being able to see inside the hearts and minds of every individual who hired her is beyond me, but whatever. And, indeed, Axelrod deserves credit for calling her on the fact that universities used her alleged minority status for their own advantage, even it if she says she didn’t use it for her own.

“But the universities kind of fudged and used you for their own purposes,” Axelrod said.

“It never had anything to do with my getting a job,” Warren said. “Even so, I shouldn’t have done it. I’m not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe.”

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So, did she think she made a mistake by releasing the infamous 1/1024th DNA test?

“I can’t go back — all I can do is go forward … I think I have (learned from it),” she said.

In other words, there still isn’t any coherent reason for what she did. What isn’t a melange of boilerplate answers (of course she “can’t go back” — the individual who figured out the way to go back in time wouldn’t need any help becoming president, after all) is so vague, hokey and unrehearsed you would think this whole controversy just erupted yesterday, not six-and-a-half years ago.

Did she not anticipate that this might come up in some interviews? As in, all of them? Did she not rehearse what she might say if her host wasn’t quite as interested in talking about her “ultra-millionaire tax” as she thought they might be?

Axelrod isn’t exactly a softball-lobber, but he’s not a fastball-pitcher, either. If this is a dress rehearsal for how this is going to go down for the next year or so, Warren’s staying power is going to be dramatically limited. If only she’d have just come clean about this whole mess back in 2012.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture