Sunday, September 01, 2019


The New Republic's Nick Martin says he is "among those who have criticized (Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth) Warren, initially for believing the DNA test was in any way a good idea, and later for her subsequent responses and apologies."

Martin details Warren's ongoing inadequate, even clumsy, efforts to put behind her the matter of her limited Native Indian Tribe background. However, he is more concerned with the confused manner in which the media has addressed the issue and he observes

Due to this lack of Native representation in the newsroom, the DNA test story looks to many outlets like an easy lifeline, an opportunity for them to show that they’re in tune with Native issues. Reporters, no doubt on deadline, call up a couple of non-Native political strategists, search Twitter for Warren’s critics, interview them—or just summarize their tweets—crank out two stories, and sit patiently as they wait for another chance to plug the words “Pocahontas” and “Warren” and “DNA” into their SEO generators.

This is reprehensible. There clearly are two legitimate ways the media can approach this. One way is to recognize that a) Warren has apologized, apologized, and apologized and b) an individuals' ethnic background is of less importance than is being attached to it, especially if the controversy ensued because the Senator is not, in relevant part, descended from a Native tribe.

The other is to put it into context.  Warren's Democratic opponents are far more interested in the Senator's views on such issues as health care, financial regulation, higher education, and other such unsexy but critical topics.  So if it's only President Trump (currently) and his surrogates (if she surges to the head of the Democratic pack) who are obsessed with Warren's ethnic background, reporters might want to note (as TheGuardian did 13-14 months ago)

Last week, as Trump has careened across Europe, he repeated his touching tale. In an interview recorded in Scotland, he said: “Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors – my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.”

It was heartwarming stuff. It wasn’t true, but it was heartwarming.

Trump’s mother, Mary MacLeod, was indeed born in Scotland, on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. But his father, Fred Trump, was born in New York City, in the United States of America. Not Germany.

Fred Trump took over the family real estate business as a teenager and made vast sums before passing the reins to his son.

Fred Trump’s father, Friedrich Trump, was born in Germany, in the sleepy village of Kallstadt. He left for America at 16 and worked as a barber in Manhattan before heading west.

He lived in Washington state for a while and in the Yukon, in Canada, he sold horse meat and other “services” to goldminers.

Friedrich returned to Germany but was kicked out for skipping military service. His son barely left New York. Until the 1980s, though, he pretended he was of Swedish ancestry, which he felt would be more palatable to many of his Jewish tenants.

His son repeated the Swedish claim in his bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, then flirted with a run for the White House in 2000. His political ambitions were really fueled years later, though, by his leadership of the “birther” movement, which insisted Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus could not be president.

That wasn’t true. Neither is it true that Trump’s own dad was born abroad.

The most glaring difference between the Trump story and the Warren story is that the latter has taken pains to explain her statements and acknowledge error while Donald Trump has done nothing of the sort.  Perhaps in retrospect, once having distorted her ancestry, Warren should have ignored the subject entirely. However, her decision to confront the controversy should not be perceived as encouraging the media to cover this to the exclusion of actual substantive issues. "It's O.K. if you're Donald Trump" shouldn't be the determinant.

President Trump can demagogue an issue just fine on his own. He shouldn't have a willing accomplice in an institution for which he has only contempt.

                                            HAPPY LABOR DAY

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