The Clinton campaign accused Barack Obama of plagiarizing his speeches.

In the context of political folly masquerading as derring-do — the Clintons, via campaign communications director Howard Wolfson — are contending Barack is a fraud because his speeches are not his own:

Wolfson made the explosive charge in an interview with Politico after suggesting as much in a conference call with reporters.

On the call, Wolfson said: “Sen. Obama is running on the strength of his rhetoric and the strength of his promises and, as we have seen in the last couple of days, he’s breaking his promises and his rhetoric isn’t his own.” 

“When an author plagiarizes from another author there is damage done to two different parties. One is to the person he plagiarized from. The other is to the reader,” said Wolfson. Obama closely echoed a passage from a speech that Deval Patrick, now the Massachusetts governor, used at a campaign rally when he was running for that office in 2006.

Here’s the YouTube evidence the Clinton campaign will direct you to for proof of their argument.

That isn’t plagiarism. There was no intent to deceive or to steal someone else’s ideas and propagate them as your own original material.

Here is Hillary stealing phrases from Barack. Is she plagiarizing him as the Clintons have accused Barack of stealing from his friend?

Here is Howard Wolfson — on television during the early January 2008 Iowa Caucus — as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews accuses him of stealing from Barack Obama:

That’s the same Howard Wolfson who claimed the Clinton campaign’s attack against Barack’s Kindergarten essay hoping he would one day be president was first a joke and then a mistake:

In a rare public admission of imperfection, the Clinton campaign has acknowledged that its universally panned decision to prove Barack Obama’s presidential ambitions by citing a Kindergarten essay — which it then claimed was a joke — was in fact a mistake. Spokesman Howard Wolfson calls it “clearly an unwise thing to do.”

These attacks against Barack by the Clinton campaign look unseemly and thin — as if they are foundering for any thread from Obama’s coattails that they can grasp to pull him back from leaving them behind. The most offensive part of this entire “phony plagiarism” scandal is that is discredits real plagiarism. 

Plagiarism in schools and in research papers is a virus that eats creative thought and falsely claims original thinking. Plagiarism — and its deadly aftereffects — will be the subject of another Urban Semiotic article here in the future; but for now, slough off the Clinton finger-pointing and name-calling and know it all for what it is: The Last Refuge of a Dying Campaign.


  1. It does seem like bullying and teasing, but is it covering a more deceitful Clinton tactic, anne, as they plan to go after Obama’s pledged delegates:

    Pledged delegates are not really pledged at all, not even on the first ballot. This has been an open secret in the party for years, but it has never really mattered because there has almost always been a clear victor by the time the convention convened.
    But not this time. This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides.
    “I swear it is not happening now, but as we get closer to the convention, if it is a stalemate, everybody will be going after everybody’s delegates,” a senior Clinton official told me Monday afternoon. “All the rules will be going out the window.”
    Rules of good behavior, maybe. But, in fact, the actual rules of the party allow for such switching. The notion that pledged delegates must vote for a certain candidate is, according to the Democratic National Committee, a “myth.”
    If the Clintons do that, they will rip apart the party and President McCain will rule.

  2. They’d get away with it quietly — change a mind here, bend a rule there — it would be subtle and likely untraceable until the actual vote at the convention when it would be too late to do anything about it.

  3. Time now has a page full of places where Clinton stole from Obama with nice details 🙂 right here – and as it turns out the side by side speech involved a speaker who gave Obama the okay to use part of that speech. Not quite stealing if I hand you the keys. 🙂

  4. That’s a great link, Gordon, thanks!
    She better be careful over the fights she picks. Her stooges on morning TV today were all saying stuff like… “Obama thinks he gives great speeches, but when he steals those words from other people, what does he really have to offer us?”
    Here’s a great story on Hillary stealing from John McCain:
    It’s sad to see such a desperate move that backfired so harshly and so quickly on her. Will there come a time when she’ll decide to back out and lose with grace? I don’t think she’ll ever take the graceful route when cruelty is that last, great, gasp of the mighty fallen.

  5. The Invented Line Between Stealing and Inspiration

    The false charges against Barack Obama from the Clinton campaign claiming plagiarism is laughable on the surface and ridiculous in the depths. The bane of plagiarism, however, is a serious matter and it deserves more discovery and I will more

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