Boston — Elizabeth Warren would be a catastrophe in the Senate, but she is hell on wheels when it comes to directing human traffic, which is no small thing at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in Boston. She goes bulling her way through a crowd of faces the color of 2 percent milk, sicklied o’er with the pale cast of Southie Irishness, or rendered rosy by the effects of seriously draining down a full bar that opened at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning, plowing through like she’s just graduated from a seminar in Advanced Executive Body Language, all exaggerated masculine gestures and “Yes! I am very seriously paying attention to you!” head bobs and vigorous “This is what Sincerity looks like . . . approximately!” power nods, complemented by “Move along, sir!” shoulder grips followed by quick and vigorous “Back the Hell Off” chest pats when some florid Southie denizen moves in for a hug — she is like Moses parting the kelly green sea. She is a populist in search of a people, and the wall-eyed gang shout-singing “Southie Is My Home Town” and chasing their eggs and rashers with Jameson on the rocks isn’t it. St. Patrick’s Day, as state senator Jack Hart (“Senator Hot,” in the local pronunciation) reminds the crowd, is also celebrated in Boston as Evacuation Day, and Warren looks like she is in dire need of an emergency airlift back to Cambridge.
The breakfast is a political roast, which puts Warren at a disadvantage: As with cancer and feminism, there is nothing funny about Elizabeth Warren. Once she has traversed the beshamrocked riff-raff and been seated on the dais, she fades away — hardly anybody takes notice of her. Whether this is because her fellow Democrats regard her as a fragile little thing or because they can think of nothing to say about her, almost nobody makes an Elizabeth Warren joke. Even her Republican opponent, Senator Scott Brown, barely acknowledges her, merely spitting over his shoulder, “Professor Warren, it’s good to see you. You were a little late, but I’m glad you were able to get out of Cambridge and find your way up here.”