COLES’ PRESIDENTIAL RUNAROUND: No matter how hard she tried, Joanna Coles wasn’t getting her big scoop on whether U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) is planning a presidential bid in 2016.
This story first appeared in the April 1, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The editor in chief of Cosmopolitan permitted Warren to give what sounded like a well-rehearsed stump speech, with Clinton-esque gesticulations (Bill’s, not Hillary’s) on financial reform, the state of the economy and why “Washington is broken” — a familiar talking point among politicians of both parties (and pretty much every person of voting age in America).
The interview, which took place Tuesday morning at Hearst Tower in Manhattan, gave Warren the chance to promote her new book “A Fighting Chance,” but let’s face it, the real reason why the small auditorium was standing-room only was to get a glimpse of the potential presidential candidate — and, Coles, a former newspaper reporter, knew that.
“You’ve come straight here, flying from the ‘Today Show’ studios where you denied fervently that you’re going to run for president,” Coles said. “We’ll come back to that.”
And she would, but first, the editor sat patiently — squirming only minimally — for about 30 minutes while Warren talked policy and her personal travails. Those included her mother’s struggles raising her family on a minimum wage salary and her own unexpected road to D.C., which included difficulties, such as a teen pregnancy and an early divorce from her childhood sweetheart.
With 20 minutes left in front of Warren, Coles leaned in a bit, starting with a somewhat provocative question about lobbyists.
“What does it say about Congress that they are so easily bought by lobbyists? I mean, this is an argument that we hear all the time. What is it that lobbyists do to magic their point of view that Congressmen are so weak that they roll over?” she asked.
“One is obviously money,” Warren said. “It takes money to run political campaigns. This is a cancer growing on the soul of our democracy. But the second part is also important to pay attention to — lobbyists are just always there to shape the conversation. Here’s the problem: There’s no counter to come back at them.”
The senator, with a quavering voice, went on a tangent about families that were hurt by the financial crisis who didn’t have their voices heard during the housing crisis and bank bailout.
Coles kept trying to interrupt, and finally broke through: “So how do you plan to change that, and that leads me to the obvious question: When you read this [she gestured to Warren’s book], it’s hard to read ‘A Fighting Chance’ and not believe that you would like to be president.”
“This is a book of great optimism,” Warren said after a bout of thoughts on the book and her love for the country. “I am not running for president. Can I tell a very short story?”
“You can, but I didn’t ask you if you were running,” Coles said. “I asked you would you like to be president?”
“This is really important. This isn’t about me,” the senator said, before going into a not-so-short story about the financial crash and her idea for a consumer watchdog agency in D.C.
Coles had her arms folded, wheels turning on how to get Warren to give her something juicy.
“So, Hillary Clinton. Do you think she’s going to run?” she asked.
“I don’t know, that’s up to her,” Warren said, in perfect political pitch.
“Would you like her to run?” Coles said, slowly advancing.
“I signed a letter two years ago encouraging her to run. One [letter] was in the Senate,” she replied.
“Would you run against her?” Coles said.
“I am not running for president,” Warren replied. “I’m not going to run for president.”
Bothered, Coles resorted to blurting out: “Why wouldn’t you run? Even if you didn’t think you were going to be president. Why wouldn’t you take this message, which you’ve presented out on the road and around the country? Why wouldn’t you use this platform?”
Coolly, Warren offered: “I am taking it out and around this country.”
Coles gave it one last stab in a flurry of questions that mimicked a ping-pong match: “Do you think Hillary’s e-mails — that seems like a problem for her — were you surprised that she didn’t use the official e-mail address?”
“So, I was surprised. I think they should be made public,” Warren said. “I think that’s what is going to happen.”
Coles asked: “Were you surprised she deleted as many as she did?”
A political reply from Warren: “I don’t know the details. I think the e-mails should be made public and I think that’s what she’s going to do.”
A more pointed attempt from Coles: “So, you’re waiting like the rest of us to see if she’s going to run? If she doesn’t run, do you think the Democratic Party has dug itself into a bit of a hole?”
“Come on, look, we know what we need to do,” Warren said, going a bit off script before finding her way again, wrapping the interview with a reply that sounded a bit like President Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech about a divided America.
“We know what the core issues are. Here’s the part that is so obvious — the things we need to fight for,” she said. “This isn’t Democrat versus Republican.”
Game, set, match: Warren.