Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is a full-spectrum critic of school choice, charter schools, and any government policy that could result in more kids going to private or charter schools instead of public schools.
A few weeks ago, when a parent told Warren that she “read that your children went to private schools,” Warren quickly responded, “No, my children went to public schools.” As it turns out, both of her children went to private schools for a period and public schools for a period. As you would suspect, these were well-regarded, elite, high-tuition private schools. Reason magazine’s Corey DeAngelis wrote an article about this, declaring, “I don’t blame her! I’m happy they had that option. But maybe Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t fight tooth and nail against extending similar opportunities to poor families.”
Jeb Bush — the former governor of Florida and unsuccessful presidential candidate — retweeted the Reason article with the headline’s tart observation that “Elizabeth Warren was so ‘#PublicSchoolProud’ that she sent her son to expensive private schools for the majority of his K-12 education.”
Jonathan Allen of NBC News examined all this and spotted the villain in the story: Jeb Bush.
Yup. Good old polite, decent, easygoing Jeb “please clap” Bush. The guy who supposedly had low energy, who added an exclamation point after his name to generate excitement, had done nothing less than attack a child. “It used to be that polticians [sic] drew the line at attacking each other’s children,” Allen tweeted.
For quite a few members of the Washington press corps, the angle of the story that is most interesting, newsworthy, and relevant is the one where the Democratic figure is the victim or good guy and the one where the Republican figure is the bad guy. This is how we get “Republicans pounce” headlines about Democratic scandals. This is how the most important aspect of any developing story about a Democratic scandal is the question of whether Republicans are overreaching. This is how former congresswoman Katie Hill can get media interviews discussing “dehumanizing” attacks from the “right-wing media” and articles that don’t even mention that the House Ethics Committee was investigating claims she had a sexual relationship with a staffer.
When quite a few conservatives confronted Allen on Twitter about his assessment, he kept doubling down: “It’s the choice to go after sending the kid to a private school rather than what she said to the activist. Most politicians used to refrain from going after each other for how they raised their own kids.”
You can’t separate the two; the statement to the activist is a lie only because of Warren’s decision to send her kids to private schools. She knows the contradiction between her own choices and the policies she wants to enact for everyone, and that’s why she lied.
But notice all the angles that didn’t catch Allen’s eye. What do Democrats claim to stand for? Equality. They decry wealth disparity and privilege. They say they want to make sure everybody gets a fair shot. But Warren’s arguing against policies that allow other, less wealthy parents to get the options that her family enjoyed. And Allen seemed much more bothered by Jeb Bush’s reaction to Warren’s lie than the lie itself.
Beyond that, maybe politicians should go after each other for how they raise their kids — at least when they don’t practice what they preach. Conservatives pointed this out when the Clintons sent Chelsea Clinton to Sidwell Friends and when the Obamas sent their daughters to the same school. For some reason, public schools are good enough for everyone else, but not for the children of politicians.
If you want to send your kids to private school, that’s fine, but there are consequences if you subsequently emerge as an impassioned opponent of school-choice programs. If, like Warren, you push to end all federal funding for charter schools, seek a ban on for-profit charter schools, want more regulations on all charter schools, and want to make it more difficult to start new charter schools, you had better be ready to face an accusation of intolerable hypocrisy.
But certain angles just never seem that interesting to some members of the Washington press corps. They don’t see any morally problematic contradiction when politicians who enjoy armed security around themselves at all times oppose private ownership of firearms. Mike Bloomberg says, “We’re in a race against time with climate change,” and apparently he plans to win that race in his $30 million Dassault Falcon private jet. Sixty-one percent of U.S. House members don’t pay their interns, a fact that rarely comes up in debates about the minimum wage and honoring the dignity of work. These topics become much more interesting when they can be shoehorned into that familiar template, where the Democratic figure is the victim or good guy and the one where the Republican figure is the bad guy.
Warren is not a particularly good liar. She claims she never knew that Harvard University was touting her as a “woman of color” over her self-professed Native American status. She originally touted her DNA test as “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry. She describes herself as “a teacher” on the campaign trail, not a $429,981-over-two-years Harvard Law professor or $675-per-hour consultant in law cases. She insists she’ll be able to pay for Medicare for All by getting prescription-drug companies to sell the same medication they do now for 30 percent of the current prices.
When cornered, Warren insists two plus two equals five and hopes that no one will notice. She’s pretty bad at this, and she’s not likely to win the nomination and the presidency without a lot of outside help. The only way Warren’s going to survive is if calling out her lies is seen as somehow beyond the pale or unacceptable behavior. Luckily for her, certain Washington correspondents are eager to perform that role.