The Washington Post

Elizabeth Warren could end the presidential speculation today. She has chosen not to.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) addresses the crowd during her appearance at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit last week. (David Coates/ Detroit News via AP)

In a new interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), ABC's Jeff Zeleny does something a journalist should have done a long time ago: press her on her use of verb tense.

Noting Warren's stock response to whether she will run for president is "I am not running," Zeleny makes the completely valid point that such a statement is quite a bit less than Shermanesque.

Here's the video, and here's the exchange:

ZELENY: You've said 'I am not running.' Is that still your answer today?

WARREN: I am not running.

ZELENY: I noticed it's in the present tense, though. 'I am not running.'

WARREN: I'm not running.

ZELENY: Does that mean you've ruled out running, or all you'll say is, 'I am not running'?

WARREN: I am not running for president.

These are the 434th, 435th and 436th times (rough estimates) Warren has uttered some variation of this sentence. One thing she has not yet said: "I will not run for president."

And there's a reason for that.

Warren is, essentially, having her cake and eating it too. She's telling people she's "not running," and that's undeniably a true statement. But if she ever decided to run, nobody could accuse her of being a liar. After all, she was speaking in the present tense. And as of right now, she's not running.

A list of other people who can credibly say "I am not running" today includes Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden and Martin O'Malley. None of them are official candidates for president with campaign committees. None of them are running, as of right now.

Now, it might sound like we're playing a dumb game of semantics here. And we understand how tiresome the repeated "will you run" questions are even for the biggest political junkies.

There's also the fact that many politicians have offered more-Shermanesque, future-tense denials and still decided to run. These folks include the incumbent president of the United States.

But politicians use certain words for a reason, and the fact that Warren won't venture beyond the present tense isn't a coincidence. This is the response she has given over and over again. It's clearly the message she has chosen for herself.

That doesn't mean she will eventually run. Perhaps she's just hoping that we'll continue to write stuff like this so that the talk persists and she can stay politically relevant.

But we also shouldn't pretend that Elizabeth Warren is totally exasperated that people keep asking her this question. She could put a stop to it today.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans
Next Story
Jaime Fuller · July 23, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.