An act of perfidy on the part of a politician is not exactly an unprecedented crime. Growing up, I believed it was common wisdom that politicians are only the most skillful liars. I thought everyone knew that politicians lied professionally, that their practice was predicated on so much corruption and deceit that the only way for them to succeed within their field was to craft increasingly intricate and convoluted lies, the better to pull the wool over the eyes of an inexplicably gullible public. If this wasn’t the prevailing wisdom—and it couldn’t have been, not when roughly half of the adult population continued to turn out and vote for somebody—then there was very little reason why it shouldn’t have been.
It wasn’t until I came of voting age that I learned to wish for some integrity in politics. I wanted to believe in attractive people like Barack Obama, and I was willing to disregard all of the evidence against that belief. It’s very strange, this inclination of ours to search for wisdom and guidance in the class of politicians: why would these, of all people, offer worthwhile moral instruction? why not look among bakers or toll booth attendants? Whatever the reason, I looked for a person of basic decency among the people in government, and even though I’ve learned an awful lot—and I do mean an awful lot—about our cherished representatives in the dozen years since Obama beguiled me, I probably still maintain some desperate, delusional hope that someday a real hero will emerge on the campaign trail.
For some people, that hero is Elizabeth Warren. Much of the mainstream press respects her as an outspoken champion of consumers’ rights, a concept that suddenly seems a lot more tasteless than it is probably supposed to. She also speaks in support of universal healthcare, and she has become a prominent feminist icon, too, as illustrated by the homage to her in the recent cinematic disaster, Booksmart (my review of which you can read here). It’s unlikely that she will win the Democratic nomination for next year’s much-anticipated general election showdown, not when all of the major titans of tech appear to be gearing up to support Joe Biden, but in the meantime, she entices an entire generation of pseudo-feminists and boutique feminists with the soothing reverie of, “What if?”
I met Warren when she visited Hooksett, New Hampshire, in January. She gave a pretty formulaic speech about the evisceration of the middle class, which, she believed, can be reversed, in part by requiring all presidential candidates to release their tax returns to the public. I’m not sure what this will do to reduce my mortgage or the cost of groceries, but it was good enough to gin up the crowd. I felt a curious energy in the gymnasium in which she delivered her address, but I never believed I was face-to-face with the next Democratic nominee, never mind the next President of the United States.
After she wrapped up her soliloquy and answered, rather awkwardly, a few questions from the vox populi, she stood for photos with her adoring fans. I waited in line, not for nearly as long as I would have thought, and when the time came for us to smile at each other, I asked her what she thought about WikiLeaks. She gave me a curious look before saying, “Well, you heard what I said? They’re just getting out the information, right?”
I did not recall, and I still do not recall, her having uttered one word about WikiLeaks during her speech, nor was there any such reference at any time during the question-and-answer session. Of everything she said in Hooksett on that day, the only thing I could even haphazardly construe as being in acknowledgement of WikiLeaks was when she said she was in favor of abolishing the superdelegate system within the Democratic Party primaries: if this had anything to do with WikiLeaks, it was because WikiLeaks revealed that the Democratic Party had undermined Bernie Sanders’s most recent presidential campaign, but the superdelegate system was not a major focus in the secret documents. In fact, it wasn’t even a secret: anyone who seriously followed Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012 could have told you all about the problems with political delegation.
In any case, I appreciated Warren saying something kind-of nice about WikiLeaks. I didn’t believe she would do anything to help Julian Assange if she were elected president, but at least there was the possibility that she would speak in support of WikiLeaks at some other time on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, that possibility came to a predictable end just a few weeks ago: on May 24th, after a seemingly interminable silence on the subject of WikiLeaks, Warren came out to describe Julian Assange as, and I quote, “a bad actor who has harmed U.S. national security, and he should be held accountable.” This disgraceful statement, which ensures that I will not vote for her under any circumstances, was lost on the mainstream press, and even among many journalists who ought to know better, because, in the same breath, she denounced the Trump Administration’s attempt to suppress the press.
She declared: “Trump should not be using this case as a pretext to wage war on the First Amendment and go after the free press who hold the powerful accountable every day.” Upon first glance, the banality of her platitude might not smack you upside the head, but that is only because, like any glib politician, Warren possesses respectable skill in manipulating language. What she is actually saying is that, even though Assange should be prosecuted, the First Amendment ought not to be infringed upon—but what on earth does that mean? Apparently, she does not believe that the prosecution of Assange constitutes a suppression of the First Amendment, but we ought to beware that Trump may decide to suppress the First Amendment on some future day.
Such, at least, is my interpretation. Another explanation is that, while Assange should be tried and convicted because he “harmed U.S. national security” (a claim for which Warren offers no proof, because the proof does not exist), perhaps Trump should seek an alternative avenue. Don’t employ the Espionage Act, which troubles people, but find some other way to go after him. Then again, we don’t know if this is what Warren means, either. It’s very hard to find out what, exactly, is her meaning, but only in the second half of her statement; the first half, wherein she offers her hand in the government’s case against Assange, could not have been articulated any more clearly.
Now we know, for an incontrovertible fact, that Elizabeth Warren is another cheerleader for the national security state. She is no defender of investigative journalism, and she is certainly no friend of Julian Assange. She lied to me in January, and she will lie to you, and to the entire country, time and time again as she pursues the instruments of power currently wielded by Donald J. Trump. If we must continue to search for heroes among the Democratic Party, we can do so, but the time has come to cross Warren’s name off of our list.