Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

PLAGIARISM....I propose a moratorium on the use of the word "plagiarism" and its derivatives by all political commentators working in all mediums for all political viewpoints anywhere in the English-speaking world for the next 30 days. All in favor? Thanks. Motion carried.

Kevin Drum 1:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Comments

I don't think that idea was originally yours, Kevin.

Posted by: ajay on February 22, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Bad politicians plagiarize (Biden), great politicians steal (Obama).

Posted by: Med2 on February 22, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

You're a plagiarist!

GOOGLE: Results 1 - 10 of about 600 English pages for "propose a moratorium".

Posted by: polo on February 22, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, in order to call a moratorium on the use of the word "plagiarism", you actually have to use the word "plagiarism"...Of course, there's a matter of using the word "plagiarism" before or after the moratorium was called for and accepted, which should excuse Kev...

...and now, since I've broken the Drum Moratorium on Use of the Word "Plagiarism" four whole times in one comment, I feel like a complete criminal...

Posted by: grape_crush on February 22, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

More evidence that Obama is Congressman Santos from the last season of the West Wing. Someone find me Aaron Sorkin's time machine!

Posted by: Stephen on February 22, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

OK by me, but the plural of "medium" is "media."
Or are you just avoiding the charge of plagiarism for using the word "media?"

Posted by: thersites on February 22, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Unless you mean fortune-tellers.

Posted by: thersites on February 22, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

At least we know how to spell it. No one in the right blogosphere seems to. Shocker, that.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

thersites on February 22, 2008 at 1:23 PM:

Unless you mean fortune-tellers.

I like to strike a happy medium, which explains my bad luck.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 22, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary: That isn't change you can believe in, that's change you can Xerox"

I wish Barack had asked her "did YOU write that line?". There would have been no good answer.

Posted by: Augustus on February 22, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to make a motion of my own: a moratorium on the use of the word "plagiarism" and its derivatives by all political commentators working in all mediums for all political viewpoints anywhere in the English-speaking world for the next 30 days. What say people? All in favor? Motion carried. Thanks.

Posted by: marcel on February 22, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Too late: Gene Lyons has struck: Obama gives opponents plenty of ammunition

Posted by: Mike on February 22, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

OT

Perhaps the John McCain adultery story is a sign from God that He is displeased with conservatives and wants them to become more liberal.

Posted by: Swan on February 22, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I totally disagree. If the Clinton campaign is quick to attack Obama for stealing lines, I think it's totally fair to hold Hillary up to her own standards. More importantly, I think this "holding your opponent up to his/her standards" should be the main tactic against McCain in the fall. I know it's turned into a cliche, but in this case, I think it's important to diffuse stupid attacks like the plagiarism charge by repeating them to the point where they no longer have any meaning at all.

Posted by: greg on February 22, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Augustus: I wish Barack had asked her "did YOU write that line?". There would have been no good answer.

LOLOLOL.

I thought her closing comments were quite wonderful and quite warm. And I was looking at her with a very skeptical eye at that point, having sat through two hours of Obama listening gravely and without expression when she spoke, while she sported an unmistakable sneer and look of wry contempt every time he was speaking.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

You don't have a quorum.

Posted by: matt on February 22, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

String together the Josh Marshall coverage of last night's debate and you'll get (a) HRC was nice, (b) HRC hit a home run with her closing statement, and (c) HRC is a hypocrite for the plagarism nonsense as #b was almost verbatim what Bill Clinton said in 1992. Of these three - (c) is the best point Josh made in an excellent coverage of last night's debate. Team Clinton should support this moratorium as this is getting to be embarrassing.

Posted by: pgl on February 22, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Martin Luther King was much more than a man of Just Words. I'm not sure that the same is true of Obama.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 22, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I wish Barack had asked her "did YOU write that line?". There would have been no good answer.

Except if Hillary had replied, "no, but I paid the person that did."

Posted by: thersites on February 22, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

You don't have a quorum.
Posted by: matt on February 22, 2008 at 1:52

Kevin got Inkblot and Domino to vote with him. I sense a scandal. We have video of Inkblot being handed treats by a laughing woman...

Posted by: thersites on February 22, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Now that Kevin's motion has passed, let's move on to new business.

I propose a moratorium on the use of the word "plaigiarism" and its derivatives by all politcal commentators...

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 22, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

No problem. I just filed a copyright on the word "plagiarism".

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 22, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: "...having sat through two hours of Obama listening gravely and without expression when she spoke, while she sported an unmistakable sneer and look of wry contempt every time he was speaking."

We must have been watching two different debates. My family and I observed that Obama hardly EVER paid attention when Hillary spoke, he almost invariably was looking down and taking notes. And as for the alleged "sneer" Hillary was sporting, it appeared to us as to be a courteous, pleasant expression. My daughter, an organizational behaviorist, first pointed out Obama's tactic of ignoring Hillary, while she gave him her full attention.

