I really hate beating the "plagiarism" meme any more, but Hillary Clinton made me do it. Here's new news today that voters in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island might want to think about:
First, some background. On Feb. 18, the Clinton campaign held a conference call with journalists in which they accused Barack Obama of plagiarizing a line from another politician's speech. On Feb. 19, the Clinton campaign denied doing so and claimed the press came up with that accusation on their own. The same day, the other politician (Deval Patrick, a friend of Obama's) said that the line wasn't plagiarized -- he had suggested Obama use it.
Then, in their most recent debate on Feb. 21, Hillary Clinton nevertheless tried out a pre-scripted line reiterating the plagiarism charge -- even though her campaign had gone on record saying it wasn't trying to spread the plagiarism charge and even though, since she knew Patrick had given it to Obama, it wasn't plagiarism at all and her only beef could be that he had used it without attribution. (As if speeches have footnotes: Politician: "My opponent's accusations that I'm guilty of plagiarism are much ado about nothing. (fn.: Wm. Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing)".)
We all know that's not practical, and that speechwriters and politicans swap lines all the time, and that if a friend says -- as happened here -- hey, I used a great line in my last campaign that nicely summarizes the point you're trying to make, why don't you use it? -- you don't point it out, you just use it. No big deal. As Kris Kristofferson wrote, it's not a big deal, so instead of always arguing, "let's settle down and steal each other's songs."
The audience at the debate understood this, and booed Clinton when she trotted out the line about Obama "xeroxing" (hey -- that's trademarked? did she credit Xerox Corp.?) part of one of his speeches.
OK, so the Obama plagiarism thing's done with, over, kaput, right?
I wish it were. But -- more old news, though a little fresher -- in the same debate, Clinton herself twice used lines lifted from other politicians: one from John Edwards, and another from Joe Klein/Bill Clinton. The second one was about her taking lots of "hits" during the campaign, but them being nothing compared to the hits that real Americans take every day in their daily lives. A nice line, drew applause -- but she didn't say she'd lifted it from Bill or Klein, which violated the moral standard she was trying to hold Obama to. That's hypocrisy, as first bloggers like Dan Drezner and Megan McArdle and I and several other folks listed here, and then (though slowly) the mainstream media, all pointed out.
At THIS point, everything having to do with lifting lines from other people's speeches is REALLY done with, over, and kaput. It has to be, right? Pretend you're Hillary Clinton. Your sketchy effort to brand Obama a plagiarist drew boos, everyone wants the plagiarism issue set aside, your own "borrowing" of lines from other politicians' speeches without attributing them got caught and youwere publicly (if not privately, as you should have been) embarrassed. What would you do next? It's obvious: you'd work with your speechwriters to come up with a couple good news applause lines and you'd put this whole mess behind you. Pretty basic politics, pretty basic human ethics, pretty basic common sense.
What does Hillary Clinton do, instead? That's what this post is about:
She takes video of herself saying one of the lines she lifted from someone else, turns it into a commercial, and asks donors to give her $1.3 million specifically to run that commercial in the disputed states.
It's as if she recognizes neither (a) her own hypocrisy in the last debate, nor (b) how sick the public is of this stuff now, nor (c) how much this will help the Obama campaign, because just yesterday she renewed her attacks on his ethics, and people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
For voters in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont, this raises a couple of fundamental questions:
(a) is this someone you think really IS, as she claims, capable of running a smart, efficient campaign against the well-honed Republican machine?
(b) is this a person with the common sense, the character, and the insight to run our nation well?
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