NATICK — US Senator Elizabeth Warren responded to a recent attack by President Trump on Sunday, saying he “tries to bully me in order to shut me up,” as she spoke to reporters after a question-and-answer session with supporters at the historic Belkin Family Lookout Farm.
It was the latest salvo in a longstanding war of words between the Massachusetts senator and the president, who provoked fresh criticism of his crass rhetoric at a rally Thursday in Montana. In his Great Falls speech, Trump again referred to Warren as “Pocahontas” and questioned her controversial claims of Native American ancestry, which Warren says are based on family lore but remain unproven.
In remarks some described as both sexist and racist, Trump said that if he were debating Warren, he would toss a DNA test kit at her — “but we have to do it gently, because we’re in the ‘Me Too’ generation” — and tell her, “I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.”
Warren swiftly responded with a tweet that tied Trump’s japes about her ancestry to his administration’s controversial separations of immigrant parents and children who have entered the country illegally.
On Sunday, she weighed in further as she spoke to local, national, and international reporters after the packed event, which her campaign estimated had drawn 1,500 supporters.
Warren said Trump has not only tried to bully her, but that “he’s also trying to bully women all across this country. When he talks about ‘Me Too,’ it isn’t just me Donald Trump’s going after. It’s every woman who speaks up. And he thinks we should sit down and shut up? It’s just not going to happen.”
Asked about Trump’s offer to make a charitable donation if she took a DNA test, Warren shrugged it off as a distraction technique.
“Donald Trump wants us to talk about anything other than what’s going on in the Trump administration,” she said.
Warren took a more measured tone earlier while addressing the crowd, recommending a search for common ground with those who disagree even as she promised to never stop fighting for her values. She avoided making personal comments about Trump as she addressed the ways in which she, other congressional Democrats, and their supporters could oppose his agenda.
She zeroed in on policies the president and congressional Republicans are pursuing on immigration, the environment, medical research, the opioid crisis, college affordability, and tax policy, and framed last year’s GOP-led tax cut as the major obstacle to reasonable legislative approaches to the other issues she mentioned.
Warren said that she has approached GOP legislators multiple times with ideas to address important issues, and on each they have given her the same response.
“You know what they say to me? ‘Great idea. But we can’t afford it. Because we just gave away a trillion and a half dollars to giant corporations and billionaires,’ ” she said.
The popular liberal senator is running for reelection and in recent polls has shown a big lead over her challengers: three Republicans — state Representative Geoff Diehl, businessman John Kingston, and longtime GOP activist Beth Lindstrom — and an independent, Shiva Ayyadurai.
In public statements, Warren often appears to be running not against those candidates — none of whom she mentioned on Sunday — but against Trump. She has made moves that suggest she will challenge Trump in 2020, such as meeting with former President Barack Obama and with potential donors in New York.
In answer to a reporter’s question about the speculation, she replied, “I’m not running for president.” However, she said little Sunday that might persuade voters she’s not considering a challenge to Trump, as she mostly took on his policies and agenda in the forum.
In addressing voters’ fears about the increasing difficulty for ordinary people to achieve their American dreams, Warren touched a nerve that lies close to the one that has driven Trump’s appeal to many of his supporters, though the inclusive nation of immigrants, naturalized citizens, and those born into citizenship that she described was radically different than the America that Trump has envisioned.
Warren discussed her personal connection to some of the issues she raised, describing the working-class Oklahoma family in which she grew up to show how their lives exemplified the benefits of institutions she said she will always support: the US military and its veterans, organized labor, Social Security and Medicare — as well as educational opportunities for the working class.
“I stand here today in front of all of you,” she said, “as someone who is the daughter of a janitor and a mom who worked a minimum-wage job at Sears, and ended up as a public school teacher, a law professor, and ultimately a United States senator, because America invested in kids like me.”Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.