Oh boy…here we go…

Howard Wolfson, the Clinton campaign 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 in Politico, after suggesting as much in a conference call with reporters.

On the call, Wolfson said: “Senator Obama is running on the strength of his rhetoric and the strength of his promises and as we have seen in the last couple of days, he’s breaking his promises and his rhetoric isn’t his own.”

Obama closely echoed a passage from a speech that Deval Patrick, now the Massachusetts governor, used at a campaign rally when he was running for that office in 2006.

Here’s Deval Patrick…

Here’s Obama…

Well, what does Deval Patrick think?

The Massachusetts governor said in a statement: “Sen. Obama and I are longtime friends and allies. We often share ideas about politics, policy and language. The argument in question, on the value of words in the public square, is one about which he and I have spoken frequently before. Given the recent attacks from Sen. Clinton, I applaud him responding in just the way he did.”

Obama has been hit with the plagiarism charge before (and first) here at Donklephant for using the phrase “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,”…

When Obama said “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he should have prefaced it with “In the words of the poet June Jordan.” Then I would have been moved instead of angry that he’s uttering those powerful words out of context (also the title of an Alice Walker book, and a Sweet Honey in the Rock song, but June Jordan originally wrote them in her “Poem for South African Women.”)

But it was ultimately discovered that Obama didn’t copy the author in question, but echoed a Hopi Elders creed.

So did June Jordan and Alice Walker and Sweet Honey all plagiarize originally when they used those words as their own and didn’t credit the entire Hopi Nation?

Moving on…

Here’s more from Deval Patrick:

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.”

Again, a non issue, but watch for Drudge and Hillary to be pushing this like crazy.

Oh, this is rich. If Clinton had done something similar, which she inevitably has, it wouldn’t be as big a deal.

Good times…

I asked Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, if they could assure the public that neither Clinton nor McGovern has ever done what Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, did when he used the rhetoric of Gov. Deval Patrick without footnoting him.
They would not.

In fact, Wolfson seemed to say it wouldn’t be as big a deal if it were discovered that Clinton had “lifted” such language.

“Sen. Clinton is not running on the strength of her rhetoric,” Wolfson said.

How dumb do these people think we are? This is literally some of the worst messaging I’ve ever seen.


Here’s what Obama said today about this…

“I was on the stump, and, you know, he had suggested that we use these lines,” Obama said at a news conference a few minutes ago. “I thought they were good lines. I’m sure I should have [given him credit], didn’t this time.”

Obama became a bit defensive when asked by a reporter whether his words were his own.

“Now hold on a second. I mean, look here, I’ve written two books. Wrote most of my speeches,” he said. “So, I think putting aside the question you just raised in terms of whether my words are my own, I think that would be carrying it too far. Deval and I do trade ideas all the time, and, you know, he’s occasionally used lines of mine. I was at a [Jefferson-Jackson] dinner in Wisconsin used some words of his. And, you know, I would add that I know Sen. Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well.”

Obama said he frequently gives credit to others for ideas or language he has gotten from others. “I’m happy to give Deval credit, as I give to a lot of people for spurring all kinds of ideas,” he said.

Obama downplayed the matter and said it is something most voters likely do not care about. “I really don’t think this is too big a deal,” he said.

Hopefully this will put this all to rest and demonstrates that Deval did give him permission to use similar language. A lot of people over at Reddit have reminded me that Hillary used the refrain “Yes We Will” after Obama introduced “Yes We Can.” This is just what happens folks, and to accuse anybody of plagiarizing a piece of a speech here or there is pretty weak when Clinton’s own surrogates say they can’t ensure she’s never done the same thing.

Done and done.

  • Dos

    Oh this shit is going to have legs. Inspiration has a way of getting soiled out of existance. The questions is whether he has already developed the critical mass needed to hurdle this. He’s in good company in terms of plagarists though.

    The staff at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project discovered a lot of plagiarism in Martin Luther King’s writings and in a 1991 article in THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY said that “plagiarism was a general pattern evident in nearly all of his academic writings” including his doctoral dissertation.

    Critics have charged that King plagiarized that too by borrowing from a speech given to the Republican convention in 1952 by an African-American preacher named Archibald Carey, Jr.
    Some of them say he gave Cary’s speech word-for-word.
    It can probably be said that King borrowed from the idea of the speech by Carey (who was a friend of King’s), but only the last couple of paragraph’s resembled Carey’s speech and little of it is word-for-word.
    Both men spun their remarks off the words of the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

    King’s speech ended with:
    This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

    Carey’s speech ended with:
    We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: My country ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride From every mountainside Let freedom ring!
    That’s exactly what we mean–from every mountain side, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain
    in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia–let it ring not only for the minorities of the United States, but for the disinherited of all the earth–may the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside,

  • Nelson

    I though I heard hillary the other day chanting “Yes we will” and Mccain chanting ” Fired up and ready to go” Those who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones!

