US Senate Debate: Candidates Wrangle over Character, Partisanship

Sen. Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren faced off in Lowell for round two of their debates.


With polls showing a neck-and-neck race for Massachusetts' U.S. Senate seat, Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren came with claws sharpened to their second debate Monday night at Lowell's Tsongas Arena.

The debate, moderated by NBC's David Gregory, lasted about an hour.

Even with its scattered punches and zings, the debate may not be a game changer. It was generally predictable and lacking much about specific national issues, and Gregory spent most of the time asking about character attacks.

Cherokee Song

Gregory started the debate with the glaring question about Warren's heritage. Warren claims to have Native American ancestry, but proof of that ancestry has not been presented. This has created a firestorm for the professor.

"From the day I was born until my mother died, she told me about who I am, who we are, who my brothers are," Warren said. "I have never used the information about our Native American heritage to get any benefit... I consider myself as having a Native American background. That's what I said, and that's who I am."

Brown has attacked Warren as dishonest for the heritage issue in his latest round of TV ads. Recently, Brown staffers showed up at a Warren rally yelling Native American war chants, which generated anger from the Cherokee Nation and which was condemned by Brown himself.

But at the debate, Brown said the issue was about Warren's integrity and that Warren had "failed the test" of her integrity by changing her story about who knew about her heritage classification and when.

When asked, Brown couldn't produce any evidence that Warren has received any benefit for Native American heritage, but he called on her to be more open and release her personnel record from Harvard.

Kings and Queens

Warren wasn't the only one on defense.

Gregory brought up the infamous incident in which Brown mentioned on a radio show that he'd had "meetings with kings and queens." He didn't name which kings and queens and his staff later said he misspoke, but it turns out Brown had made this claim on multiple occasions before.

Brown denied exaggerating and stood by his point, if not his actual statements. He said he was listening to leaders around the world discuss the economy and was presenting a "scenario" of discussion.

"I never met the poorest farmer either, but it's about presenting a scenario where we can point out that there are serious issues affecting our jobs and the economy."

On the Record

Warren also pressed Brown to produce a list of his legal clients. And that opened a whole different can of worms involving Warren, asbestos and coal.

Brown cornered Warren on her work with Travelers Insurance in 2009. Travelers Insurance enlisted Warren in an agreement with victims in order to protect itself from future claims. Brown says that work goes against Warren's claims of being an advocate against corporate abuse.

But Warren insists her work was to make sure the victims were given what they were owed and that she helped oversee a settlement of hundreds of billions of dollars to go to the victims.

"For Sen. Brown to say that my work hurt asbestos victims is just simply not only untrue, it is exactly the wrong direction," Warren asserted. "The asbestos victims have stood up and said, 'Sen. Brown is wrong and he has crossed the line.'"

Brown also brought up a 1995 case in which Warren, a bankruptcy attorney at the time, represented LTV Steel as they were coming out of bankruptcy and petitioning not to pay into a fund for workers' benefits.


In another familiar theme, Brown discussed his bipartisan record in the Senate.

"I don't work for anybody, I don't work for President Obama or Mitt Romney or Sen. McConnell," Brown said. "I work for the people of Massachusetts."

Brown went on to talk about various votes he has cast in favor of Democratic bills in the Senate. Brown has campaigned all along on the idea of independence, and several prominent Democrats have come out in support of him. He even said he told Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that he is disgusted with what's going on in his party.

When asked about her record of bipartisanship, Warren cited a bipartisan commission she was on after the financial collapse of 2008 to address issues that had caused the collapse. She also said she would work with Republicans on reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Awkward and Funny

The debate also had its humorous, awkward and downright odd moments:

  • In an embarrassing moment for Warren, when asked to name one Republican senator she could work with, Warren named Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana. As it turns out, Lugar is retiring and won't be there next year.
  • As Warren was hammering away at votes Brown has cast against various jobs bills, transportation bills and unemployment extension, Brown jumped in, apparently agitated, and said, "Excuse me, I'm not a student in your classroom, please let me respond, OK?"
  • When asked to name a Supreme Court justice he admired, Brown named conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and much of the crowd booed.
  • When asked why she thinks Massachusetts has never elected a female governor or senator, Warren said, "I don't know... Well right now I'm trying to do something about that."
  • Brown said he thinks Sen. John Kerry would be a good Secretary of State. Could this be a hint of a replacement for Hillary Clinton when she leaves in January if President Obama is reelected?
  • Gregory asked Brown why he has not made appearances with Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and implied Brown was distancing himself from Romney in order to appeal to Massachusetts voters (polls suggest Romney has very little support in the Bay State).
  • The award for best zinger of the night would perhaps go to Brown. When asked what he admires about Warren, Brown said, "She's a very hard working accomplished professor... So I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure she can continue to be in that position."

