Elizabeth Warren’s bad week in Washington

Posted at 5:35 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 19:47:26-04

It’s hard in the era of Trump to get more attention — and negative attention — than the occupant of the White House. But Elizabeth Warren managed to do just that these past five days.

Warren surprised the political world on Monday when she released a five-plus-minute video that featured her traveling back to her hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, to trace her roots.

(The backstory: Warren got into some political hot water in 2012 when the Boston newspapers reported that she had claimed minority status while a professor at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania law schools. Warren initially denied she had ever informed the schools of her belief that she was of Native American heritage but later admitted she had listed herself as a minority on some federal forms. She also said that she believed that she had Native American heritage, because her mother had aways said she did.)

Back to the video, in which Warren speaks on the phone with a renowned geneticist at Stanford University, who tells her that the results of her DNA test “suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestor in your pedigree.” The estimates of how much Native American heritage Warren possesses ranged from 1/64th to 1/1024th.

That lack of a conclusive finding was manna from heaven for Republicans — from President Trump on down — who savaged Warren as even more of a phony than they thought. “The one good thing about her test is that there was so little she had less than the average American,” Trump said to applause and laughter at a rally in Montana on Thursday night. “I used to say I have more Indian blood in me than she does and I have none. I used to say that. And I was right.”)

Barbs from Trump, Warren could live with. After all, there’s a 0% chance Trump was ever going to lay off his “Pocahontas” attack — no matter what alleged proof Warren produced of her heritage. The bigger problem for Warren is that, outside of her innermost circle of advisers, Democrats were left cold by her attempt to show that she could shore up her one glaring weakness going into 2020.

“Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now?,” asked Jim Messina, former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager. “Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???”

Messina was voicing a frustration and bewilderment with Warren that was common in Washington this week. Why now? And why at all, Democrats asked confusedly? Warren didn’t have any good answers, ensuring a very, very bad week for her.

The Point: Sometimes trying to get your bad stuff out early — i.e., before the 2020 cycle starts — backfires. This is one of those times.

Below, the week in 28 headlines. (For more on Warren’s failed DNA gambit, see what I had to say about it on YouTube…)