  • Bahamut

    Because Clinton’s (latest) motto is just soooo unique her presidential campaign. Others should be just as creative and special as she is.

  • Good write up. Anyone who watched Maria Shriver’s endorsement of Obama heard the “we are the one’s we have been waiting for” and its attribution as a Hopi prayer. (I live in NM so had already heard it many, many times over the years.)

    The HRC campaign and the Right are grasping at straws here.

  • Copycat

    Barack Obama basically stole an entire speech. Not only does it prove he is a word stealer it also shows that he is unoriginal. He is just a copy of some other candidate. What a loser. And what a loser blog this is to defend something as offensive as copying another speech. Get over a Obama. He is a phony. Nothing original about him.

  • angie

    I’m glad others find this ludicrous as the Clinton camp shouts for ‘Change’ and other “Obama-absurdities’. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. (should that have been in quotes?)

    How silly..

  • “Yes she can” steal others concepts and make them her own.

  • CSB

    This is exactly the kind of petulant and shallow rubbish one expects in a campaign involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Their straight-faced nerve never ceases to amaze. Since the charges the Clintons level against Obama are virtually identical to the tact taken by Patrick’s rival in 2006, it only makes sense that the two would share notes. These are political sound-bytes we’re talking about here, not a Pulitzer-nominated novel or proprietary software codes.

    In the beginning of The War Room, D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary on the ’92 Clinton campaign, James Carville says to a room full of staff: “If we can win this, we can knock this sh** back forever”. What are the chances that an Obama win would knock the Clintons nonsense back forever? That would be nice.

  • TexMex

    Obama is FOOLING voters with his fainting spells. Pass this on. Especially to the voters in the Southwest. People out here aren’t politically-inclined as much and they will buy this foolish man’s rhetoric.

    This is BS.

    !!!GO HILLARY 2008!

  • TerenceC

    Obama’s response was priceless….He should have also mentioned – “I don’t remember” – “Read my lips….”, “…but I never inhaled”, I never had relations, with that woman”, “fool me and you can’t get fooled again”, too many Doc’s aren’t sharing their love….” Stinks of desperation, stinks of a shell game, stinks of getting the media to talk about anything rather than Hillary….talk about Bill, talk about Barack, talk about any one else. Pathetic, I hope the Clinton’s lose in Wi, HI, VT, RI – I’m sick of them.

  • mw

    DOS is right. This has got legs. Big time.

    This episode by itself, is understandable, explainable, not that meaningful.

    The “we are the ones we are waiting for…” episode – by itself, understandable, explainable, not that meaningful.

    Both items together. Now you have a pattern of speechifying without attribution. Obama is a serial “borrower” as are many lovers of language, including more than a few bloggers. It still has not risen to the level that will cost him support. But.. It ain’t over.

    There will me more examples. As we speak, you know all of his Senatorial campaign speeches are being reviewed, all of his Illinois state senate speeches are being reviewed, and probably anything he has ever written in college is being dug up.

    And guess what? There will be more examples. If and when that college paper with the “borrowed” phrase shows up – He’ll get the full Joe Biden treatment.

    And Justin – I wiil, of course, want full attribution for predicting this when it happens.

  • Dos

    It still has not risen to the level that will cost him support. But.. It ain’t over.

    It doesn’t need to cost him support. It just needs to slow the momentum down by soiling the image. The message of – “No Substance Obama” is now “Fraud No Substance Obama” and he starts looking like an overly polished Chi-town huckster.

    Has it worked? It’s gotten Justin to update this post 3 times — you tell me. It has Obama himself getting a bit touchy, too. There’s traction here and the Clintons can feel it. Watch them hammer it.

  • mw, I still think you’re reaching with that other instance, but you go ahead and predict away. I again ask, are you calling the poet a plagiarist? That band? How far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go?

    Dos, they can hammer all the want. Plagiarism is a serious charge and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But this is a case of a story starting to get big and me following it and updating the post. Nothing I’ve seen so far convinces me that Obama has done anything wrong…in either case. Also, the idea that Hillary’s camp will charge then and then say she’s never done it is telling.

    As I say often…more as it develops…

  • Here are some familiar words: ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures.’
    And that’s all this ridiculous drivel is about. The Clinton Camp is running scared and will do or say anything to stop Barack Obama’s rise to the White House. They’ll huff and they’ll puff…’ oh, more familiar words. But Mr. Obama’s house is made of brick. It’s solid. Just like he is.

