When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

That lesson is taught on the first day of candidate school. Elizabeth Warren must have skipped class that day.

The Senate candidate from Massachusetts, who until recently had shown all the poise and skill of a political veteran despite this being her first race for office, stumbled badly this past week over questions about her Native American heritage.

Late last month, a report in the Boston Herald suggested that Harvard Law School had touted Warren as a Native American member of the faculty in the 1990s,when the school was criticized as lacking diversity. (She is reportedly one-32nd Cherokee and also has Delaware tribal roots.) Warren said she was not aware that Harvard had described her that way until she read the Herald story. But a subsequent report in the Boston Globe noted that Warren had listed herself as Native American in legal directories beginning in 1986 and running through 1995.

Ruh roh.

Warren’s campaign, sensing crisis, sought to stamp out the controversy by noting that she is proud of her heritage and that identifying as a Native American had nothing to do with her hiring at any job.

And yet, there was Warren on Wednesday offering an extended — and personal — riff on the role that her Native American ancestry had played in her life. The story involved a picture on her mantel of her grandfather and his “high cheekbones” (really!).

Elizabeth Warren, for turning a small hole into a yawning political ditch, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at

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