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The long and the short of Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to the Globe’s editorial board on Oct. 16.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Elizabeth Warren stopped by the Globe the other day to make the case for her reelection, leaving me with three distinct impressions.

First: When it comes to filibustering, our senior senator makes Jimmy Stewart’s talk-a-thonic Jefferson Smith look like a piker. My colleague Alan Wirzbicki started the session by asking, in affably audible tones, why Warren had decided, at this particular moment, to release the DNA analysis showing she does indeed have some Indian ancestry?

Warren began her answer by noting that, for the last three or four years, she has been thinking about why democracy doesn’t work in America. She then segued into a discussion of prescription drug costs, lamented that Medicare can’t negotiate drug prices, and spoke of the need for investment in infrastructure. She decried the influence of money in politics and underscored how inequitable the distribution of wealth has become in the last several decades.

By this point, we were almost five minutes in, and the meandering airship of her answer showed no sign of touching down anywhere near the landing pad of Alan’s question. Indeed, it wasn’t altogether clear that self-same airship was still in the continental airspace of his query.


So it was that I moved cloture. That is, I noted that the question had been why she had decided to release her test results this week.

“I believe in transparency,” she said. “This was just another part of that.”

My political translation: I wanted to get that out of the way now, in case I launch a presidential campaign next year.

Second impression: Although she handled the DNA test clumsily, for those who base their judgments on facts and evidence, this matter should now be settled. Here’s why. The test results show it’s nearly certain Warren did have a Native American ancestor, which means she didn’t simply manufacture that claim. But more important, there’s really nothing to the central political charge against her here. That is, that she asserted Indian ancestry to advance her career. That issue should have been settled by the truly exhaustive reporting of the Globe’s Annie Linskey. After scouring hundreds of documents and conducting scores of interviews, Linskey concluded that Warren’s claim hadn’t been a consideration at any of the law schools that hired her.


There’s really no one in the know who asserts the contrary. Nor have Warren’s critics produced any evidence to back their charge. They’ll continue in their baseless attacks, of course. That’s politics today. But that will say far more about their misology than it will about her integrity.

My third impression: Warren’s commitment to single-payer health care isn’t exactly at Alamo intensity. I asked why, at a time when the public has finally swung around to majority support for the Affordable Care Act, she, once dubious of single-payer, has signed onto that policy panacea. To my jaundiced ear, her answer seemed to be of the muddy-the-waters variety.

The first order of business on health care, she said, is to defend the Affordable Care Act, the second to make improvements to it. Then we must turn to lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

All well and good. But why, after making all the necessary improvements to the ACA, would she want to shift the country to single-payer? Well, Warren said, there are many ways to move in that direction, such as letting people buy into Medicare for coverage or lowering the age for Medicare eligibility.


But let’s say Democrats regain power in Washington. Does she have a target date in mind for moving to single-payer?

“The whole point is, we can make the system we have much better,” she said. “It’s not like a light switch.”

My political translation: It doesn’t seem to be like any kind of switch at all. That is, her support for single-payer appears more aspirational than actual.

As a single-payer skeptic, that makes me feel better about Warren.

But I doubt Bernie and the lefties will.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.