Sen. Elizabeth Warren Plays Not My Job On 'Wait Wait Don't Tell Me' Sen. Elizabeth Warren answers three questions about Leo Tolstoy's classic novel War and Peace.

Not My Job: We Quiz Elizabeth Warren On 'War And Peace'

Not My Job: We Quiz Elizabeth Warren On 'War And Peace'

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Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Getty Images
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren was a law professor before becoming Massachusetts' first female senator in 2012. That went so well, that she decided to join the 800 other Democrats running for president in 2020, and lasted longer than almost all of them. It's a story she tells in her new book Persist.

We've invited her to play a game we're calling "Senator Warren, how 'bout Warren Peace?" (Yes, that pun was a disaster, just like Pierre Bezukhov and Helene Kuragina's marriage. But we couldn't resist.) Three questions about War and Peace.

Click the audio link above to find out how she does.


And now the game where we invite on people who've done big things to do a small thing. It's Not My Job. Elizabeth Warren was a law professor before becoming Massachusetts' first female senator in 2012. That went so well that she decided to join the 800 other Democrats running for president in 2020 and lasted longer than almost all of them. It's a story she tells in her new book "Persist." She joins us now with her dog Bailey somewhere nearby. Senator Warren, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


ELIZABETH WARREN: Oh, thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

JOBRANI: We're glad to have you, Senator Warren. So we do our research on this show. And we knew exactly what we needed to ask you about first.


JOBRANI: This is your chance to come clean. What's up with the HBO show "Ballers" and you? What's going on?


WARREN: Are you kidding? Have you ever seen The Rock without his shirt on?


WARREN: Enough said.

JOBRANI: Is that it? Is it that simple? The Rock and his - so he could have been in any show? You would have watched?

WARREN: No. Actually, that show has a lot of layers to it. That show is about people who grew up tough. I'm serious about this. And all of a sudden, things kind of work out for him. But is it going to last forever? Are you going to break an ankle? And that's - it's really - it's a great show.

JOBRANI: Well, as you watch, Senator Warren, do you ever think to yourself - you know what? - when I run in 2028, I might call The Rock up and have him be my vice president?

PETER GROSZ: Oh, my God.

WARREN: Now, that's a thought.


JOBRANI: I'm telling you. We're here to help you out 'cause we know, by the way, that you're known for having plans...


JOBRANI: ...Because throughout the - yes. You always said, I got a plan. I got a plan. First question, did you have a plan? Or were you just saying, I got a plan, and then you'd get to it later?


WARREN: I really did have a plan. And in this new book, I wrote "Persist," I talk about the fact that I had 71 juicy, fabulous, detailed plans and how the plans and the personal weave together, and they get me up in the morning and into the fight. And I hope they get a whole lot more people into the fight, too.

JOBRANI: Let me ask you a question. The book - the title "Persist" comes from Mitch McConnell trying to...

WARREN: It does.

JOBRANI: ...Insult you by saying that you persist.

WARREN: Yup. How'd that work out for you, Mitch?


JOBRANI: Nice. I like that - slam. I got two questions for you. Has anyone else ever tried to insult you with a positive word? And what were those other words?


WARREN: Gee, I'm running through what Michael Bloomberg said to me.


WARREN: No, not that I can think of. I'm sure it's happened.

GROSZ: Somebody must have called you smart at some point, thinking that that was an insult.

WARREN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

KAREN CHEE: Prepared.


WARREN: Oh, I - actually, it's funny you'd mention that one. Yeah, sounds like someone who prepared.

CHEE: Yeah. And you're like, thank you. I did (laughter).

WARREN: Did the homework, huh? Yeah, yeah.

JOBRANI: You know, John Boehner had a book come out recently. And when he did the audio version of the book, he talked a lot of the trash about the real stuff that was going on. Is there anybody in the Senate that you want to tell us about that you think - some dirt?


WARREN: I would, but they're all such nice people.

JOBRANI: (Laughter).

CHEE: Interesting.

GROSZ: Oh, that's so amazing, interesting.

WARREN: Stay tuned for the next book.


JOBRANI: I can't wait. I have one quick question because, as I was reading your book, you talked about how when you were teaching at Harvard, you started going down to Washington and talking to them about the need for a consumer protection agency. And you said one Congress member laughed in your face. Who was that?

WARREN: Oh, I'm not telling.

JOBRANI: Oh, come on.

WARREN: Oh, come on.

JOBRANI: House or Senate?

WARREN: Once someone has decided that they are your friend and they have voted for something that you care a whole lot about, then my view is, gee, we must have been friends forever.


GROSZ: Nice. Nice.

HARI KONDABOLU: Can you tell us if they're still there? Is this congressperson still active?

WARREN: I'm - no hints at all - no hints at all. But that person truly - I mean, when I say laughed in my face, I mean ha ha ha not in a big way. I can see that person's fillings.

CHEE: (Laughter).


JOBRANI: Now, this is another thing you talk about in the book. When you're on the campaign trail, you became famous for taking hours and hours of selfies.

WARREN: Oh, yeah.

JOBRANI: What's a pointer you can give us on taking selfies that we should all remember the next time we do one?

