Speaking in Iowa yesterday, Hillary Clinton claimed that all of her grandparents immigrated to the United States. Said Clinton:
All my grandparents, you know, came over here and you know my grandfather went to work in a lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going.
The truth is that only one of Clinton’s grandparents immigrated to the U.S. The Clinton campaign has admitted as much. It defended her false statement on the theory that “her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants.”
This is a bit like Elizabeth Warren’s defense of her claim to be an Indian. Warren, it will be recalled, defended her self-identification on the grounds that her aunt used to point to a portrait of her grandfather and call him an Indian, noting his high cheekbones, or some such thing.
But Clinton’s false claim has even less of a factual basis than Warren’s. It’s possible that, somewhere deep in Warren’s family history, an Indian does lurk. There is no dispute that only one of Clinton’s grandparents is an immigrant.
This has long been clear. In a biography of Hillary Clinton written in the 1990s, Donnie Radcliffe laid out the then-First Lady’s genealogy. In fact, she led off the book by discussing it. Radcliffe left no doubt that, as the Clinton campaign admits, only one of Hillary’s grandparents was born outside the United States.
If Clinton’s biographer knew this, then surely Clinton did.
Why did Clinton lie about her grandparents? Perhaps because she wanted to show an authentic connection to the American experience.
Unfortunately for Clinton, the more desperately she seeks to demonstrate authenticity, the more inauthentic she looks.