Posted by: Motherlode on February 22, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Motherlode: taking notes on what your debate opponent says is not ignoring your opponent, quite the opposite.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 22, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Can we say "Domenechism" instead?

Posted by: bz on February 22, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah. BTW, again, Obama didn't do IT because the guy he borrowed from said it was OK. You can't steal from a willing donor.

Posted by: Neil B. on February 22, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Xeroxing Hope! Man, I don't care who you are, you gotta love that line. And I do believe Obama when he says that words are important.They are important. Very important.Important enough to rip your best friend off.

Come on,common sense here.At some point, Obama had to have sat down and watched that speech and said to himself,'Oh thats good.I think I'll steal that."

I think it makes him more human and less "ObamaGod." He's just like us.

Posted by: Dublin on February 22, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I propose a moratorium on the use of the word "plagiarism" and its derivatives

Um, wouldn't that favor candidates who plagiarize over those who don't?

Can we also institute a moratorium on the use of the word "change" and all its derivatives?

I guess that wouldn't be fair for some reason, would it?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 22, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I wish Barack had asked her "did YOU write that line?". There would have been no good answer.

Answer: And how many of your lines are written by you of late, Senator Obama? Did you compose every word of your speeches lately, since those are what you're so famous for? Could you give us a breakdown?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 22, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Kevin's motion has been reversed by 20 signing statements.

Posted by: blindjoedeath on February 22, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0,
Yes, do encourage Clinton to keep it up, let's drive her poll numbers down as far as possible.

Posted by: blindjoedeath on February 22, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama campaign strategy reminds me of the GOP overuse of -gate and -card. This is not to dispute its effect, it obviously worked on Kevin.

Posted by: david on February 22, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The sheer stupidity of some of the excuses given by the Obama camp on the subject of plagiarism is pretty appalling.

Look, as Hillary pointed out last night, what Obama did with Deval's "just words" speech was to copy an entire passage. I repeat: an entire passage. An entire passage.

Does anyone really, I mean, really fail to understand that there's a big difference between copying a portion of a sentence and copying an entire passage?

Politicians copy portions of sentences all the time. Nobody thinks twice about it. At the other extreme, we have people like Biden who copied a signficant portion of another politician's speech, and was effectively forced to drop his run for the Presidency because of it.

Surely there are offenses in between those extremes, right? Surely if you copy an entire passage, that a far more real offense than if you copy merely a portion of a sentence, right? The degree of the offense surely should follow pretty well the degree of the copying, right? Isn't some kind of proportionality the right way to think of it?

Now I certainly don't think that Obama's copying was anywhere nearly as bad as Biden's. But I don't see how it is not a very real offense. He should be apologizing all over for it, but instead is, as The Protected One, forgiven everything. It's just a "riff" -- who should care?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 22, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

While we're at it, we need to address Sen McCain's proposed moratoria(?) on the words adultery, lobbyist and corruption and Sen Obama's request regarding the terms Rezko and experience.

Posted by: david on February 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

One of the ironies of this is that journalists have spent years accusing bloggers of, for example, not really wanting to do anything about plagiarism because they get too much mileage out of making fiery speeches about it four months

Posted by: RS on February 22, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Not so fast, Kevin!

Here is an excerpt from Ron L. Hubbards "Battleship Earth:"

Animal-man dude #1: The great villages were built by our people. By millions of men and women just like us willing to fight to the death for one thing above all else- their freedom.

Animal-man dude #2: Do you think no one has tried? You can't defeat them.

Animal-man dude #1: Yes we can. Yes we can!

Via Unicorn Hordog

Posted by: john stephen lewis on February 22, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Answer: And how many of your lines are written by you of late, Senator Obama? Did you compose every word of your speeches lately, since those are what you're so famous for? Could you give us a breakdown?

LOL--there's Frank's famous tin ear again. Had it gone down this way, Obama would have gotten a big laugh and Clinton would once again have been treated to a nation's rolled eyes. Not only does HRC and her team not get how badly she comes off when she tries this stuff, neither do her most rabid fans--which is, of course, why we are where we are.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

The plagiarism's the thing.

Posted by: Brojo on February 22, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Snaps to Brojo! And to the people on the other thread having fun with "Iseman Trophy."

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

In case no one has already raised it, Martin Luther King, Jr. was also (posthumously) accused of plagiarism--his doctoral thesis at BU, IIRC. Neither that nor the equally well documented instances of marital infidelity have made much of a difference in the long run.

This is not, by the way, meant to equate Obama with King. Or with Lincoln.

Posted by: Henry on February 22, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Talent borrows, genius steals.
Oscar Wilde
(also attributed to James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Morrisey . . . .)

