Last Night’s Obama-Clinton Debate Killed the Plagiarism Meme

At last night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton was asked about the charges of plagiarism that have been leveled against the Obama campaign, and she attempted but failed to deliver a zinger. Clinton knew the “change you could Xerox” line didn’t have the intended effect the moment she said it, and she spent the next few minutes scrambling to recover as she veered into a discussion of health care rather than plagiarism.

And Clinton ‘borrowed’ words from Edwards last night.

Writes DailyKos: “This plagiarism thing is officially dead. I’m sure we’ll be able to move on from this silliness. Worst. Political. Attack. Ever.”

Talking Points Memo notes that “the pivot of Hillary’s powerful concluding remarks came from Bill Clinton’s 92 campaign.”:

Bill Clinton in ’92: “The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time.”

Hillary Clinton, last night: “You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.”

Here are the candidates’ closing statements.

Some are saying that Clinton’s closing statement sounded much like a concession speech. I think both candidates performed fairly well in the debate and have behaved admirably toward each other, even given the attacks. Could an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket be in our future?


  1. Rob says

    I think the best Hillary is hoping for is that Obama will pick her as his running mate, but it will never happen. He doesn’t need her on the ticket like she needs him. Independents would vote for McCain over Hillary, and Hillary’s strong Democratic base (i. e. menopause-aged women) will vote for Obama over McCain even without Hillary on the ticket. Its as simple as that.

  2. Jimmyboy says

    Senator Hillary Clinton had a revelation during that “xerox” moment. From the point of the booing on she totaly stopped the negativity and showed her more human side vs the packaged Mark Penn product.

    It was almost like a realization of inevitable truth.

    Her being surrounded by yes men, her only seeing supporters at rallys, etc had shielded her and the shied was broken through by a democratic audience. From the pint of the boos on Senator Hillary Clinton was the candidate she should have been the entire campaign.

    Their is an intriguing diary over at Dkos that talks about Hillary being Moses and realizing that she won’t enter the promised land and Obama is Joshua. We have much to thank Senator Hillary Clinton for.

    Senator Clinton has broken through the glass ceiling. Never in america’s history has a woman risn so far in a presidential campaign.

    Senator Clinton has helped Obama to become a better cadidate. Obama has now been vetted by the BEST political machine this decade. He has been refined and polished so as to be able to easily take on the repub machine in the general election.

    Senator Clinton’s closing remarks gave me a glimpse of the party stalwart she wll be.

  3. Robert says

    I think the plagerism claims are ineffective but not so far off the mark. If he makes words such an instrumental part of his campaign, the words should be originally. All his supporters are just saying that this is ordinary politician behavior and that Hillary does it, too. And that’s true. But Hillary doesn’t claim to transcend politics. Obama does. The point is that this IS ordinary political behavior. And Obama is just another politican.

    I liked that, during his remarks on health care, he admitted to altering his original plans because of politics. I doubt THAT will receive any attention.

    As for her closing remarks, she reinvented the phrase and expanded it by applying it to current affairs. I don’t think the extraordinary ending can be taken from her.

  4. crispy says

    I’m surprised Michael Bedwell hasn’t commented yet. He must still be working on his caustic, 18-paragraph rant and thinking of clever new puns on Obama’s name.

  5. says

    Wow, I’m more bummed that Edwards is out of the presidential race after last night’s debate. I’m not saying I think at this point he could go on and win the nomination, but he zeroed in on and focused on the BIG issue that in my mind is so clearly dragging this country down…namely the massive and comprehensive control of big business and corporations over the priorities and workings of our government. That rock solid control influences everything…foreign policy (Iraq anyone?), economic policy (big time tax breaks and policy in favor of the rich, big biz and Wall Street, trickledown economics, etc.), campaign finance reform, healthcare policy, Social Security, etc., etc., etc. At least while he was in it, these issues could not be ignored.

    Now we’re left with the nice but vague “we should all get along” stance of Obama and the “insider, back to yesterday” machine politics of Hillary to chose from. We’ll get a media-fueled horse race fed by such gems as who snubbed who at what event, if Barrack is really a black man, if Hillary cries or not and does it matter, how Bill Clinton would spend his days as First Husband, etc., etc. etc. And then, one of them will get the nomination and the Republicans will do their evil best to just absolutely eviscerate that nominee all summer and into the fall. Hillary’s got too much baggage to withstand that, and so far I’m not impressed with Obama’s ability to fight back…great on the stump with prepared remarks, not so great with fighting words.

    Congratulations President McCain.

    There are grave concerns about the behaviors that are to come of Clinton and Obama. If they reduce themselves to media whores; slinging mud and other political tactics; “the democrats will lose.” While I am not sold on Clinton, I am encouraged by Obama. He possesses a desire to be an agent for the people. This is very apparent and while he is not calculated in his debate skills that is refreshing. I want to see and hear a mistake in order to see and hear growth. This something greatly lacking by Hillary Clinton; she seems to be all ego.

  6. davey says

    Your first mistake is to ever count the Clintons out. She will without a doubt take Texas, maybe not by much but she will take it and she will move on to other wins. Bill Clinton is her husband and confidant, both with the same vision of good for America and like most married couples they will think alike at times, I don’t think this is even remotely comes close to the blatant plagiarism of the Obama camp.

