Carol Platt Liebau: Hardly a Biden/Kinnock Moment

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hardly a Biden/Kinnock Moment

Hillary Clinton's campaign is trying to make hay of the fact that there are decided similarities between Barack's rhetoric and that of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.

But much as the Clinton campaign no doubt wishes it, this is hardly a Biden-Kinnock moment. For one thing, Deval Patrick is willing to make it clear that he and Barack share ideas and language -- thereby suggesting that Barack isn't plagiarizing him; rather, presumably, the language is the fruit of their discussions.

What's more, it sounds as if Patrick was coming close to copying Obama, back in 1995.

If Obama and Patrick didn't know each other (and Patrick weren't willing to make it clear that the issue isn't a problem for him), and Patrick had used the language much, much earlier than Obama, maybe it would have the Clintons' hoped-for effect of undermining Barack's image as a great orator and bringer of hope. As it is, it just makes the Clinton campaign seem desperate.

Finally, it's hard not to wonder whether -- even if Barack had engaged in Bidenesque plagiarism -- it would even matter anymore. The standards for behavior for presidential candidates (and presidents themselves) have fallen immeasurably over the last 20 years, thanks mostly to the behavior and the scandals of Hillary's own husband. So there's something a bit ironic about Hillary expecting everyone to have a nervous breakdown about plagiarism allegations in light of the many examples of Bill Clinton's verbal dishonesty.

Oh, and wait a minute! I thought Hillary Clinton thought that speeches don't matter. Apparently, in some contexts, they do.


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