Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic
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The Parrot Hilton

It was on MSNBC TV this morning (my bedroom TV is my alarm clock) and I had to turn it off after half a minute of punditry because some commentators are so ignorant they make me want to puke.

But it's also all over LJ, CNN and everywhere else. Hillary and Barak both being stupid on national television last night.

Hillary's line saying Barak's campaign is "Change you can Xerox" would have been clever coming from the Republican nominee in October 2008, but it was just plain rude coming from a colleague.

Barak's lack of a response did not display the courage he has shown in the past, and it was made worse by his throwing up the smoke screen of "Silly Season".

For more perspective, here is an excerpt from Jack Shafer's article on Slate.com which illustrates the plagiarism:

Just in case you're living in a news blackout, here are the contested words. First, what Obama said in Milwaukee on Saturday night …

Don't tell me words don't matter. "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?

… and now, Patrick on the stump in 2006:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Just words—just words! "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!

And here's the exchange during last night's debate (from CNN.com's transcript):

CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition.

(APPLAUSE)

And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox. And I just don't think...

OBAMA: Come on.

[cut to Obama's allotted time, questions from the moderator, CNN's Campbell Brown]

BROWN: I think one of the points -- I think one of the points that John King was alluding to in talking about some of Senator Clinton's comments is there has been a lot of attention lately on some of your speeches, that they are very similar to some of the speeches by your friend and supporter Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, and Senator Clinton's campaign has made a big issue of this. To be blunt, they've accused you of plagiarism.

OBAMA: Right.

BROWN: How do you respond?

OBAMA: Well, look, the -- first of all, it's not a lot of speeches. There are two lines in speeches that I've been giving over the last couple of weeks.

I've been campaigning now for the last two years. Deval is a national co-chairman of my campaign, and suggested an argument that I share, that words are important. Words matter. And the implication that they don't I think diminishes how important it is to speak to the American people directly about making America as good as its promise. Barbara Jordan understood this as well as anybody.

OBAMA: And the notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs...

(APPLAUSE)

... who gave me the line and suggested that I use it, I think, is silly, and...

(APPLAUSE)

... you know, this is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it...


Barak's excuse was the same one Joe Biden lost his Presidential bid over - I was just borrowing a line from my good buddy who said to go ahead and use it. On the one hand, good buddy didn't say to use it without attribution, on the other hand, Barak was quick to attribute it when he was called on it. I think Hillary should have dropped it from her debate agenda after Barak fessed up.

Personally, I don't think Barak's "just words" speech is particularly powerful. Not nearly as powerful as "ask not", which urban legend says was lifted from Khalil Gibran's 1925 essay, The New Frontier, but wasn't really.

Here's Gibran's version:
"Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert."</font>

The "ask not" phrase is the thing we all remember, and that was original JFK (or one of his speech writers, which is the same thing). Ironically, Kennedy called his campaign, and later his administration, The New Frontier.

But I digress.
The point of the "just words" speech, Barak tells us, is words can be powerful and important. But he doesn't push on to the logical conclusion that it is people acting on those words, not just the words themselves, which is the real force of change.


Bottom line: Hillary was wrong to sling mud, Barak was wrong to make excuses.

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