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Indian Spring

Another Massachusetts miracle for Scott Brown?

Jun 4, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 36 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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As just about everyone knows by now, Elizabeth Warren has claimed to be a “native American.” (Cherokee, to be precise, but where’s the pun in that?) This isn’t so unusual among people from Oklahoma, but Warren’s claim was more than just anecdotal bar talk. From 1986 through 1995 she listed herself as a minority in a professional directory of the Association of American Law Schools. First the University of Pennsylvania and then Harvard identified her as one of their “minority” faculty. It is not possible to know if this was a consideration in her hiring, since the schools have not released her employment records. But in the world of elite universities, where diversity is celebrated and quotas are the clandestine order of the day, it worked out nicely for all.

However, Warren could not back up her claim of being 1/32 Cherokee. (She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and decidedly white skin.) This, in spite of the fact that the Cherokee Heritage Center maintains a genealogical research operation at its headquarters in Park Hill, Oklahoma, that can trace such claims back to the Dawes Rolls of the early 20th century and does so routinely. The Boston Globe did publish a story that seemed to endorse Warren’s claim on the basis of an 1894 application for a marriage license, but then printed a retraction, leaving the claim unsupported by any documentary evidence. Things seem likely to remain that way after the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta’s exhaustive reporting, which explored all the official possibilities. But while Warren may be unable to prove she is a Native American, Franke-Ruta writes, neither is there credible evidence that she gained any professional preference from the claims.

She did, however, contribute some recipes to a cookbook called Pow Wow Chow, edited by her cousin and published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum of Muskogee. Warren’s byline identified her as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee.” Worse, the recipes may not have been original but cribbed from the French chef and New York Times columnist Pierre Franey, whose crab dish was the specialty of a New York restaurant and a favorite of that famous Indian chief, the Duke of Windsor.

The entire matter has been great fodder for local talk radio, blogs, and the Boston Herald. Warren has not backed down, contending that she is going by family lore, that she is proud of her Native-American heritage, and that the entire matter is a distraction. When Ed Schultz asked about the matter, she answered, “Scott Brown and the Republicans would rather talk about anything other than real issues.” Among them, the influence of Wall Street and the banks to which Brown supposedly caved in his negotiations with Barney Frank when, Warren contends, he traded his vote for a weakening of the Dodd-Frank legislation.

If the Cherokee business is, indeed, a distraction, then it is a good one in that it turned the attentions of voters onto the loathsome diversity hustle that they are -otherwise not permitted to talk about. And, of only slightly less importance, it has made a politician who was excessively adored by the media look foolish and human. This is always a good thing.

Warren will still run, then, as the friend of the middle class and enemy of big-money institutions (though, in the minds of some people in Massachusetts, she is employed by one). And she will continue to be supported by the usual suspects, including Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who did a recent fundraiser for her campaign.

While the glow has been dulled a little, one suspects that by November voters will no longer be focusing on the Indian stuff and the election will be what it started out being: a contest between two pretty attractive personalities, both of them with baggage. In Warren’s case, Harvard. In Brown’s, the Republican party.

After all, this is still Massachusetts.

Geoffrey Norman, a writer in Vermont, is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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