February 18, 2008

Barack Oborrow

I've held recently, both here on CY and on Pajamas Media, that Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama is remarkably light on substance, if extremely gifted as a public speaker.

We are now hearing that the soaring oratory he gives may not entirely be of his own:

"Don't tell me words don't matter," Mr. Obama said, to applause. " '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?"

Mr. Patrick employed similar language during his 2006 governor's race when his Republican rival, Kerry Healey, criticized him as offering lofty rhetoric over specifics. Mr. Patrick has endorsed Mr. Obama, and the two men are close friends.

" 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' just words? Just words?" Mr. Patrick said one month before his election. " '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?"

Barack Obama obviously used Deval Patrick's language and apparently even inflections in delivery in a speech he delivered over the weekend. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been attempting to capitalize on the borrowing, and insists upon calling it plagiarism.

Is it?

According to (citing Merriam Webster), plagiarism is:

  1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  2. to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  3. to commit literary theft
  4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Did Barrack Obama meet any of these definitions when he used elements of Deval Patrick's 2006 speech?

It is unclear whether or not that Obama was attempting to pass off Patrick's language as his own, but once could certainly make an argument that he did. It is certain he did not give Patrick credit for that language he borrowed during the course of the speech. Is that plagiarism? As a textbook definition, yes.

It remains to be seen how seriously others will view the offense, but it is obvious that the candidate of "change" is not as full of fresh ideas as he would like to portray.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 18, 2008 03:23 PM

If this is the only instance of Obama plagerizing speeches, I say it's not a big deal. (Leaving aside the empty vacuity of his speeches, of course.) However, if this is part of a pattern, it is a problem.

Maybe we should ask Joe Bidden for a expert commentary.

Posted by: MikeM at February 18, 2008 05:11 PM

You don't seriously believe that politicians, especially those at the national level, write their own speeches, do you?

Posted by: Len at February 18, 2008 08:38 PM

Obama paraphrases Patrick without attribution - but 50% of Patrick's oration was restating exact quotations from famous orations (or texts) without attribution. Granted - the context of Patrick's comments clearly indicated that these were quotations from history - but stripped of the historical citations, Patrick's personal contribution did not include significant original content.

I am no fan of "Milli Vanilli" Obama - but I think that these charges represent a cheap Clinton slur against a rival.

Myself - I just break out the popcorn, to watch the two donks tear each other apart. I can't wait until the convention bloodbath over seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations.

Posted by: Lone Ranger at February 18, 2008 10:03 PM

So Obama is comparing his rhethoric to the Declaration or the words of other great men? Neat evasion, words remain rhetoric when they are devoid of substance. I've seen precious little meat in Obama speeches besides promising something to everyone at zero cost.

This guy should be selling swampland or auditioning for Elmer Gantry.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at February 19, 2008 01:14 AM

It's cheap not to give some hint of attribution, but hardly a hanging, plagiaristic offense. It doesn't bother me particularly. HOwever, I like that it's been pointed out as his feet of clay.

Obama had been spiraling into the realm of Lincoln and Martin Luther King, though I don't think he's anywhere near that level and Americans need to snap out of the hypnotic spell of Obama's Coming, and see this guy on more human terms.

Posted by: huxley at February 19, 2008 01:57 AM

gosh, there is so much wailing going on by obama supporters on the blogs I was thinking he might be better suited to running for internet president than running a country in serious trouble. I think the problem with Oborrow is that he in his own words, has tried to set himself in that posistion of "rare air" now he will have to live with the consequences of doing so. I personally don't find him to be that inspirational, the people like mlk and the kennedy boys had actually done something along with those speeches and they did inspire me...what you saw in their eyes when they gave their speeches made you know it came from the soul with bo it's just words, i see no fire in his eyes, its a fire em up sermon

Posted by: cowgirl at February 20, 2008 01:03 AM