  7. says

    If Obama wins the nomination, McCain will win the general election. Obama will not win Michigan or Florida. According to polls, there has been a major backlash in both states against Obama because of the delegate situation.

    This is not about rules, this is about enfranchising voters. Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise black voters were also rules, but people struggled and marched and died to overturn them because they were unjust.

    Obama will guarantee Republican victory in November.

  8. Derrick from Philly says

    I would vote Democrat even if the candidate were a yellow dog (sound familiar), and so a bitter long primary battle is the last thing I wanted to see. I may be about to get my wish. Barack was exciting and inspiring as usual. Hillary was brilliant and most important–gracious. I vote party above candidate, and so I’m pleased with last night’s debate. Hillary won’t win Texas and Ohio by the margins she needs. It’s time to withdraw, and use her increased clout and power in the Senate.

    ACTUALLY, I did vote Republican ONE TIME– in 1978. (Sacriledge for me, baby!) The Democrats of Pennsylvania somehow ended up with a candidate who’d been a member of the Klan (no, not Oscar). Anyway, I and most other black Pennsylvanians voted Republican that year for Richard Thornburgh for governor. By the end of Thornburgh’s first term, we wished we’d voted for the ex-Klan Democrat. I said, “never again.”

  9. says

    Anyone persuaded by the plagiarism claims is someone desperately clinging to Hillary Clinton. I like her a lot and voted for her, but that was the most ineffective, paper-thin attack I can remember anyone trotting out. No politician uses completely new words, and in Obama’s case, using words of a friend and admirer is not plagiarism or anything remotely close to it, any more than Hillary using Bill’s words, John Edwards’s words or, yes, Obama’s words, is.

    I like both candidates, but I have come to realize that Obama is a better general-election candidate. The debate reinforced that to me, because while Hillary was very good, Obama is someone who comes off better than he started when he is attacked. I don’t find his rhetoric to be empty and have yet to read any convincing arguments as to why his speeches are more likely to result in inaction more so than Hillary’s or McCain’s or anybody else’s.

    I think he’s a good person, is an excellent compromise candidate if you’re liberal or middle-of-the-road and I have total confidence that he is going to beat McCain—it’s not even going to be close. The match-up polls now show Obama ahead, and these polls of “likely” voters do not factor in the reasonable possibilities that “likely” Republican voters won’t be as motivated as Democrats, and that there are a slew of brand-new voters (youths, older people who haven’t bothered to vote before) who will be highly motivated to vote for Obama.

    Andy…stop teasing with Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton! :0) Yes, I’d love that, but I have to believe Obama would not gain enough for that to really help him. He’d be taking on her baggage. He’ll either pick a very experienced party elder with gravitas and military expertise, or he’ll pick a top-notch white woman (Sebellius, McCaskill) from a desirable state. But we can dream…

  10. Jimmyboyo says


    The polls have Obama beatng McCain by 7% points.

    One republican pollster has said that Obama could very well do close to a reagan thing (when he took 49 states)

  11. 24play says

    Davey, the latest polls have Clinton and Obama tied in Texas. And because of Texas’ hybrid primary/caucus system, she needs to beat him by 55% to 45% just to come out with an even split of Texas delegates. Ain’t gonna happen.

    And Ian, if Clinton bows out within the next two months—and she will—all of the animosity of Dem voters in MI and FL, which really should be directed at their own party leaders or the DNC, not Obama, will dissipate almost overnight. The Dems will win Michigan, as they have 4 or 5 times since 1980, and the Repubs will win FL, as they have 5 times since 1980. Those 2 states are not really going to be in play.

  12. Jon says


    OK. Fine.. How do you explain Obama borrowing the words of Edwards as well? Edwards certainly isn’t a friend nor an admirer of Obama.

    The point still stands that the only thing Obama has going in this campaign is his speeches and his WORDS, and neither he nor his speech writer can come up with anything original.

    It’s quite ironic that Obama made such a point that he won’t resort to smear tactics in “silly season” and then what does he do? He has his camp release a statement saying that Hillary stole some of Edwards’ words.

    It’s childish of the Obama camp to continue this behavior, especially considering how incredibly far off Clinton’s closing statement was from whatever Edwards said.

    America really needs to wake up from this dream and realize that Obama is NO better than Hillary at being the next President. The only argument he could come up with last night was that he “agreed with Clinton” but “differed on the issue, philosophically” and didn’t even bother elaborating.

    He is a terrible debater (compared to Clinton) and I couldn’t even get past his stuttering and “Uhh’s” to find any of his points.

    The only thing I got out of that debate was that he is still VERY naive about foreign policy, and that he should just own up and recant his statements from a few debates prior.

    If anybody could for ONE second take off their “Obama blinders” and realize the outcome of the debate last night, you could see that he was visibly perturbed by the outcome of the debate. He was clearly shaken by the applause that Clinton’s closing statement got, and could not for the life of him wipe the grimace off his face to crack a smile for his supporters. He came out of that debate wounded, and rightly so. (Also clearly why he went back on his word to stay away from smear tactics, and did just that by releasing that childish statement).

