Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The fighter

Time now for a round of Questions-and-Answers with Elizabeth Warren, the senior senator of Massachusetts.
Our Chip Reid found her at a favorite spot:  

When Senator Elizabeth Warren is home in Cambridge, Mass., there’s a good chance you’ll find her at the Summer Shack. “We love this place,” she said. “This is like all the places down on the water but are usually only there in the summer. This one you can come to 365 days a year.”

The staff at this local seafood joint have known her for years.

“It’s like ‘Cheers’ -- everybody knows your name,” said Reid.

“It is, which is also a Boston place. And there’s Jasper! Look who’s here!”

When Reid asked proprietor Jasper White if being a senator had gone to Warren’s head, he said no. “She’s just a local girl here!” he laughed.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren with correspondent Chip Reid at the Summer Shack in Cambridge, Mass., where everybody knows her name.

CBS News

The Elizabeth Warren most of us know is a fierce critic of Wall Street -- a senator with a message you’ve probably heard before: “The system is rigged.”

“You’ve been talking about this middle class theme, ‘the system is rigged,’ for a long time,” Reid said. “Do you sound like a broken record?”

“I admit, it truly is my life’s work,” she replied.

And her life story. In 1960s Oklahoma, Warren’s mother supported the family on a minimum wage job at Sear’s. “A higher minimum wage saved my family,” she said. “A low minimum wage today is dragging families who work sometimes three jobs and still can’t support a family. That’s not right.

“And it’s not on the heads of the families who work; it’s on the heads of politicians in Washington who decide that corporate interests are vastly more important than those of working people.”

“That gets you very emotional,” Reid said.

“Yes, it does.”

“Is it fair to say it gets you angry?”

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Metropolitan Books

“Yes, it does,” said Warren. “And it gets me in the fight. And it’s why I say this fight is our fight.”

Which is also the title of her latest book, out Tuesday, on what she calls the disappearing middle class. And make no mistake: For this 67-year-old grandmother of three, it is personal. 

“This is the best way I know to fight for their future,” she said. 

“Are they going to be better off than your generation?”

“The odds are not in their favor,” she said. “When I grew up in America, the chances that a kid would do better than her parents were better than 90%. Today the chances that a kid is going to do better than her parents are less than a coin toss.”

For inspiration you may be surprised to learn Warren looks to our 26th president, a Republican, whose trust-busting policies toward corporate America she thinks reflect her own.

“I’m a huge Teddy Roosevelt fan,” she said. “And do you know why? He said, ‘We gotta get rid of those giant corporations. We gotta break ‘em up.’ And the reason for doing that is he said, ‘They exercise too much political power. And we can’t have that in a democracy.’”

And she wants to do what Teddy did.

Right now (small wonder), her focus is on our 45th president, whom the former Harvard law professor has been studying for some time. “I actually watched ‘The Apprentice’ for a couple of seasons,” she said.

And what did she think of the host? “It was an interesting show, the first season. By the second season I kind of got tired of it. Sort of the same old shtick.”

“Tired of him?” Reid asked.

“Eh. He was the shtick!” she laughed.

“Shtick” may have been what some of her GOP Senate colleagues thought in February, when Republicans voted to silence Warren for impugning the character of Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, for which Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made his now-famous remark:  

“She was warned. She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Warren was reading a 1986 letter from the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. that criticized Sessions. Once silenced, she kept right on reading outside the Senate chamber.

Reid asked, “Do you think there was some sexism involved here?”

“I think what was really going on is people knew there’s a problem with having Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States.”

“Not sexism? Do you think they treated male senators differently than you?”

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

CBS News

“All I can say is the next day four men stood up and read exactly the same letter, and they all got to finish,” Warren replied.

Her persistence in opposing the new administration at almost every turn has made Warren both a polarizing figure and a progressive favorite. She’s been called “The de facto leader of the Trump resistance.”

Is she comfortable with that? “Look, if it works ... what I want to do is I want to have every person in this country lift their voices and be heard.”

“But if you’re the de facto leader of the Trump resistance, doesn’t it make logical sense for you to be the person who runs against him in 2020?”

“This isn’t about the election in four years,” she said. “This is about what happens this week.”

“Are you thinking about it?”

“No,” she said. “I’m running for reelection here in Massachusetts. I want to stay in the Senate.”

That could be a challenge; a poll earlier this year shows fewer than half of her constituents say she deserves another term. She told Reid she was confident she would win reelection. He asked, “Will it end your political career if you don’t?”

“For me, this is about the work,” she said. “I didn’t get into this because I thought, ‘Wow, I would get to be a senator!’ I got into this because I thought if I’m a senator I can fight harder and better and more effectively for people who are just busting their tails every day. For people who are up against the system that is tilted against them.”

Reid then introduced the “James Lipton/’Inside the Actors Studio’” part of the interview, in which he asked Warren for her favorite curse word.

“Poop.”

“Oh, that’s a goody two-shoes,” Reid said.

But she defended it. “Are you kidding? Have you ever seen a woman like me look you straight in the face after you’ve finished some long explanation of something and then just said, ‘Poop’? Try it!”

“Have you said that on the Senate floor?” he asked.

“No. Not yet.”

But that day may be coming. “Who knows?” she said.

     
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