The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Giving offense

Politics | Sen. Elizabeth Warren answers insult with injury
by Harvest Prude
Posted 10/18/18, 04:50 pm

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tried to put to rest a controversy about her heritage by releasing the results of a DNA test, but she just stirred up more backlash from liberal, conservative, and Native American groups.

In an effort to quell criticisms that have dogged her since 2012, Warren released a video Monday explaining she took a DNA test that showed “strong evidence” she had a Native American ancestor about six to 10 generations ago. The controversy first emerged during Warren’s successful bid for a Senate seat in 2012, when it came out that from 1986 to 1994, she self-identified as a minority to the Association of American Law Schools, a directory of law professors. She also contributed a recipe to a cookbook published in Oklahoma in 1984 titled Pow Wow Chow, in which she listed herself as Cherokee.

Her self-identification raised questions about whether Warren was a Cherokee and if she used her minority status to get ahead as a law professor. Warren has defended herself by saying she earned all of her teaching positions based on merit alone, and her various employers have backed her up on that point.

Warren’s video about her family tree and DNA results, which quickly started trending on Twitter, included footage of President Donald Trump calling her “Pocahontas” and saying he would give her $1 million if a DNA test proved her claims of Cherokee heritage. Many Twitter followers said it was time for the president to pay up, and media outlets reported the results as “proof” of Warren’s claim.

But then the strategy backfired.

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. released a scathing statement explaining that DNA test results cannot show Warren is Cherokee or any other tribe. “Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America,” Hoskin said. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. … Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Warren clarified on Twitter that she was not claiming tribal citizenship but proving her Native American ancestry. She also said she took the test as a response to Trump’s name-calling. Hoskin has also condemned the president’s use of “Pocahontas,” calling it a slur.

Hoskin told NPR that the “ongoing back-and-forth political fight … undermines tribal interest.” He also told The New York Times that no one on Warren’s team contacted the Cherokee Nation before publicizing the results.

Other Native American voices explained why Warren’s move was out-of-touch. Deadspin writer and Native American Nick Martin explained that because tribes set their own citizenship requirements, Warren’s move “circumvented this acknowledgement of tribal sovereignty and clung to that heritage for no other reason than being able to claim a cheap political victory,” adding, “She will claim that this was the necessary response, that she can’t allow the President to constantly mock her as a liar. But she is the one who decided to cite her Native heritage, long before Trump was on the scene.”

The president also didn’t seem subdued. In a tweet that began with his signature insult of Warren, he wrote that she “should apologize for perpetrating this fraud.”

Warren went back to the press to defend the decision that was supposed to be a political slam dunk. When asked whether she regretted identifying herself as Native American while a law professor years ago, Warren said, “The distinction is: I’m not a citizen, never claimed to be, and I wish I had been more mindful of that 30 years ago.”

Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci President Donald Trump, Small Business Administration administrator Linda McMahon (center) and director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday at the White House

In the red

Democrats and Republicans are blaming each other for a soaring federal budget deficit after figures released this week showed the 2018 deficit increased 17 percent from last year amid increased government spending and declining revenue.

The deficit rose to $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an increase of $113 billion from 2017. That’s the highest in six years, according to numbers released by the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The White House said bolstering military spending and budget agreements reached with Democrats in Congress had increased government spending, but officials claimed President Donald Trump’s economic policies would eventually bring in more tax revenue as the economy grows.

“The president is very much aware of the realities presented by our national debt,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said. “America’s booming economy will create increased government revenues—an important step toward long-term fiscal sustainability. But this fiscal picture is a blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”

Trump told members of his Cabinet that he wanted to see proposals for 5 percent cuts within their departments to help lower spending. “It’s something we can actually do, and we can do it easily,” the president said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointed the finger at ballooning spending on government entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” he told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

Democrats quickly seized on McConnell’s remarks ahead of midterm elections to claim Republicans want to destroy the popular programs.

“Under the GOP’s twisted agenda, we can afford tax cuts for billionaires but not the benefits our seniors have earned,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said $164 billion of the deficit was a result of the tax cuts, while $68 billion came from a budget agreement, and those two items would make up an even larger share of the deficit next year.

“As expected, recent tax cuts and spending increases—all put on the national credit card—are making a bad problem even worse,” said Maya MacGuineas, the group’s president. —Anne K. Walters

House forecast

With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, WORLD Radio’s Nick Eicher talked with Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center about Republicans’ chances in the midterms. Olsen said the personality and character of President Donald Trump would be the defining issue of this election. He also predicted a big win for Democrats.

“I think it’s very likely we’ll see the House change hands absent the sort of defining news event that almost never happens during a cycle,” Olsen said. “I think that the prognosticators who do this in a hard mathematical way tend to give the Democrats between 70 and 80 percent chance of winning the House, and I would tend to err on the high side of that.” —Lynde Langdon

Read more of The Stew Sign up for The Stew email
Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 09:49 am

    I would that the term "program" related to Social Security would just stop. It's a benefit, not unlike a 401k or an IRA, that almost every American has been forced to pay into in order to provide funds for retirement. Our hard work. Our money, our future, mismanaged by Congress...

  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 10:08 am

    Giving Offense - The words “Native American” is fraught with disinformation. First, no one is a native, everybody came from someplace else.  Most of these “early arrivers” came long before our nation was call America. As far as I can tell, most of these earlier arrivers preferred to be called by their tribal affiliation, so just do that. Calling them “Native Americans” is just as incorrect as calling them “Indians”.     My Great, Great Grandparents migrated from Germany in the 1880’s.  Nobody has ever called me a German American. So if you want to be an American, then drop the misinformation with the word “native”.  I am happy and proud to be an American.  It is way too hard to be ONE nation of Americans with all this sub-culture stuff driving us apart.  That is what I find offensive.        

  •  Uff Da's picture
    Uff Da
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 06:01 pm

    "a DNA test that showed “strong evidence” she had a Native American ancestor about six to 10 generations ago"

    This means that Elizabeth Warren is between 0.1% and 2.0% Native American.

    Other than Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren is the only person crazy enough to claim a heritage based on such a fragile thread.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 07:43 pm

    There is strong evidence that we are all children of Adam and Eve.  As such we are all cousins and of the same race, the human race.  Christians should counteract all of the racist language of identity politics with the truth.

    Footnote:  Jesus frequently called himself the Son of Man, which in Aramaic and Hebrew is Ben haAdam, or Son of Adam.  The modern Hebrew word for human is the same, "Son of Adam".  Look it up in any Hebrew dictionary.  Modern science agrees.  Anthropologists now state that there is no race other than the human race.  Let us stand with the Bible and science.

  • Cosmo
    Posted: Sat, 10/20/2018 01:08 pm

    My granddaughter is 2 generations removed from "Native American" heritage and has no evidence of that from the DNA test.  It apears that the Native Americans have not provided enough DNA evidence to substantiate anything about heritage.  At least that is the explanation they recieved when asking why this would not show up.

  • KP
    Posted: Sun, 10/21/2018 04:26 pm

    Is anyone laughing at the irony here in the first story? It's racist to self identify as Native American (or any other race than you actually are) regardless of reality. But a person can self identify as any gender they want regardless of reality and it would be bigotry not to affirm the belief of that person. They both have to do with identity. We live in weird times people...

  •  BOB JR's picture
    BOB JR
    Posted: Mon, 10/22/2018 07:39 pm

    We paid into Social Security.  I was it's own fund until in the 1970s the government placed it into the general fund/