Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Being of the academic mindset I tend to favor the citation of another author's work in one's own work. But the tempest in a tea pot that the Clinton campaign is making over Sen. Obama's speeches and his sharing of lines between him and Gov. Deval Patrick does not seem to rise to the charge of plagiarism. It's common practice among public speakers to use words and rhetoric from others to bolster their own speeches. And with the case of Gov. Patrick, it seems that not only has the governor given Sen. Obama his consent to use some lines of his speeches, but Gov. Patrick himself has used lines from Sen. Obama's speeches as well. Yes, perhaps Sen. Obama should preface the use of those lines with where he got them from but as long as he isn't, ala Joe Biden, lifting entire speeches without giving due credit then it's not plagiarism, it's recognizing good speechwriting that dove-tails into one's own ideas. If what Sen. Obama does is plagiarism then every time he uses Biblical references, or calls on the rhetoric of MLK or any other civil rights leader then every politician is guilty of plagiarism. Particularly in this instance, there's a case to be made that the Clinton campaign has lifted an idea from the Obama campaign when they altered the rally chant of 'Yes We Can' to 'Yes She Can' for their own purposes. To say that what Sen. Obama has done is plagiarism and what their own campaign has done isn't seems far-fetched, to say the least.
Now when it comes to Sen. Obama's backing away from public financing for the general election, one has to remember that his pledge was predicated on Sen. McCain being the nominee for the Republican party and then negotiating out what is acceptable and what is not. Since Sen. McCain is already gaming the public finance system somewhat, I'm not sure that Sen. Obama should be held to that pledge. Such a pledge requires the assent of both parties and both parties acting in good faith. Thus, with Sen. McCain using the public financing angle to secure a loan pre-general election, I think Sen. Obama is allowed to eschew his pledge in the face of bad faith action by the other party. Moreover, I think the way Sen. Obama has raised the sort of money he needs for a general election run is vital for the Democratic party in terms of future elections. By not relying on large contributors but instead on a widely distributed network of small donations, Sen. Obama has built a campaign financing system that not only will serve other Democrats running for election in the future, but also avoids the pitfalls of taking large donations from vested interests, the kind of interests Sen. Obama has spoken out against time and time again. So once more I see the Clinton campaign attempting to make something out of relatively nothing. It's desperation on the part of Sen. Clinton and while the supporters of Sen. Clinton will argue that Sen. Obama is no better than the rest, the supporters or independents leaning his way will see that he hasn't done anything morally wrong.

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