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S.E. Cupp: Elizabeth Warren just made it easier to mock her

November 12, 2018

If ever there were a more colossally stupid political stunt than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren releasing her DNA results in a dim-witted attempt to “own” President Trump, I honestly can’t think of one. Michael Dukakis’ tank ride comes close, but at least you could argue his made sense on paper; just the visual was a failure.

This -- a splashy video proclaiming her Oklahoma roots and Native American ancestry -- made no sense, none at all. It was, I suppose, meant to put to bed one of Trump’s favorite taunts, calling her “Pocahontas” for claiming to be part Native American. But all it did was prove she is in no way prepared to take him on in 2020.

That this idea got past an intern, let alone a communications shop and a chief of staff, tells me no one working for Warren understands politics, public relations or voters. Politically, a good adviser would know this would look silly at best and anger actual Native Americans, at worst.

And, it did. When the Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. says, “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage,” you know it’s bad.

Perhaps they might have been forewarned had they, say, reached out to folks like Hoskin first. And yet, he says neither Warren nor anyone on her staff contacted the Cherokee Nation before declaring her heritage. These are rookie PR mistakes.

She didn’t see the criticism coming.

“Warren might even be less Native American than the average European American,” blared an RNC press release.

How this wasn’t anticipated when her DNA tests only showed she was as little as 1/1024th Native American is astonishing. Fifth-graders can grasp that math.

So now, not only is she forced to confront the anger among the very community she’s insisting she’s a part of, but she has to perform some comical contortions around the meaning of the results.

She does not get how Trump fights.

Bringing facts to a Trump fight is like bringing a ladle to a gun fight. Neither he nor his followers are deterred by facts, and how Warren doesn’t know this by now is mind-blowing.

Indeed, he was as bothered by this as he would be a light breeze. “Who cares, who cares?” he told reporters.

It doesn’t even matter that Republicans and even many in the media are overblowing the inaccuracy of her claims.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, admirably tried to clarify this, explaining that “the results in Warren’s DNA test are static” and “the percentage of Native American DNA in her genome does not shrink as you go back generations.” Comparing her to “an average ‘European-American,’” he points out, “is misleading, because there are wide variations in the genetic makeup,” But all most hear is “blah, blah, blah” and no one cares.

If her 2020 plan is to beat Trump with information, boy is Warren in for a rude awakening.

She just screwed her own party.

Less than two weeks before midterms, this is not what Democrats want to be talking about. As one longtime Republican PR pro told me, “With one simple cheek swab, Warren managed to pull off the remarkable feat of annoying fellow Democratic senators fighting for their political lives, pissing off Native Americans and ensuring that Trump triples down on the ‘Pocahontas’ taunts, which have even more legitimacy.”

Even those who aren’t up for election in 2018 are having trouble sidestepping the question. Julian Castro, a 2020 contender, was asked about it on CNN, and the best he could muster was that she “should never have been put in that position.”

That’s some defense.

Identity politics is a loser. Still.

A white senator insisting she is Native American and then providing the evidence that she isn’t in any meaningful way isn’t endearing her to voters.

And it leads to headlines like, “Pocahontas Descendant Appears on Fox News, Tells Elizabeth Warren to Apologize.”

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is dealing with a similar crisis after accidentally outing sexual assault victims in a campaign ad. That headline looks like this: “Sexual Assault Victim Outed by Heidi Heitkamp Tells CNN: My Life Will Never Be the Same.”

Issues, not identities, are what voters care about. But this, too, is presumably a lesson Warren will not have learned from this debacle. The question is, can she figure all this out by 2020?

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