Finding Himself In Trouble, Brown Returns To Race

Sen. Scott Brown arrives for his first debate with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. (AP)
Sen. Scott Brown arrives for his first debate with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. (AP)

For as long as I’ve been involved in politics — trust me, it’s a long time — one
thing I’ve learned is that when certain Republican candidates feel they’re going to lose,
they find a way to inject race into the campaign.

Brown Must Be In Trouble

While a recent Rasmussen poll showed the Senate race deadlocked at 48 percent, at last week’s first debate Sen. Scott Brown looked worried. (He bolted out of the WBZ’s studio the minute the debate ended.) With the first words out of his mouth at the debate, he accused Elizabeth Warren of lying about her Native American heritage. He claimed she used her ancestry to game the system to get an unfair advantage (presumably over white men), which got her hired by two Ivy League law schools.

Complete Nonsense

Brown wasn’t just questioning Warren’s character. He was charging that Warren used the law schools’ racial preferences to get a job for which she was not qualified. She said Charles Fried, who recommended her to the faculty at Harvard Law School, knew nothing about her family history. Fried, solicitor general under President Reagan, told the Associated Press the suggestion that Warren "attained her position and maintains her reputation on anything other than her evident merit is complete nonsense.”

You Can’t Pick Your Family 

Warren said she had learned of her heritage from stories told by her family. “When I was growing up, these were the stories that I knew about my heritage. This is my family, this is who I am, and it's not going to change.”

The Eyeball Test

Based on zero knowledge of genealogy, forensics or Warren’s family history, Brown said: “Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color. As you can see, she's not.” It’s not clear how Brown is able to discern someone’s ethnic background simply by looking at the person.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

To drive home the point, Brown staffers — one of whom was identified as a constituent services lawyer in Brown’s Senate office — mocked Warren with childish Indian war whoops and tomahawk chop gestures at a Brown rally in Boston.

While every TV station in Boston played a clip of the crude, immature antics, Brown somehow missed them. Apparently nobody in the Brown HQ records the news, something done in every major campaign in America. While he was said to have spoken loudly to his staff, Brown initial response was pathetic.

Brown As Replacement Referee

“I know we had a lot of rallies, so I don’t know what you’re specifically referring to, but if you’re saying that, certainly that’s not something I condone. It’s certainly something that if I am aware of it, I’ll tell that [staff] member to never do it again.” Brown’s view of events resembles the maligned work of the replacement referees in professional football.

Make ‘Em Deny It

Sometimes simply leveling a charge is enough to damage an opponent, no matter how preposterous it is. The late gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson told a likely acid-induced story of Lyndon B. Johnson trailing badly in his first race for Congress in Texas. His opponent was a wealthy pig farmer. LBJ ordered his campaign manager to call a press conference to accuse the farmer of having carnal knowledge of his sows. The manager said, “We can’t say that; it’s not true.” Johnson shouted: “Of course it’s not true, but let’s make the b**stard deny it.”

The Poor Have It Better Than Millionaires

Mitt Romney brushed up against race when he told a crowd of wealthy donors ($50,000-per-plate) that he couldn’t possibly get the votes of 47 percent of Americans. They don’t pay taxes, consider themselves victims, and are financially dependent on government, meaning President Obama. Wealthy Republicans apparently believe that poor people in America have got it better than the wealthy.

The 47 percent story, (kudos to Mother Jones), may mark the beginning of the end
for Romney’s presidential hopes. He might take Scott Brown down with him.

Dan Payne is WBUR’s Democratic analyst. For more political commentary, go to our Payne & Domke page.

This program aired on September 27, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Dan Payne

Dan Payne Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live