The Boston Herald has the complete video of the debate.

Emcee of Seekonk October 02, 2012 at 12:20 PM
This was a good debate, although at times it sounded more like a rally where candidates try to sell themselves. Nothing was said that would change my mind. I voted for Scott Brown in 2010 and will vote for him again.
deb of see-attleboro October 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Sorry I missed it. I'll try to make a point to watch it. I already have debate fatique.
Sinclair October 02, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Will somebody in Warren's camp bring up the fact that Brown's simple LAW experience has been working as a PART-TIME lawyer in real estate (passing papers) and TWO DAYS PER MONTH as a JAG officer before he was elected to his current position? The JAG officer legal exposure is pretty much showing up, reading and shuffling paperwork. His bragging rights in the National Guard are serving over thirty years. This amounts to two days per month and two weeks per year of active duty which computes to a total of 3.12 actual years in the guard. This debate is nothing but a contest between a photogenic street-wise, fast talking run-of-the-mill part-time lawyer and a highly skilled legal scholar and professor from Harvard Law School. Place them in front of a general audience on television and who do you think is going to win. What an impressionable country we live in. If Brown ends up winning, it won't be a surprise, and he certainly won't represent Massachusetts.
Steve Heylin Jr. October 02, 2012 at 02:29 PM
It kills me to say it but Becky won last night. If her goal was to get her point across and undermine Sen. Brown's accomplishments, she got the job done.(Reminds me a lot of Nancy Pelosi....ew, shudeer the thought...) I have known I would be voting for Scott since I campaigned for him last election. There is no chance some lunatic liberal liar such as BW would ever get my vote but the fafts are the fatcs (somehting liberals hate) that she put Sen. Brown on the defensive at almost every turn. And while i enjoyed the quip by Scott about not being one of her students, it came off as contrived and petty. Cannot wait until the next debate and for Scott to use the hammer of truth to nail down all the lies but for now, this one goes to the fake indian.
deb of see-attleboro October 02, 2012 at 03:13 PM
"Will someone in Warren's camp bring up......" I think someone just did. Warren being "a highly skilled legal scholar and professor from Harvard Law School" can be considered pretty impressive in some circles. In other circles it is code for "pompous elitist egghead who is out of touch with working class folks". Brown should reset his campaign and make the case that the TRULY "rigged" game is our liberal system of education.
Ronald Picaed October 02, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Ronnie the welder from attleboro Ma. tax the oil companys you will pay at the pump,tak the manufactures you will pay at the store don't people understand you cannot tax big business they just pass it on, Brown is right you must read something before you vote on it thats whats wrong with Wasington today, they obviously don't read anything they just spend our money I will vote for Scott Brown
Avon Barksdale October 02, 2012 at 03:55 PM
The candidate that I am loyal to came across as brilliant, sincere, and patriotic. The other candidate was unprepared, stupid, and hates this country.
John Dellea October 02, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Well said, Sinclair! Please also note that, after spending the first 10-15 minutes of the debate re-hashing his blatantly racist attacks on Ms. Warren's heritage, Mr. Brown reluctantly conceded that his challenger is eminently qualified for each and every legal and teaching job for which she has ever been hired. Scott also took an absurd position for a lawyer when he refused to agree that an attorney representing a given client in a particular case has an obligation to advocate for that client's legitimate interests, regardless of the attorney's personal feelings. By Brown's flawed reasoning, a lawyer who represents a murderer or rapist presumably condones those criminal acts! Did he learn none of the fundamentals of legal training during the 4 years (most of his classmates, including me, only needed 3) he spent at BC Law? Scott was a very famous and successful model in those days, so perhaps he didn't feel his legal education was really all that important? After less than 7 years of practicing law he first ran for elected office, and he's been honing his slick political skills ever since. I much prefer a political newcomer like Elizabeth Warren whose intelligence and heart/compassion are genuine. Scott Brown, the supposed "independent voice", has always been a registered Republican who promised less than 2 years ago when he ran in the special election that he would be the "41st vote" to help the Republican minority in the US Senate block health care reform.
Richard W. Lunt October 02, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Folks, remember this, although Looney Liz may be a Lawyer, she is not licensed to practice law here in Massachusetts eventhough she has practiced law in Massachusetts from her Harvard Law office on occaision. This is a character issue. Scott Brown is a man of good character and he actually reads the bills before he votes on them, this is an example of what a U.S. Senator should be. I've supported and voted for Scott Brown and he will have my vote again in November.
Michael Davis October 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
