Obama’s Plagiarism of Deval

It’s no surprise to anybody that Deval Patrick and Barack Obama have borrowed riffs and language from each other for the past several years. Their tremendous similarity is one reason, I believe, Obama lost both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Here’s what I wrote in January on the subject. I started my column with a Deval Patrick riff that could have been Obama: “This was not a victory just for me. This was not a victory just for Democrats. This was a victory for hope.”

For this reason, the Clinton attack of Obama carries little weight. It seems to me to be perfectly appropriate for a candidate who is essentially being advised, in part, by Deval Patrick, to use this language. It’s a transparent relationship, and everyone following politics is aware of it. It’s also well-known that Patrick and Obama share the same campaign strategist, David Axelrod, which puts the charge of “plagiarism” in a different and less damaging light.

Here’s my take on the fracas: “The saddest thing about the Clinton campaign’s attack on Mr. Obama’s oratory is that her team should have been ready for it. President Clinton came to Massachusetts on October 16, 2006, to campaign for Mr. Patrick, when he was making his “just words” speech. Mr. Clinton hosted a fundraiser for Mr. Patrick, whose own campaign was filled with rhetoric of hope. If anyone should have been prepared for and ready to counter such a campaign, it is Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Patrick’s language was so similar to that of Mr. Clinton during the 1992 campaign that the Boston Globe published a story about their similarities, ‘In Patrick, A Clinton Echo.’ The article quoted a key passage of a speech given by Mr. Clinton in 1992: ‘This election is a race between hope and fear, between division and community, between responsibility and blame, between whether we have the courage to change, to stay young forever, or whether we stay with the comfort of the status quo.’ The language was, in fact, so similar that Mr. Patrick could not tell if the words were his or Mr. Clinton’s.

Later that same day, Mr. Clinton praised his former appointee, Mr. Patrick, calling him “magnificent.” There is no record of him criticizing Mr. Patrick’s language as too similar to his own. Mrs. Clinton has a sliver of a chance in this presidential race. But yesterday’s tired trick will likely do more to hasten the end of her national political career than sustain it.”

Read more here.   

3 Responses to “Obama’s Plagiarism of Deval”

  1. friend-of-fab-dana Says:

    This isn’t about plagiarism — it’s about authenticity.

    Here is someone who has sold himself as the hope and light of the world, but in reality he is just another consultant-created, poll-tested, message-crafted, test-driven (by Patrick) POLITICIAN. He isn’t anything different, just more of the same.

    Not CHANGE but in fact, politics as usual.

    Personally I don’t have a problem with this. I know that pols have speechwriters and consultants. What really irks me is that all of the Obama bandwagon-ers think that he is something new and different, but slowly his sheen will be rubbed off by reality.


  2. dustin stein Says:

    On Saturday Obama gave a speech where he lifted rhetoric from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. This part is no secret, but the media’s attack on Hillary for her campaign acknowledging this is fact is asinine. Obama has not passed any tangible legislation and has actually failed to do anything more than inspire America with his words. It is frustrating to read that so many people have bought into the hype of Obama’s words, but when we will see his actions? When will Obama actualize his words?

    In the New York Sun, Seth Gitell went after Hillary’s campaign for bringing up Obama’s lifting of Mr. Patrick’s words. Gitell takes this as Hillary’s desperation, but from day one Gitell has disliked Hillary and the chances of Gitell saying anything nice or even neutral about Hillary is as likely as hearing a complete sentence by President Bush. The highlighted sentence for the column was, “Hillary Clinton has a slim chance in this presidential race. But yesterday’s trick will likely do more to hasten the end of her national career than sustain it.” That is a mouthful.

    There is nothing tired about stating that Obama lifted his words from another speaker. In college if you did that and did not acknowledge the source you failed the paper, sometimes the class, and in egregious plagiarism you were expelled. But instead of Mr. Gitell commenting on Obama’s statements he would rather trash Hillary. It seems like a curious decision considering the incident should be about whether or not Obama lifted these words from Mr. Patrick.

    It does not matter that Mr. Patrick and Mr. Obama are friends, what matters are the originality of Mr. Obama’s words. If Hillary did not say anything then people would say she is spineless. But since Hillary did say something Hillary is “desperate.”

    If anything was revealed by Mr. Obama lifting the speech from Deval it is that Hillary is correct: Obama is all words and no actions. Obama is able to quote some of the memorable statements of American Presidents, but will he be able to pass important legislation like the civil rights act or ending slavery or making advances in federal funding for stem cell research. Obama, by improvising this part of his speech, demonstrated Hillary’s point about his candidacy: he is all words. Whether they are borrowed or not, Obama has run a campaign based on promises and phrases, but lacking in content to back it up. Mr. Gitell has bought the bait, hook line and sinker. Whether or not it is plagiarism to lift Mr. Deval’s words should be the issue not Hillary’s response.

  3. Dan Kennedy Says:

    Speechwriting is hip-hop, not high art. You take a little from here and a little from there. Back in November, Noam Scheiber compiled a list of six examples of Hillary Clinton’s stealing from other candidates:


    And here are some more examples:


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