Yesterday, speech writer Meredith McIver accepted responsibility for the appearance of Michelle Obama’s words in the speech delivered by Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention.
“This was my mistake,” McIver said in a statement, “and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”
Frankly, very little was done when you get right down to it. As I wrote the day after Mrs. Trump’s speech, applying the label plagiarism to the lifting of words this trite and banal is to take liberties.
If you want a case of plagiarism by a presidential candidate that you can really sink your teeth into, go back to the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton accused then-Senator Barack Obama of borrowing without attribution.
Via the New York Times:
With the next round of voters set to weigh in on the Democratic presidential race, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign on Monday accused Senator Barack Obama of committing plagiarism in a weekend speech. Mr. Obama dismissed the charge as absurd and desperate.
Mr. Obama told reporters he should have credited Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a friend, for a passage in a speech he delivered on Saturday in Milwaukee. But Mr. Obama said his rival was “carrying it too far.”
“Let’s see,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve written two books. I wrote most of my speeches. I would add that I noticed Senator Clinton, on occasion, has used words of mine as well.”
Yada yada yada. Here are the words Obama uttered during the speech in question:
Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words, just speeches.
And here is what his buddy Patrick said in a 2006 speech:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words. Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’— just words. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ — just words. ‘I have a dream’ — just words.
Obama later defended his theft during a debate, insisting:
The notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs … I think, is silly.
This is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it.
It’s an interesting take on the whole issue of intellectual property. If I am running for office and I appropriate entire paragraphs from a speech written by my campaign manager, I’m not plagiarizing, according to Obama because … we’re both invested in my victory?
(h/t Rusty Weiss)