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January 29, 2014 11:44 AM Stealing From An Empty Wallet

By Ed Kilgore

Well, can’t help noticing yet another SOTU story, from Politico’s Dyan Byers:

Speaking to Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, Marc Thiessen, the lead writer on Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address, said he found Obama’s speech Tuesday night “eerily familiar.”
“Barack Obama has gone from blaming George W. Bush to plagiarizing George W. Bush,” Thiessen said.
Thiessen then read phrases from the 2007 speech which focused on the theme “hope and opportunity.”
“It was eerily familiar. There were lines like ‘Our job is to help Americans build a future of hope and opportunity, a future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy, a future of hope and opportunity requires that all citizens have affordable and available healthcare, extending opportunity and hope depends on a stable supply of energy,’ all of that came from the 2007 State of the Union from George W. Bush,” Thiessen said.
A quick text compare shows that no lines were directly lifted from Bush’s 2007 speech in the one Obama gave on Tuesday. There are some minor similarities between the two: Obama use a version of the word “opportunity” more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times. Both speeches also ended with a moving story about a wounded veteran.
In an email, Thiessen said Obama pivoted from the liberal theme of income inequality to a conservative theme of opportunity.

Oh good God almighty. For starters, how disgusting is it that this man goes on television to talk about a presidential address and claims his own words (which in a better era he would not dare take public credit for) have been lifted by the president he loathes so much? Is this the speechwriting equivalent of “I slept with your wife,” or something? No wonder Thiessen arouses so much antipathy from other writers and gabbers.

But just as bad are Thiessen’s clumsy complaint that Obama didn’t use the theme he expected him to use, and the laughable effort to put a copyright on the word “opportunity.” I know it’s considered acceptable these days for highly compensated political people to have no idea what happened before they were born, but still: the primary legislative vehicle for LBJ’s War on Poverty was the Equal Opportunity Act of 1965. The term was not invented by Ronald Reagan, or given any new meaning by George W. Bush. Indeed, when it comes to the claim that Obama is plagiarizing Bush’s ideas, he has the defense that it is impossible to steal from an empty wallet.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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