The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

June 23, 2014

Outsider on a mission

Some politicians know they want to be in public office and scramble to come up with the reason why. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is an accidental, improbable politician — a self-described “outsider” — who knows exactly what she wants to accomplish on the inside.

The Massachusetts Democrat insists that she’s not running for president, and there’s little reason to doubt her — although, interestingly, Warren sticks doggedly to the present tense to describe her intentions.

I asked Warren about this phrasing the other afternoon over iced tea mixed with lemonade at a restaurant near her Capitol Hill office.

Why not simply declare that she will not run for president in 2016? “I am not running for president in 2016,” Warren responded. Yes, I pressed, but why not say, I am not running and I will not run?

“Because we can’t get so deeply involved in the politics of 2016 that we miss the importance of the issues in front of us today in July of 2014 and the 2014 election,” Warren replied, jumping slightly ahead of the calendar. “It is absolutely crucial to stay focused right now on this set of issues and that’s what I’m doing.”

Hmmm. “The point is not to try to create any ambiguity,” Warren added. “I am not running. I think I am being definitive.”

But to read Warren’s book, and to hear the passion in her voice as she talks about the plight of the middle class and the Washington deck stacked so decidedly against them, is to wonder, as she might say in her folksy Oklahoma way: Why the heck not?

Political consultants constantly hunt for the personal narrative to marry with campaign message. Agree with her politics or not, for Warren, autobiography is ideology: She has lived the one-mishap-away-from-bankruptcy existence that she is determined to help provide a governmental cushion against.

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