WARREN: It's a moment of great intimacy, and it really is. I mean that. And we always call them selfies. In fact, Nora, who's with me, would always take the picture because it looks nicer. A selfie is really - your nose never looks good in a selfie. So, you know, Nora stands, you know, just a couple of feet away and takes it.


WARREN: But it also is a chance for people to just say the things that matter to them that they wanted to tell somebody who was running for president of the United States. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to do that. And, I should say, it informed and helped shape and gave me ideas for some of the plans that we developed during the presidential race.

JOBRANI: Wow. That's amazing. So you're meeting all these people. You're on the campaign trail. What was your favorite regional food, and what was one where you're like, I'm happy I don't have to be on the campaign trail any longer?

WARREN: Oh, I - you can never say the second one, right?


WARREN: Everything is great everywhere, including some of the regional specialties. But, you know, that - I will say about campaigning - dang, I ate a lot of cold food because somebody would grab it for you while you're doing the town hall. And three and a half hours later when the selfie's done, I'm telling you, there's a lot of food that does not travel well.

CHEE: Oh. No.

WARREN: It has...

GROSZ: A lot of gelatinous lasagna.

WARREN: Yeah, exactly.

GROSZ: Lovely. Cold pizza.

WARREN: And it has - it's hardened - how the cheese hardens up.

GROSZ: Yeah, exactly.

WARREN: How you have broken plastic forks...


WARREN: ...Trying to eat lasagna that has cooled off.


WARREN: And, of course, you know, all the ice in your iced tea has melted, so now it's just lukewarm light brown stuff.

JOBRANI: Sounds really glamorous. You really are selling this presidential thing.


WARREN: I'm telling you. Yeah, exactly. Don't miss it.

JOBRANI: Well, Senator Warren, we've enjoyed talking to you, but we've asked you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Senator Warren, how about "War And Peace"? Peace?

JOBRANI: ...Yes.


JOBRANI: Yes, that pun was a disaster, just like Pierre Bezukhov and Helene Kuragina's marriage, but we couldn't resist. So we're going to ask you three questions about Leo Tolstoy's "War And Peace." Answer two out of three questions right, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Senator Warren playing for?

KURTIS: Tricia Lang (ph) of Austin, Texas.

JOBRANI: All right. Here is your first question. At over half a million words, "War And Peace" is the go-to reference for the longest book ever written, but which of these actually contains even more words? Was it, A, Tolstoy's other classic, "Anna Karenina;" B, the strategy guide for the 2010 role playing video game "Fallout: New Vegas;" or C, the fourth "Fifty Shades Of Grey" book, "5,000 More Shades of Grey."

WARREN: Oh gosh. I was hoping it was the fourth "Fifty Shades Of Grey."


WARREN: But I'm afraid it's probably not, so I'm going to go with the second one.

JOBRANI: B, yes, you are right.


JOBRANI: The strategy guide from 2010 role playing video game "Fallout: New Vegas." Nicely done. One for one.

WARREN: OK, Trisha, I'm going to do this. OK.

JOBRANI: You got it. Here we go. Here's your next question. Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, back when he was in a debate against other candidates for the post, said that "War And Peace" was his favorite book. What was his favorite quote from the book? A, "Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women;" B, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times;" or, C, "I could not, would not on a boat. I could not, would not with a goat."


WARREN: OK. I'm trying to think what Michael Steele might have said. Surely, he didn't say it was the best of times, worst of times because that's from Dickens.

GROSZ: Unless he screwed up.

WARREN: Unless. Unless.

GROSZ: Which is possible.

WARREN: OK, I'm going with, he said it was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

JOBRANI: Your instinct is right, Senator Warren.




GROSZ: Oh, Michael Steele.

JOBRANI: He said it was the best of times. It was the worst of times.


JOBRANI: You're right.


JOBRANI: Two for two.


JOBRANI: Here's your last question. Leo Tolstoy died at age 82 in a Russian train station after taking ill on the train. Why was he on the train? A, he was on his way to receive an award as Russia's greatest living writer; B, he was running away from his wife; C, he was doing research for his new book, "War And Trains."


WARREN: OK. I think it's probably not C. I'm going to go with A.

JOBRANI: You think he was on his way to receive an award as Russia's greatest living writer?

WARREN: Yes, and, suddenly, he was disqualified.


JOBRANI: That would have been a little sad, but it gets even sadder. He was actually running away from his wife. I guess that's one way to win an argument. Bill, how did Elizabeth Warren do on the quiz?

KURTIS: Senator, you got 2 of 3, and that's a two-thirds majority. You're a winner.

WARREN: Oh, fabulous.

KURTIS: Congratulations.

JOBRANI: Senator Elizabeth Warren's new book is "Persist." Senator Warren, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. We really had a great time with you.

WARREN: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was fun.

JOBRANI: Take care. Bye.



LIL TROY: (Singing) Wanna be a baller, shot caller. Twenty-inch blades on the Impala, caller gettin' (inaudible) tonight. Swisher rolled tight, got sprayed by Ike. I hit the highway, making money the fly way. But there's got to be a better way.

JOBRANI: In just a minute, we prefer our vampires non-sparkly, thank you very much, in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

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