Update on Devack Obatrick: Obama says he should’ve credited Deval

Here’s the latest on this amusing story.

Sen. Barack Obama said today that he should have given credit to his friend, Deval Patrick, when he used language very similar to some previously spoken by the Massachusetts governor in 2006.

“I was on the stump, and, you know, he had suggested that we use these lines,” Obama said at a news conference a few minutes ago. “I thought they were good lines. I’m sure I should have [given him credit], didn’t this time.”

Other locals weighing in on this include Rep. Jim McGovern, who is backing Clinton.

“If you use somebody else’s words or somebody else’s idea, I believe you should credit them,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.,) a Clinton ally, in a teleconference being held right now. “…When Sen. Obama uses them and doesn’t credit their origin, those same words seem less inspiring…”

More from the same article:

The obvious question is, how damaging will this be for Obama? When Sen. Joe Biden lifted some words and life events from a British politician in 1988, he wound up being so badly wounded, he had to quit the race. It definitely isn’t the kind of thing Obama wants people focusing on right now.

And then the understatement of the week:

In the age of YouTube, it’s probably a good idea for presidential candidates to credit the source to avoid these kinds of problems.

Yeah, probably.  Obama remains the “frontrunner.”  But his incautious comments about not wanting to debate any more have proven to be a mistake, and this Obatrick business has only created yet another unwanted distraction.  If he wants to wrap this thing up on March 4, he needs to be better disciplined.

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34 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. $quot;Desperation$quot; on the part of the Clinton campaign

    I loved this spin from Obama:

    Mr. Obama dismissed the charge as absurd and desperate.

       Mr. Obama told reporters he should have credited Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a friend, for a passage in a speech he delivered on Saturday in Milwaukee. But Mr. Obama said his rival was "carrying it too far."

       "Let's see," Mr. Obama said. "I've written two books. I wrote most of my speeches. I would add that I noticed Senator Clinton, on occasion, has used words of mine as well."

    I thought the observation that Clinton has stolen some his lines without crediting him was particularly amusing. Obama is handling this in exactly the right way: forthright about his error, and with a light touch.

    As I wrote, this is not going to get any traction because Patrick endorsed Obama and is happy for him to use the line -- and says so.

    Meanwhile, in other news, Obama has pulled even in Texas according to CNN. If Clinton loses in Texas and Ohio, I don't see how she can get the nomination, but I have no doubt others here can ;-)

    • She can still get the nomination even if she loses TX and OH.

      She can do it with superdelegates.  But she shouldn't try.  At that point, she should cut a deal (VP? Supreme Court? Something else? Her call) for the good of the party and the country.

      If, on the other hand, she wins those states, then it's a really really long slog to the nomination.

      • Yes, of course, numerically

        I meant politically. I wonder if she would take the VP slot. I would, if I were her. I think Obama should too, if the situation is reversed, for the good of all of us Democrats.

        I doubt either of them would.

        The question, to quote from my earlier post, is if either of them have the graciousness of Alice:

        Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble, looking as solemn as she could.

    • Handling attacks

      This line is stupid, sure.  About half as stupid as the media will pursue at McCain's bidding.

      Throwing out words such as "desperate" and "absurd" at the same time as admitted that the attacks have merit is not doing Obama and his campaign any good.  Obama's strategy of remaining above it all may conceal a lack of grace under fire, and needling him on stupid stuff to draw a condescending reaction may be the whole reason this is going on.

      That said, if Hillary just stuck to comparing their health care plans and their economic plans, she'd do pretty well on that score, too.

      sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  2. Biden

    While I agree that the Obama campaign needs to be more careful, I would doubt that this story has legs beyond the today and maybe tomorrow.

    It's important to remember that the reason the attack on Biden worked so well is because it reinforced what people already thought about Biden -- namely, that he's a political blowhard/windbag (though I don't agree with the characterization -- I supported him earlier this year!). The same assumption doesn't work with Obama, or at least I don't see it really sticking because he doesn't have that general reputation. The worst types of attacks are reinforcing attacks, and I doubt this fits the bill.

    • I agree

      I think, however, that the "needs more substance" criticism is a reinforcing (as you call it) criticism and thus is sticking.  btw, i use the word "criticism" and not "attack" because i think it is a legit concern.  however, some will indeed attack him with it, while some in his camp will try to dodge this valid criticism by calling it an attack.  

  3. Former Clinton Speechwriter on Plagiarism

    This from The New Republic blog

    Former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet if today's plagiarism accusations against Barack Obama were justified. In his mind, was what Obama did acceptable, or a violation of speechmaking ethics? Here are his thoughts ...