    I wish you a fair wind at your back, Mr. President!

  • mw

    As far as I know, June Jordan and Alice Walker and Sweet Honey are not running for President. Does a different standard apply to a candidate for President? Ask Joe Biden. He learned that there is even a different a different standard for a Senatorial candidate. He was re-elected repeatedly, despite nothing having changed over the offenses that torpedoed his presidential campaign.

    Like Joe Biden, Obama has used other people’s phrasing in speeches presented as if they were his own words.

    Does it meet the serious legal standard for a charge “plagiarism”? No. Absolutely not. It didn’t in Biden’s case either.

  • LSP

    It appears Obama has run out of different ways to say the same thing over and over again, and now must start borrowing other’s words. He is just another politician and as slick as any of them. Not only that, but he seems to have an identity crisis going on. In one speech he sounds like a white man and in the next he’s speaking like a Baptist preacher whipping people into a frenzy.

    The whole thing scares the heck out of me. If he’s elected, it’s not going to be the big giant lovefest of peace and prosperity for all like his starry-eyed followers seem to believe. Our country has NO MONEY.

    And already, Africa is COUNTING ON Obama’s support as President in helping to heal the country of his ancestry. And there is no way he is going to walk away from that.

  • ozamerican

    From Wikipedia:

    Clinton has been criticized for not giving credit to a ghostwriter in connection with It Takes a Village. The majority of the book was reportedly written by ghostwriter Barbara Feinman. When the book was first announced in April 1995, The New York Times reported publisher Simon & Schuster as saying “The book will actually be written by Barbara Feinman, a journalism professor at Georgetown University in Washington. Ms. Feinman will conduct a series of interviews with Mrs. Clinton, who will help edit the resulting text.”

    Feinman spent seven months on the project and was paid $120,000 for her work. Feinman, however, was not mentioned anywhere in the book….

    During her promotional tour for the book, Clinton said, “I actually wrote the book … I had to write my own book because I want to stand by every word.” Clinton stated that Feinman assisted in interviews and did some editorial drafting of “connecting paragraphs”, while Clinton herself wrote the final manuscript in longhand.

    This led Feinman to complain at the time to Capitol Style magazine over the lack of acknowledgement.[12] In 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported that “New York literary circles are buzzing with vitriol over Sen. Clinton’s refusal, so far, to share credit with any writer who helps on her book.”

    Later, in a 2002 article for The Writer’s Chronicle, Barbara Feinman Todd (now using her married name) related that the project with Clinton had gone smoothly, producing drafts in a round-robin style. Feinman agrees that Clinton was involved with the project, but also states that, “Like any first lady, Mrs. Clinton had an extremely hectic schedule and writing a book without assistance would have been logistically impossible.”

    Feinman reiterates that her only objection to the whole process was the lack of any acknowledgement. A 2005 Georgetown University web page bio for Barbara Feinman Todd states that It Takes a Village was one of “several high-profile books” that she has “assisted, as editor, writer and researcher.”

  • DJP

    Barack Obama is lazy and shallow, with nothing to offer but “words”. And even those aren’t his own lately.

    Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with the intelligence, passion and determination to run this country the way it ought to be run. She is a powerhouse. She just unveiled a Food Safety Plan in response to the recent recall of beef that came from Hallmark/Westland, the slaughterhouse that was illegally using sick and diseased cattle to supply the U.S. School Lunch program!

    Where is Obama’s plan?

  • Susanne D.

    On the subject of Obama, I just saw Michele Obama on CNN tell a rally of supporters “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country”.

    Seems it took the nation’s support of her husband as a possible presidential candidate to finally make her feel “really” proud of this country. Before that she was what – “NOT really proud” of her country?

    No matter how you interpret it, that’s not a very patriotic thing to say. Especially coming from someone who hopes to become our country’s First Lady.

  • John H

    oh grow up people! see these for what they really are, desperate attacks.
    and you know, i trust the undecided voters to see them this way.
    why is it that the clinton’s are always the first to attack? because they feel entitled to return to the white house and obama is simply the better candidate for the present moment.

    i’m sick of and saddened by hillary’s petty attacks.

  • Jo

    Barak should break out into song with the Begee’s “Words” lyrics:

    You think that I don’t even mean
    A single word I say
    It’s only words, and words are all I have
    To steal your heart away

    Yep, Obama is stealing your hearts with words that aren’t even his own!

  • Susanne D.

    Jo: Perfect.