Clinton-Warren Rorschach Test

So what’s your reaction when you hear this story from the New York Times‘ Haberman and Martin?

Hillary Rodham Clinton held a private, one-on-one meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren in December at Mrs. Clinton’s Washington home, a move by the Democrats’ leading contender in 2016 to cultivate the increasingly influential senator and leader of the party’s economic populist movement.

The two met at Whitehaven, the Clintons’ Northwest Washington home, without aides and at Mrs. Clinton’s invitation.

Mrs. Clinton solicited policy ideas and suggestions from Ms. Warren, according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting, who called it “cordial and productive.” Mrs. Clinton, who has been seeking advice from a range of scholars, advocates and officials, did not ask Ms. Warren to consider endorsing her likely presidential candidacy. Aides to Mrs. Clinton did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and aides to Ms. Warren could not be reached.

To me, it sounds like that first step in the dance we usually see when a candidate for a party nomination has just more or less locked it up and is exploring an endorsement from the principal rival without demanding an acknowledgment of defeat.

According to Bloomberg Politics‘ Emily Greenhouse, though, that’s not at all what it sounds like to Warren’s most avid supporters:

Some might have interpreted the report as a sign that Clinton was taking Warren under her wing. But for Warren’s most vocal supporters, the self-appointed army raging for economic populism, the tête-à-tête meant just about the opposite. Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, which with Democracy for America launched the project Run Warren Run, sounded emboldened. “It’s more evidence that Sen. Warren and progressives are driving the conversation within the Democratic Party,” he said, through a spokesman. “That’s why we’re eager for Elizabeth Warren to run for President, and any candidate would do well to speak to the issues she’s led on — like tackling income inequality, student debt, and taking on the big banks.”

Erica Sagrans, who works as campaign manager for another pro-Warren endeavor, Ready for Warren, used the occasion to stress Warren’s momentum. “Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Senator Warren indicates that she is among a growing number of Democratic leaders who admire Warren’s willingness to stand up to the big banks and special interests,” Sagrans said, before jumping to the punchline. “This is why we’re calling on Warren to run for president in 2016.”

Perhaps these folks are being disingenuous, or maybe they’re just hammers who see everything as a nail. Perhaps, as well, they’re being given encouragement by reporters like Greenhouse, who retails the false claim that HRC was in precisely the same position for “most of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary season (fact is she was never, ever the front-runner in Iowa; even before Obama announced, the 2004 vice presidential nominee was sitting in Iowa with an intact organization and lots of netroots juice). If and when Warren dashes their hopes by getting on board the Hillary Train, they may look back at that initial meeting and wonder what really went down.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.