Obama ‘Steals’ from King and Jefferson
Barack Obama has been lauded over the course of this campaign for his beautiful speeches. On Saturday, in Wisconsin, Obama made a speech with uncanny similarities to a speech given by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick when he was running for governor in October 2006.
Both speeches also appear to be reactions against criticism that the candidate’s platform is all rhetoric and no substance.
Here’s are excerpts from the speeches in question:
As delightful as this catch would be, it strikes me as more than a bit of a stretch to call this plagiarism. Yes, both speeches contain the mantra “Just words” and quote the most famous phrases of the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But these words are iconic in American politics and, especially, for black candidates.
By contrast, Biden’s lifting of entire passages from Neil Kinnock’s speeches — including personal anecdotes that were bizarrely unrelated to his own life — was rather obviously dishonest. In Obama’s case we have, at the very worst, a speechwriter taking a basic idea from a speech from another candidate and, most probably, mere coincidence.
UPDATE: This story is getting ridiculously more attention than I would have imagined — it’s the top story at Memeorandum. Slow news day, I guess.
Jeff Zeleny reports for the NYT that,
In a telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Patrick said that he and Mr. Obama first talked about the attacks from their respective rivals last summer, when Mrs. Clinton was raising questions about Mr. Obama’s experience, and that they discussed them again last week.
Both men had anticipated that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical strength would provide a point of criticism. Mr. Patrick said he told Mr. Obama that he should respond to the criticism, and he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters.
Mr. Patrick said he did not believe Mr. Obama should give him credit. “Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,” said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned The New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. “It’s a transcendent argument.”
David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama who also advised Mr. Patrick, said Sunday that Mr. Obama adapted the words from Mr. Patrick. Mr. Axelrod said that he did not write the words for either candidate. “They often riff off one another. They share a world view,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Both of them are effective speakers whose words tend to get requoted and arguments tend to be embraced widely.”
The Clinton team is trying to make as much hay as possible, though.
Howard Wolfson, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, today accused Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) of committing “plagiarism” in a speech in Milwaukee on Saturday night. Wolfson made the explosive charge in an interview with Politico after suggesting as much in a conference call with reporters.
I can’t imagine this one will fly.