And while we’re quoting (or is it stealing?) from someone who claims to be Oscar Wilde, here’s another quotation:

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Oscar Wilde

And on that same subject:

Le plagiat est la base de toutes les littératures, excepté de la première, qui d'ailleurs est inconnue.
Plagiarism is the basis of all literatures, except the first one, which is, however, unknown.
Jean Giraudoux

Posted by: Henry on February 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hang in there Kevin. If I had your job I would be tired of everything.

ss:Justice has been served. I'm having to type with one hand.

Posted by: little ole jim on February 22, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

From Josh Marshall:

Clinton, 92: "The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time."

Hillary Clinton, tonight: "You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country."

Just to be 100% clear, there's nothing in the least wrong with this. And it's a great line. But I think it shows the silliness of the 'plagiarism' charges based on a few borrowed lines. Politicians borrow good lines and catch-phrases. Happens all the time. There's nothing wrong with it.

Posted by: nepeta on February 22, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Omigod! That last paragraph was written by Josh, not ME!!! I forgot the quotes!

Posted by: nepeta on February 22, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just wondering why nobody has noticed that Eli Manning plagiarized the idea of the forward pass from his brother. I'm just saying ...

Posted by: drinkof on February 22, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Not only does HRC and her team not get how badly she comes off when she tries this stuff...

I thought she was doing rather well in the debate right up to the "Xerox" sentence. That was her big blunder. I could understand her briefly bringing it up as a rhetorical barb and then letting it go, but she had to go on and on making it worse. I didn't like this debate nearly as well as the last one. Too many canned responses-especially with regard to immigration. It was also VERY irritating that the debate sponsors didn't include enough time to cover health care again in detail and to expand on foreign policy issues. For a two hour period, it seems that only about 4 general questions can be fully addressed with any informative responses.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 22, 2008 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 22, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Hillary: That isn't change you can believe in, that's change you can Xerox"

Barack should have asked her if she really meant to use a brand name in a generic manner (which I believe is a violation of the trademark), or was there some reason she thought a Xerox was better than any other make of photocopier.

Methinks they all protest too much.

Oops.

Also, if Obama won a coin toss and decided to go second, why didn't HE have the closing comment? He sort of looked like he was waiting for his turn. Or were the rules not explained to them, i.e. the one who goes first gets to finish last? I can't imagine any politician winning a coin toss deciding any other way than to go last in the WHOLE DEBATE.

"My daughter, an organizational behaviorist, first pointed out Obama's tactic of ignoring Hillary, while she gave him her full attention."

I thought the same thing, without being a behaviorist of any sort, as far as I know.

My immediate gut feeling in response to her "I'm honored to be here with Barack" line was also negative. It looked to me like "Yes, you ARE honored to be with me, little lady." Harkened me back to "You're attractive ENOUGH Hillary." (Emphasis mine.) I really thought he'd lost all the women watching in that moment.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 22, 2008 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

My whole problem with the gushy "I'm honored, I'm so honored to be ...." (she repeated the honored part at least twice), followed by the "We'll be alright' comment, was that I knew, of course, that it was a well-rehearsed and tactical moment. Clinton's effort to appear genuinely (what? complimentary?) would have left me in the same state as Obama. I've certainly run into this situation myself in life with overly effusive, but perhaps somewhat manipulative, people complimenting me on something. I respond politely but with a restraint that I wouldn't have if I thought the compliment had been genuine.

Posted by: nepeta on February 22, 2008 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

Perry,

Deval Patrick is the Obama campaign's national co-chair as well as being a friend who had urged Obama to 'use' his speech on 'words matter' because he was also was had the charge leveled against him that words DON'T matter. Political speeches are not independent research projects where each reference to another's work must be foot-noted. Certainly Hillary's use of Bill's rhetoric in the Texas debate, only slightly varied (see my post, 5:37 PM), does not amount to plagiarism either. What about the use of "It's the economy, stupid." Must the user of that sentence always reference Bill Clinton in 1992? I'm afraid such academic rigor in every instance would make political speeches unlistenable.

Posted by: nepeta on February 22, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/2/21/234359/830/75/461653

As Commander Kos says, people who live in glass houses....

Posted by: Jim in Chicago on February 23, 2008 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

" It troubles me when a candidate for president appears incapable of admitting a mistake (he could even call it an oversight if he wanted"

In fact, Obama did express his regret at not attributing the remarks to Patrick in the first debate in which it came up, along with an explanation about how the two of them (Patrick and Obama) had tossed ideas back and forth for years.

Posted by: nepeta on February 23, 2008 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Exactly, Jim... Thanks.

Posted by: nepeta on February 23, 2008 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else here find it ironic to see blog commenters discussing plagiarism?