    Barack Obama's greatest strength is the originality of his rhetoric. Sometimes he talks like a regular person, as in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he introduced himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name." Sometimes, he sounds like a president from an earlier, more historically literate era, as when he situates his campaign in a tradition that includes the American Revolution, the abolitionists, and the emergence of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and other social struggles. But only rarely, if ever, does he use the familiar freeze-dried phrases that most current politicians favor. To borrow a phrase from the UAW, the "domestic content" of his speeches is unusually high.

    That's only one of many reasons why it's so silly to accuse Obama of plagiarism because he used some of the same phrases as his friend and ally, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (who, I should add, was helpful to me when he was assistant attorney general for civil rights at the same time I was a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton). If plagiarism is borrowing rhetoric without permission, Patrick most likely is happy to have Obama sound similar notes, such as hope and inspiration being more than "just words." Even if Obama and Patrick didn't know each other, they might use some of the same phrases because similar public figures frequently draw on common streams of public rhetoric. For instance, labor leaders often echo Walter Reuther or A. Philip Randolph; civil rights leaders draw upon the same scriptural passages and historical sources; and conservative Republicans repeatedly invoke Ronald Reagan. Similarly, John Edwards borrowed a rhetorical technique from his campaign manager, fellow populist and former Michigan congressman, David Bonior: His litany would begin "Somewhere in America," and then he'd describe a social or economic injustice, such as a worker losing his job and his family's health insurance. While Politico ran a story about this, it is hardly unusual for a candidate to share a rhetorical technique with his leading adviser.  

    After all, if there is one sentence from Scripture that is literally true, it is this line from Ecclesiastes: "There is nothing new under the Sun." To be condemned as plagiarism, a political speech needs to be grievously offensive--using lots of distinctive but little-known material from another source without attributing it to that speaker or receiving his or her permission. For instance, in 1987, Joe Biden once used, without attribution, a speech by the British Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock, in which Kinnock credited social programs with the fact that he was the first in his family to have attended college. By borrowing the speech and inserting his own name, Biden suggested that the men in his family had been coal miners when, in fact, as Maureen Down dryly noted, his father had been an auto dealer. (In fairness, Biden had quoted Kinnock when he had given the speech on other occasions.) Does what Obama did come close to what Biden did? Absolutely not. Next scandal, please.

    In hindsight, Obama should have said something about Patrick but both of them are borrowing rhetoric in this case so I just don't see how this is a big deal.  


    • The big deal is.....

      ....it lead in every evening news cast. Was even discussed on the PBS News Hour.  Was mention on the Holly weird entertainment shows.  Dominated every Blog right or left. Was the topic of every cable talking head and you don't need all the justifications or diatribes about whether it was plagiarism or not, once the two speeches were shown back to back the damage was done. The "Sound Bites of Hope" mask coming off to revel Politics of usual is a good story.

      David Gergen said it best. It was just a dumb thing to do.

      • when Perez Hilton

        picks it up you got yourself a problem.

      • Whether it should be a big deal is another question...

        Obama made a mistake with not attributing his similar rhetoric to Patrick and the Clintons have succesfully made this a big story - and that is what seems to me to be the real politics-as-usual story here, the fact that the Clintons seize on anything to try to bring down their opponents.  

        Good politics, yes - but very usual.  

        It would have been unusual for the Clintons to say that this is not very relevant to this race and we'd rather talk about the issues.  But I guess they don't think they can win on the issues so talking about "words", which I recall them saying don't do anything, as opposed to "solutions" suffices.

        • Well when Obama....

          .. speaks out against the tens tons of anti feminist  rhetoric that get thrown at Hillary every day I might start to believe in the Politics of Change. But the sad thing is it reduced Deval's stirring "Just Words" speech into calculated political response done badly by Obama.  

          • You didn't answer the point I made.

            It would be unusual for a candidate NOT to seize on a mistake like this from a rival.  That would be unusual, no?  The fact that the Clintons went guns blazing about something that really is trivial in the scheme of things (let's admit it) is politics-as-usual.  

            And you argue that Obama should be defending Hillary against all this anti-feminist rhetoric she is the victim of - do have some of this ten tons of anti-feminist rhetoric to cite? I tend to think as a "feminist" Hillary would probably argue that she could defend herself pretty well - I think she does most of the time, other than when she let's Bill do her fighting for her.

            I don't doubt that she is the "victim" of some sexism but she has also been more than willing to deploy her gender in service to her campaign.  It cuts both ways, just as race does with Obama.  Go to Hillary's website and it very prominently talks about her being a mother in her bio.  All the power to her, mom's should be proud, but Hillary is certainly not losing this race because she is a woman.  In fact, women vote in higher numbers than men and when she has done well its been because of her support with women.