"he actually reads the bills before he votes on them" ... You know this how?
Joe Souza October 02, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Scott Brown's Indian name is: "Deer Caught in the Headlights."
Avon Barksdale October 02, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Richard, the Brown for Senate campaign office collectively cringes every time you post a comment in favor of him.
Richard W. Lunt October 02, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Avon, Explain your comments? Why would they cringe at someone who is a Republican and supports his candidacy?
Indiana October 02, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Barry Soetoro is "the other candidate who is unprepared, stupid, and hates this country".
Avon Barksdale October 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
"You are judged by the company you keep" - Aesop
Richard W. Lunt October 02, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Elizabeth Warren was unprepared and all that she said was the same old looney left wing liberal rhetoric of attacking Senator Brown for siding with millioniares and billionaires. What she fails to point out that these millionaires and billionaires are the ones who own companies and create jobs. I like the fact that Senator Brown wanted accross the board tax cuts which includes the working poor, middle class as well as the millionaires and billionaires. One of his best lines was when he said he will not vote to increase taxes during a recession.
John Dellea October 02, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Scott Brown is not actively licensed in Mass at the present time--look it up. As for Ms. Warren's handling of the occasional bankruptcy appeal over the years, those were presumably in Federal court, as the bankruptcy laws are federal. An attorney need only be licensed and in good standing in ONE of the 50 states to be granted permission to appear in ANY Federal court. Mr. Lunt, have you or any of your fellow Brown supporters on this Blog EVER taken or paid attention in a basic civics class?
John Dellea October 02, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Witty, Joe, but you would be a more effective advocate if you didn't stoop to name calling like Brown and his (federally-paid, by US!) campaign staffers have done.
Richard W. Lunt October 02, 2012 at 08:38 PM
John, Elizabeth Warren was not legally licensed to practice law in Massachusetts and there are indications that she may have violated this rule here in Massachusetts. Here is some information from the website called Legal Insurrection the information was provided by William A. Jacobson: If Warren Was Practicing Law From Her Cambridge Office, She Violated Massachusetts Law In order to practice law in Massachusetts, particularly from a Massachusetts office, one needs to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, which Warren never has been. There is no general exception from licensing requirements for law professors. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 221, Section 46A provides (emphasis mine):Section 46A. No individual, other than a member, in good standing, of the bar of this commonwealth shall practice law, or, by word, sign, letter, advertisement or otherwise, hold himself out as authorized, entitled, competent, qualified or able to practice law; provided, that a member of the bar, in good standing, of any other state may appear, by permission of the court, as attorney or counselor, in any case pending therein, if such other state grants like privileges to members of the bar, in good standing, of this commonwealth.
Sinclair October 02, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Mr. Lunt: "Millionaires and billionaires" are not in a recession.
Sinclair October 02, 2012 at 08:46 PM
"Barry Soetoro" does not exist.
John Dellea October 02, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Mr. Lunt, a bachelor's degree from Northeastern does not make you a legal expert, so please don't go throwing around statutory language and quasi-legal arguments! You support Mr. Brown, and you certainly have the right to speak out for him and vote for him, but please try to do so with a modicum of intellectual honesty and refrain from bald assertions beyond your education, experience and competence.
Bob Ross October 02, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Richard, companies are not investing or hiring since the 2008 collapse, in fact since 2008 the amount of cash companies are "sitting on" has gone up over 20%. Most are worried about the next dip and therefore are keeping their hands in their pockets. The Top 10 American companies are sitting on $337 BILLION in cash and yet are not creating jobs. The Trickle Down has been turned off.
Mr. Ragman October 02, 2012 at 10:14 PM
There are zero billionaires in Massachusetts
Richard W. Lunt October 02, 2012 at 10:54 PM
John, See my earlier post with the information provided by an organization that is called Legal Insurrection. It explains where Professor Warren may have violated Massachusetts Law by practicing in Massachusetts. It's not concrete and etched in stone; however, since she refuses to tell the truth regarding this, it does raise a character issue with Professor Warren. In fact, check the website for yourself for more detailed information.
DJ October 02, 2012 at 11:19 PM
? Boston Globe/ Forbes list: "Among the 1,153 billionaires on the list are six people who call Massachusetts home. Click through to the state's billionaires. All data from Forbes list of the World's Billionaires.


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