Even as she has drawn closer to securing the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is under fire for comments that were viewed by some as taking credit for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Warren’s candidacy got a boost this week when rival Alan Khazei dropped out of the race, joining Setti Warren, another former Senate candidate, on the sidelines and seemingly giving a clear shot for the Harvard University law professor to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown next fall.
But Warren continues to face some blowback for comments to a Daily Beast reporter in which she said she laid the “intellectual foundation” for the movement. That assertion didn’t sit well with some protesters in Boston. (Watch video below.)
It also had both state and national Republicans eager to tie Warren to the more polarizing aspects of the movement, including conflicts locally in Boston between protesters and police and the widespread arrests this week in Oakland.
The Massachusetts GOP released a video Thursday that dubbed Warren the “Matriarch of Mayhem” and in which protesters are shown decrying capitalism.
"Elizabeth Warren. Too Divisive. Too Radical,” it intones.
Warren, of course, became a nationally known figure for her role as overseer of TARP, the Wall Street bailout program and her role in establishing a new federal consumer protection bureau. Since she launched her candidacy last month, she has branded herself a middle-class warrior who has, to many progressives, made a case for increasing taxes on the wealthy more effectively than President Obama or other Democrats in Washington. Remarks she made at a campaign event at which she said that “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own” quickly became a Web sensation.
She’s tried to paint Brown, who cast himself as a truck-driving everyman in his upstart Senate win last year, as captive to financial interests.
Brown was asked about Warren’s comments and the Occupy movement Wednesday evening at a business event in Danvers, Mass.
“There is clearly frustration about the lack of jobs progress, on moving the economy forward,’’ Brown said, according to the Boston Globe. “I don’t think the answer to that is attacking the job creators and criticizing our free-market economy.’’
Warren’s campaign isn’t trying to temper her original statements to the Daily Beast, but stressed that she doesn’t endorse lawlessness.
“Elizabeth was making the point that she has been protesting Wall Street’s practices and policies for years -- and working to change them,” Warren’s spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, said Thursday. “Wall Street’s tricks brought our economy to the edge of collapse and there hasn’t been any real accountability. She understands why people are so angry and why they are taking their fight to the street. She has said repeatedly everyone has to abide by the law.”
Warren nearly doubled Brown’s take during the year’s third-quarter fundraising period, raking in $3.15 million and telegraphing that she will be a formidable challenger to Brown, who still enjoys widespread popularity as a Republican in a bluer-than-blue state.
“Warren’s recent remarks highlight what will be a defining choice in this race--between an independent, hard-working reformer like Scott Brown, who is focused firmly on moving the Massachusetts’ economy forward, versus a professor from Harvard who cares more about emboldening the radical left in this country,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's Senate campaign arm.
The effort by the GOP to associate Warren with the Occupy movement comes at a time when many other Democrats appear unsure whether to support protests that have spread nationally and globally. The clashes this week in Oakland and Atlanta could make those politicians even more skittish about any endorsement.
President Obama, appearing on NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" this week, was asked again about the protests.
"Look, people are frustrated, and that frustration has expressed itself in a lot of different ways. It expressed itself in the Tea Party. It’s expressing itself in Occupy Wall Street," he said. "I do think that what this -- what this signals is that people in leadership, whether it’s corporate leadership, leaders in the banks, leaders in Washington, everybody needs to understand that the American people feel like nobody is looking out for them right now."
A recent CBS poll showed that a plurality of Americans support the views of the movement by a 43% to 27% margin, with a solid 30% saying they were unsure.
Here's a news report from WBZ-TV in Boston on the controversy: