Brian McGrory has an odd column today, in which he proclaims the Elizabeth Warren heritage mess a legitimate campaign issue calling into question her "integrity, credibility, and authenticity," and thus her fitness for high office.
I was interested to read his argument, because I've been trying to pose this question of late, and want to open it up now for public response: What about this Cherokee heritage story should dissuade voters from giving Warren their vote? (Not whether it will, which is a political analysis question, but whether it should.)
Putting aside what the response to it might say about the campaign's ability to walk and chew gum. And mind you, I'm not saying the story isn't interesting, and worthy of springtime reporting -- particularly for what it may say about Harvard, which to me is far more interesting so far than what it says about Warren. But Harvard isn't running for Senate.
What I'm asking is whether there is something about Warren's past references to her (probably mistaken) partial Cherokee heritage that should be a knock against her as a candidate for the US Senate.
Presumably, the answer would lie in something it says about her integrity, credibility, and authenticity, as McGrory writes. But what?
McGrory's answer is that it would be bad if she used her heritage claim "to improve her prospects for being hired." And, although there is no actual evidence that she did, "why else would she have done it?"
Why else? Because -- it seems to me -- mentioning their heritage is what people do.
I mean, let's be serious; you can't spend five minutes with most people in the Boston area without hearing some reference to their lineage. Irish? Italian (North or South)? PR or DR? Holocaust survivors, or when did they leave?
As far as I can tell, Warren (naturally, understandably) believed what her family told her, and, like most of us, wore it like one of those bits of flair that personalize a chain-restaurant waitress's uniform. She mentioned it on occasion. She checked it off on some forms that would pass that information on to others, but not in ways that directly applied for specific benefits.
Most of us have bits of our family history we think we know, but don't actually know we know. We use those histories in all sorts of perfectly innocent ways, although if we're honest we use them to "improve our prospects" in subtle, indirect ways. Sometimes, people cross a line and use those histories in ways they shouldn't without verifying them -- in applying for a scholarship, or in writing a memoir -- and that's a sin but in most cases a fairly minor sin. It's possible that Warren committed a sin of that nature somewhere along the way, although I haven't seen any evidence of it yet.
So, getting back to my question: why should voters be dissuaded from voting for her by what she's done?
Elsewhere, I've seen arguments that it's part of a pattern of lies, but the list of examples are not really accusations of dishonesty but disputes over policy or analysis. I don't see it.
So I ask you: in a simple, clear sentence or two, why should voters hold this against her when they go to vote?
[NOTE: Updated to fix misspelling of McGrory's name.]