Posted by: doug r on February 23, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

It troubles me when a candidate for president appears incapable of admitting a mistake (he could even call it an oversight if he wanted

That is ten different kinds of hilarious. Because, you know, candidates for president are quite frequently admitting mistakes. Hillary, for example. I'm sure she's made some (mistakes that is, not admissions).

During this primary season it is so apparent how people seek to believe what they already believe, or want to. Obama supporters find little to no fault in their candidate, and Clinton supporters find no fault in her, and much in him.

It’s all a bit more gray then that, imo. I have not paid a lot of attention to the “P” word accusations, because it seems like another in a long list of non-news giving people more fodder to wax shrill on the opponent.

Either one of them might make a good president. Or not. No sure fire thing either way, and I am amazed at the surety that emanates from both camps.

Posted by: E Henry Thripshaw on February 23, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

"No sure fire thing either way, and I am amazed at the surety that emanates from both camps."

You just said a mouthful. At least for myself I'll say that in the wee hours of the night I harbor doubts. It's just that in blog comments supporters of one candidate or another are kept so busy defending their own candidate or belittling the other that there's little room for doubt. Last night I read an article that concluded that both Clinton and Obama were 'establishment' candidates and that the status quo would change little in either presidency. I can 'see' that, but sure hope it doesn't turn out to be the case.

Posted by: nepeta on February 23, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly-zero and Perry:

Please note, as numerous commentators have, that Hillary's closing line in the Texas debate, which triggered the standing ovation, was clearly cribbed from a 1992 campaign remark of her husband's (quoted in an article by Anna Quindlen -- you can google it) and a line that John Edwards used several times in the debates ("Whatever happens in this campaign, we'll be fine. The question is whether America is going to be fine.")

Pot, kettle, QED.

Politicians recycle good lines. Please spend your outrage on a real issue.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 23, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK
....both Clinton and Obama were 'establishment' candidates....nepeta at 12:13 PM
Who's More Progressive?

...Progressive Punch is a site that rates the legislative records of all Senators on progressive issues. For 2007-2008, Barack Obama is the 43rd most progressive out of 100 Senators. # 44 is Joe Lieberman. After #50, they are all Republicans, except for Tim Johnson. (Overall, his ranking is 88% or 24 out of 99, possibly suggesting he has become less progressive over time in the Senate.)
Hillary Clinton is rated far more progressive for 2007-2008, at #29. Her score is 90% to Obama's 81%. Overall, she ranks 17 out of 99, with a 91% progressive voting record, to his 24 out of 99 and an 88% progressive voting record.)....

If you think that Obama is not establishment, you're naïve.

.....Pot, kettle, QED.... The Fabulous Mr. Toad at 4:45 PM

Sorry chum, I realize that every Obama act must be defended to the death, as befits Dear Leader who can do no wrong.
Clinton's phrase is a common construction, Obama's was not and was not given with attribution
"as my friend and supporter said:"

Obama can say or do anything out of Karl Rove's playbook and it's jake.

(CNN) -- A visibly angry Sen. Hillary Clinton lashed out Saturday at Sen. Barack Obama over campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false."
With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director who is reviled by Democrats....

Posted by: Mike on February 23, 2008 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mike,

There are many reliable sites which rank Dems on progressive voting. One of my favorites is ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) which puts Clinton and Obama in a tie at 95% for progressive voting in 2007. They both lost 5% by voting for the Peru free trade agreement. Any group that would put Obama only one step ahead of Liebermann has to have a screwed-up methodology.

Posted by: nepeta on February 23, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

There is a basic flaw in the "I had permission from the first user" defence I am seeing here to excuse Obama's clear plagiarism. It misses that there are two sets of victims when plagiarism is committed, the person(s) whose work is being used without attribution AND the audience for that work being left with the false impression that the plagiarist is the original author/creator of that work. So while the defence of Duvall Patrick gave me permission and told me not to tell anyone about it may work for the former, it does nothing in terms of defending against the latter offence, which in a politician is the greater offence being committed in my books. In other words he was committing a fraud upon all his listeners when he used without attribution these passages, and when this is considered in combination with the fact that it is his words and ideas which are the primary/core basis for the Obama candidacy makes that offence against the recipient/audience that much more serious.

So the defence of he didn't steal it he was given the use of the words in question only absolves Obama of the lesser offence against the original author, not the greater offence of playing his audience for fools by leaving them with the clear impression that these were his words and not someone else's. It is really that simple people.

Posted by: Scotian on February 24, 2008 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Scotian,

Then I'm sure you'll accept Clinton's 'lifted' lines from Bill in '92 and Edwards in '08 at the end of the Texas debate, in which she seemed to be offering 'words from the heart' as being plagiarism too? (See Mr. Toad at 4:45 PM and
Jim in Chicago at 1:22 AM.)

Posted by: nepeta on February 24, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Unless you're talking about psychics, the plural of medium is media, not mediums.

Posted by: pedantic dude on February 24, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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