One of the unwritten rules of political campaigns is that when there are accusations against a candidate that seem to be taking their toll on the candidate’s poll numbers, the campaign should seek to rebut the allegations without elevating them. That was one of the main criticisms–though surely not the only one–of Christine O’Donnell’s infamous ad proclaiming that she was not, in fact, a witch. Why even suggest to voters that they had any reason to believe she might be a witch, regardless of the stories of strange, and long forgotten, teenage eccentricities?
That is the primary difference between O’Donnell’s ad and a new one released by the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts–O’Donnell was obvious innocent of the charges against her. Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that Warren claimed Native American heritage on job applications that would give her “minority” considerations in the hiring process thanks to the increased focus on ethnic diversity in education. She did so without—then or since—providing evidence in support of her claimed status. Warren is now a tenured professor at Harvard Law, and has earned the ire both of Native American groups—whose heritage has been used as a prop by a wealthy, white, elite professor—and of minorities in general, who understand that Warren may have taken a spot away from a minority applicant by claiming she was one.
As I wrote last week, a Boston Herald poll showed that Warren might be developing a “trust problem,” because she has sought to avoid answering questions about her claim rather than provide an explanation. Voters may have been picking up on a sense that Warren was hiding something. In the candidates’ first debate last week, Brown criticized Warren on the issue at the outset, and has followed up with an ad about it. Warren has responded with an ad of her own, advancing her claim and suggesting Brown’s criticism should be off-limits. She also says in the ad that she never asked for any benefit from her unfounded claim. The problem is, she is wrong on both counts. As CBS reports in its story about Warren’s defensive ad:
Warren has said she is Native American, and listed herself as such in some professional forms in the past, but has not offered up documentation proving that she is an official member of the Native American community.
There’s just no way around the fact that she claimed unsupported minority status on a job application where that minority status was expected to give her an edge. And in an age when anyone can trace their genealogical history from their personal computer, and in an era when records have been digitized, it’s much less convincing for Warren to insist that family lore and childhood stories are to be the final arbiters of the truthfulness of her statements.
Additionally, this is not the first time she pretended to be the victim when called out on her dubious assertions. As I wrote when this issue first appeared on the national radar screen:
Then Warren waded into it herself, saying of Brown: “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”…
Despite her obvious smarts, she has reflexively fallen back on charges of sexism, even when they are so ridiculous as to make you cringe. If Warren, a rich, white, Harvard professor, is a victim, everyone is.
I said that this was something of a tragedy for modern liberalism, since Warren is extremely intelligent, informed, and capable. Yet now she wants her gender, along with her supposed ethnic identity, to insulate her from fair criticism. It’s a pattern, and it only reinforces the credibility of the accusations against her.