            • A 4 became a 3

              When you went ranting on your feminist rhetoric. She has been the target of tremendous slimes merely because she's a women. Obama could have said enough is enough with stuff like that, but didn't. It's very hypocritical for you to go on the attack on Clinton again in this matter, when you're calling for a change in politics. Obama could have been that change here again, but wasn't. I'm so sick of his failing rhetoric that just doesn't meet who he is as a politician. It's like people put their brains on the frying pan or something... I sometimes feel like I'm living in Bizarro land or something.  

            • Couple of points to make

              I agree to some extent with this

              She has been the target of tremendous slimes merely because she's a women. Obama could have said enough is enough with stuff like that, but didn't. It's very hypocritical for you to go on the attack on Clinton again in this matter, when you're calling for a change in politics.

              But check out my post from a week ago on what gets hurled her way.

              Obama has big ears

              I especially recommend Hillary Haters as it should get the point across.

          • He has.

            Barack has spoken numerous times about the how race and gender should not be an issue in this or any election. He simply chooses not to dwell on it like Hillary and her supporters do.

        • What exactly should they have done?

          There isn't a campaign in the world that wouldn't have seized on this because, guess what, it was a major freaking gaffe. If Obama went and immediately said "oops, I should have credited Patrick," then the story would have been a big nothing. Instead, they tried to say no wrong was done... and whatdya know? It's a bid story. We had 8 years of Bush, who couldn't admit to making a mistake for the life of him. I'm glad Obama is now, though it should have been done immediately. And for heaven's sake, don't try to pin this on the Clinton campaign - that's beyond absurd.

  4. sometimes turnovers don't hurt, sometimes...

    If plagiarism is borrowing rhetoric without permission, Patrick most likely is happy to have Obama sound similar notes, such as hope and inspiration being more than "just words."

    Permission? No, getting a permission slip from Patrick has nothing to do with it. Obama's passing someone else's words and thoughts off as his own. That's bad. Not fatal, but i think the Clinton spokesperson hit a subject the GOP will: he's been positioned as being short on policy, but high on rhetoric/imgaination. If the rhetoric/imagination isn't even his own, what's left?

    If he gets the nomination, I'll still vote for him, but we shouldn't think this is inconsequential. It could very well be either Paula Jones or "I invented the internet."

    I'm wishing I had a scorecard on some folks here. My memory fails me whether there's consistency from some Obama supporters if we looked back on their Keller positions.

    • What does this have to do with Keller?

      The issue with Keller is that he was giving the impression of being an impartial journalist while withholding his affiliation with one side.

      In this case, there is no conflict of interest and no issue of journalistic integrity.

      I don't really think this will hurt Obama too much, but we shall see.

      • Rewind, HR's Kevin

        Yes, many thought Keller's disclosure of his potential conflict of interest was a big problem. Reporting on a race when your son is working for one of the candidates is reason for concern, surely.

        But another controversy was when Keller's book included information he didn't gather himself. Well, he may have gathered it himself, but only from people who had gathered it and reported it first.

        The recently absent Ernie Boch III had a post on it here.

        Included were some interestting lines, too... EB III

        This problem of Keller's does not, in my mind, effect his credibility. And the shoe will always be on the other foot some day.

        And then site co-proprietor Bob commented...

        One point is that Keller was disingenuous at best by presenting the quotations as original work, when in fact they were plagiarized i.e. included without proper citation: passing off someone else's work as one's own.
        • Journalistic integrity

          I said that in this case there is no issue of journalistic integrity in Obama's case. There is such an issue in both Keller's lack of disclosure and his lack of citations in his book.

  5. Something else Jim McGovern said

    Another quote by Congressman McGovern just might resonate with a number of voters.  He also said, "We need someone who can come up with original, creative and bold solutions. Not just someone who can copy someone else's homework."

    • What does orginality have to do with it?

      The idea that politicians don't trade ideas or come up with similar ones is ridiculous and self-defeating.  

      This is not ice skating - being original should not necessarily get you a higher rating from the judges and frankly I don't think Clinton is very original - I mean the hallmark of her health care plan is the individual mandate and she can thank Mitt Romney for that (it was also in Edwards' health care plan first as well).  

      Judgment and wisdom are much more important.  Being a good president is about looking at the range of ideas available to achieve your goals and choosing which ones are most likely to get you there - then successfully implementing them.  Karl Marx gets an A for originality in developing his theory of class conflict and the rise of the proletarian, but an F for practicality and implementation as the decline of the Soviet Union would attest.

      McGovern sounds a bit like the class snob running for school president.  I came up with the ideas - their mine and no one else can talk about them.  

