Poor Elizabeth Warren.
She took President Trump’s bait and submitted to a DNA test to demonstrate her American Indian genealogy — and, in so doing, may have doomed her presidential campaign before it began. Now the Massachusetts senator is not only enduring Trump’s “Pocahontas” insults (at least when he’s not calling another woman “Horseface”) but also being disparaged by Indian tribes.
“Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage,” proclaimed the Cherokee Nation, decrying her “inappropriate and wrong” use of a DNA test, a “mockery” that dishonors “legitimate” tribal citizens.
Ouch. But I can understand why the Cherokees — and indeed all people of good taste — might wish to disavow Warren: It’s the crab mayonnaise.
Among the many unfortunate results of Warren’s recent DNA test suggesting she’s somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1,024th American Indian by ethnicity: It inevitably draws attention to her contribution to the ’80s cookbook, “Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes.” Under “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee,” it lists five recipes, three of which were apparently cribbed from the New York Times and Better Homes & Gardens.
Worse, one of the recipes she submitted: “Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing.” A traditional Cherokee dish with mayonnaise, a 19th-century condiment imported by settlers? A crab dish from landlocked Oklahoma? This can mean only one thing: canned crab.
Warren is unfit to lead.
Yet it is difficult not to feel sorry for Warren. Though she doesn’t claim tribal membership, she clearly wants to be embraced. And so I extend an invitation to the senator to join my tribe. Warren should become a Jew. As Trump said when asking for African American votes shortly before praising Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee: “Honor us.”
The Tribes of Israel have little to do with Native American tribes beyond the Yiddish-speaking Indians in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.” But no DNA test is required. A stickler might require Warren to ask three times before becoming a Member of the Tribe — “MOT” — but for many, being Jewish is a state of mind, as comic legend Lenny Bruce explained decades ago:
“If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish, and fudge is goyish. Spam is goyish, and rye bread is Jewish. Negroes are all Jews. Italians are all Jews. Irishmen who have rejected their religion are Jews. Mouths are very Jewish. And bosoms. Baton-twirling is very goyish.”
The same applies to current politics. If you work in the Trump administration, you are goyish even if you are Jewish. The House is goyish, the Senate is Jewish. Jeff Flake: Jewish. Dianne Feinstein: goyish. Sonia Sotomayor: very Jewish. Steny Hoyer: crazy goyish.
Warren would have some work to do. Her demeanor screams white bread and Jell-O molds. But a few adjustments might help: Stop calling herself “an Okie to my toes.” (Even Jews who live in Oklahoma are goyish.) And, for heaven’s sake, stop with the crab mayonnaise.
Of course, I don’t actually desire to have Warren join my “tribe,” which, in any event, is only part of my heritage. Like most in the American melting pot, I’m a mutt: a stew of English and German, western pioneers and sharecroppers, immigrants from the shtetl and a great-great-great-grandfather who died fighting for the Iowa 39th Infantry in the Civil War.
This is why Warren’s DNA stunt was such a blunder: She took Trump’s DNA-test dare and let him divide us — again — by race and ethnicity, just as he did when he goaded President Barack Obama to prove his legitimacy by producing his birth certificate.
It’s sad that the Cherokees responded by noisily rejecting Warren, but that’s their right.
It’s disgusting that the episode has also set off the worst in some, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who joked on Fox News that it would be “terrible” if a DNA test found he had Iranian ethnicity.
No, Senator. What’s “terrible” is that Trump has found a new, high-tech way to stoke tribalism and division. And Warren fell for it.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.