For the sake of Massachusetts, let’s hope that Elizabeth Warren gets better than this.
She was always a mildly underwhelming candidate, clutching her talking points like they were a satchel of gold — millionaires and billionaires, a level playing field, big oil. As deft as she was at slogans, she was never so good at answering questions, which was odd for a person of such experience and substance.
Her acceptance on Tuesday night continued that odd tradition — her stump speech warmed over with a midway nod toward her vanquished opponent, Scott Brown. It was hard to fathom that she couldn’t offer a few meaningful words on what it means to capture the honor of representing Massachusetts in the US Senate.
But none of this could have prepared anyone for the scene that unfolded Thursday afternoon in the governor’s suite of the State House. Warren met with Deval Patrick in his private office, and then the pair came into an adjacent conference room, where a battery of cameras and reporters were waiting.
Now consider for a moment what these introductory news conferences are intended to be. Easy — that’s what they’re supposed to be. It should be, and probably will be, the easiest news conference of a newly-elected official’s life, the anxiety of the election behind, the glow of victory all around, the glory of service ahead.
It was Warren’s chance to rest her elbows on the podium, tell the gathered crowd that she’s never felt this exhausted in her life, and then share a bit of her exhilaration over the prospect of standing up for the working class in the most important deliberative body in the world, talking points aside.
So did she do this, any of it? Let’s go to the tape.
“I’m glad,” she said curtly to a question about the high turnout of women voters that undoubtedly propelled her to victory.
“I’m delighted,” she said abruptly when asked her feelings on the number of women voted to high office this week.
“Of course,” she said shortly, when asked if she would seek diversity on her staff.
To the important question of what committee assignments she’d like, she replied, “I will continue to talk to the leader about it.”
After less than 12 minutes of these comically clipped answers, a gubernatorial aide called, “Last question,” prompting Warren to flee the room as if the podium was on fire. She made Scott Brown look like Cicero.
It only hurt, not helped, to learn that Warren later told a few reporters by way of explanation, “All I can say is I was a lot more discreet as a candidate than I was in real life.” She turned to an aide as she said this and asked, “Can I say that? Maybe it’s indiscreet to talk about discretion.”
Here’s what Elizabeth Warren needs to understand — immediately. Tens of thousands of good, honest, hard-working people sent her tens of millions of dollars to run what amounted to the most expensive and elaborate political campaign that this state has ever seen.
They didn’t just give their money, these supporters. They invested their hopes, their hearts, their dreams, and for many of them, their time. If she didn’t turn out to be the most scintillating candidate, that was OK, because she was far better than the other option, and they knew she would improve once she grabbed the prize.
And now that she’s won, what these people expect, what they want, is what is supposed to be Warren’s trademark: openness and honesty. They want someone who will treat the public with dignity and give honest voice to the issues that are on everyone’s mind, discretion be damned.
Yes, she is tired. Of course, it’s all new. Admittedly, this is about style.
But election night was lazy. Thursday was disrespectful. If Elizabeth Warren is better than this, and there is every hope and belief that she is, it’s time to start showing it now.