      And let's remember this is not the first time the Clinton campaign has used schoolyard antics in this race - they also uncovered significant information that a young Barack Obama always was plotting this inter-party coup since the age of five when he said he wanted to be president.  If only the Clintons had known little Obama was plotting this dastardly scheme in 1967 they could have convinced him then that he'd rather be a firefighter and kept him from running.  Boy did they blow it.  Now they are left to accuse him of taking a few lines from a friend (and FDR, MLK, etc...) and ideas from them. Sounds like a real solutions based campaign to me.    

  6. David had this on Jan. 9th!...where was the media then?

    David, your post on Jan. 9th "Obama Channeling Deval?" was on the money...I noted then that i had also noticed the same thing you had back in December when i posted this: David...I posted this last Dec 7th:

    "Is there an echo in the air?  (0.00 / 0) David, that was an interesting comparison...but one section you quoted : " At a Sept. 7 debate, Patrick said: "I have no obligations, no debts to the political establishment on Beacon Hill. If you want the same old same old, the politics of money and connections, I'm not your guy. But if what you want is the politics of hope and a change of culture on Beacon Hill, I am your guy, and I want your vote."  When he won the Democratic primary Sept. 19, he exulted, "Let them hear that on Beacon Hill." He has since aired a television commercial linking Healey to "the failed politics of Beacon Hill."...

    Change the words "Beacon Hill" to "Washington DC"...and the name "Healey" to "Hillary"...and it sure bears a striking resemblance to the rhetoric of the presidential primaries...my concern is that Obama's campaign is just a national version of   Patrick's effort here in Massachusetts...long on rhetoric, short on specific action plans...it makes one nervous to anticipate an Obama Presidency...long on hope, short on action."

    This is another David Axelrod production...same playbook, same script with minor alterations...He did it for Obama in US Senate race, it worked....He took the show on the road to Massachusetts for Patrick, it worked...and now he's going on a national road show..."

    Will plagerizing someone else's speech get Obama in trouble? or will he get yet another skate from his adoring media fans?...

    We aren't talking one or 2 words here or there repeated...we are talking whole speech concepts and paragraphs...Biden must be shaking his head on this one, with good reason.

  7. Biden and Kinnock

    Joe Biden and Kinnock regularly campaigned together.  Thye attended each other's rallies.  They endorsed each other.  They gave speeches for each other.  They worked with each other's staff.  They directly discussed campaign themes and strategies with each other. What's more the friendship and close political relationship between Biden and Kinnock was well known at the time.

  8. Grasping at straws

    Hopefully people will see this for what is it. The Clinton camp is trying to find any little negative they can and will spin it so that they can damage the reputation of Obama. That's how they play ball. If karma has anything to say about this, the Hillary campaign will be seen as the negative petty mudslingers they have been consistantly after Iowa.  

    • Obamatron

      I like your david plouffe talking points!

    • I somehow...

      ...suspect that you would have a different view of this if it was our last governor's race, Kerry Healey had co-opted Mitt Romney's words and Deval Patrick called her on it.

      I somehow think everyone here at BMG would be pouncing on her.

      He screwed up, objectively.  He has now acknowledged as such.

      I for one don't have different standards for politicians I support.  They should be held to the same standards.

  9. If he said that in the first place

    Nothing would have been made out of this episode.

    We've had 8 years of a POTUS who couldn't apologize, and 8 years previous to that we had a guy who didn't really like to apologize. I'm glad Obama qualified this whole thing, so this story can die now. He made a mistake and that's all there was to it. The only sad thing is I think this whole episode has cheapened what's probably my favorite speech ever, especially given the fact that I got to see it in person.  

  10. One Substantial Consequence

    I think one potential consequence of this  incident could be that Patrick won't get the keynote slot in Denver. It seems like he would have been the logical choice prior to this speech-borrowing debacle. Am I wrong?

    • Very funny...

      keynote in Denver can go to David Axelrod with a Ted Sorenson edit...he can speak for all of them, even the deceased ones, at once.

    • On the contrary,

      I think if anything it increases the likelihood of Deval getting a good speaking slot (though I confess I hadn't thought about that before).  It allows them both to joke about it in a high-profile forum, and then both to give a great speech (both of which you can be sure will be vetted in advance for undue similarity).

  11. Mindless irrelevant drivel

    specifically designed to occupy valuable news bandwidth diverting attention away from other real disasters is starting to really piss me off. Lamestream media.

    • I find....

      ...it both relevant and thoughtful myself, but then again, I am no fan of Sen. Obama.  

      Somehow I don't think you've jumped to the defense of Romney when he got pummeled for similar gaffes.

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