(A different version of this piece ran here.) The truest statement of the first half of the Democratic debate Wednesday night came when Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts defended Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota for forgetting the name of the president of Mexico.

Extremely intelligent people can have brain cramps by forgetting names or words – and frequently. Sometimes somebody can forget even the name of a lifelong friend, in a momentary lapse where the name just won’t come. I know I’ve experienced inability to bring forth familiar names, basic words, easy concepts – largely because sometimes my mind races forward faster than my mouth. (That’s also the main cause of the dreadful stutter I had as a child.) It has nothing to do with not knowing the name or word; it has everything to do with how the mind races.

The larger point Warren made is correct as well – namely, that what matters is not the ability to spout a particular name or factoid on the spur of the moment, but whether someone has a broader knowledge base and experience with regard to public policy, and the ability to use it.

In making those points, Warren also made herself, perhaps for the first time during this campaign, appear to be a personally empathetic candidate, rather than just one who thinks she has all the intellectual answers. And at a very feisty debate in which my wife said the candidates appeared to be like crabs in a bucket, all biting each other in their attempt to crawl out, Warren’s brief display of humanity seemed a breath of fresh air.

Then again, I bet she planned it meticulously ahead of time, knowing somebody was likely to attack Klobuchar on this issue. It was an easily anticipate-able subject for a question. Anybody who has watched Elizabeth Warren for very long knows she is as calculating as can be imagined.

Still, if she indeed did calculate a way to appear human, more power to her. It worked. And her point was fair.


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