  13. 24play says

    If you want to start making predictions about the electoral breakdown in November, start with the electoral map from 2004, because every blue state you see on this map will again go Democratic:

    (The 2000 map, BTW, is identical except for three changes: NH went red; IA and NM went blue:

    To win the election Obama will need to win 18 more electoral votes than Kerry did by picking off 2-4 of the above red states. And based on his record to date in red states, he has a very good chance of doing that in potential swing states such as MO (11 electoral votes), VA (13), GA (15), IA (7), NM (5), NV (5), SC (8), KS (6), CO (9) and LA (9).

    It may not be a cakewalk, but Obama has a very, very good chance of beating McCain. Given the unprecedented turnout in Democratic primaries and caucuses, he may even be able to pull off a landslide of almost Reaganesque proportions, cementing a new coalition of voters that will guarantee Democratic dominance for the next generation.

  14. Chris says

    Obama his given me hope…hope that I can soon be president. I’ll write a book about hope, maybe another about being nice, and finally one about fluffy kittens. All I need then are some retro posters, followed by gratuitous JFK name-dropping during every speech, and I’ll be well on my way to the presidency. Maybe Tyra Banks and Ryan Seacrest should start moderating the debates? Who cares about substance and policy, this is America!

    It’s time to enlist the American people in the political process…all it takes is a populace with a majority of people who reject evolution and watch professional wrestling to set these Washington insiders straight and turn the page in this country.


  15. NowItMatters says

    Davey & Ian:

    Will each of you please FedEx your crystal ball to me? I want to know my future as well as you two seem to know who will win Texas and the general election.

    The polls have Obama and Clinton at 47/48% in Texas. The polls have Obama 7% over McCain.

    …better check the batteries in your balls.

  16. nic says

    andy, can we at least retire the term “meme”? the way you and others use it on this site, it memes nothing, other than perhaps, intellectual laziness.

    if one wants to know the significance of “mimetic,” then reference plagiarism; because if obama did not imitate his better orator, then what i hold dear as it pertains to words, no longer matters. and, it puts your job and mine in danger. andy, you should not be abetting this foolishness.

    i stand firm (no, not “firmly”, idiots!) in support of the genuine candidate. of course, like my friend Derrick, whose equanimity befuddles, yet inspires me, i will vote for the Democrat in the fall.

    but, andy, the philistines are at the gate: don’t let them enter, no matter how insidious.

  17. nic says

    btw, andy, why has your site become more and more difficult to navigate? have you formed an unholy alliance with trent from “pink”? yeah, you’ll likely shut me down for being critical, albeit fairly.

  18. says

    I’m sorry but if any of you think last night was anything but strategic, you don’t know much about the Clintons. The fact that most opponents have thought she was plaintive and respective during the second half of that debate is exactly what will play well on March 4th.

    I wouldn’t count her out yet. While the Xerox shot was cheesy and stupid, he is absolutely right to be critcized from “borrowing” lines that got Deval elected. And people should take a look at who Deval really is. If that isn’t evidence that words are absolutely meaningless when it comes to doing the job, then I don’t know what is. Those words got that loser elected and he’s one of the worst governor’s MA has seen in a long time.

  19. Jimmyboyo says


    So you don’t think Senator Clinton can be a genuinly gracious and nice human being?

    You are saying that it was all calculated?

    You are not a very good supporter.

    Take a deep breath. Have faith in Senator Cinton’s humanity. Have faith in her ability to not be calculatig and to be a genuine human being. Go back and rewatch her closing comments.

  20. Sean says

    HRC isn’t done yet. I think she’ll do okay in Texas but then have a blowout in Ohio. Then it’s on to Pennsylvania. Also, I think her little conciliatory moment at the end of the debate was Texas’ “teargate.” She’ll probably get a sympathy bounce.

  21. Tom says

    “And based on his record to date in red states, he has a very good chance of doing that in potential swing states…”

    I’m not sure I get this. Because Obama is popular among Democrats in red states, he has a chance of turning them blue in the November? I don’t buy it.

    And I think Obama’s chances of winning Michigan and Ohio in November are questionable. Speaking specifically of Michigan, after years of animosity between scandal-prone black politicians in the city of Detroit and white suburbanites, I think it’s unlikely that the majority moderate democrats among these suburbanites will embrace Obama–racial divisions run deeper in metropolitan Detroit than almost anywhere else in the Midwest. A swing of a hundred thousand votes in the white suburbs surrounding Detroit would mean an easy win for McCain. Also, Kerry barely won Michigan in 2004, and Obama is arguably more liberal than the Mass. senator–something that might heavily weigh against him among SE Michigan’s centrist Democrats.

  22. raben says

    Sen. Clinton has since said that people are misunderstanding her comments. Her meaning was that she and Obama both represent history making trends. What she did not mean was that she recognizes that losing is a possibility. Sen. Clinton said, this morning, that she will fight to the end and have Michigan and Florida delgates seated. So much for graciousness.

  23. Tom says

    Raben: If by graciousness you mean she should just roll over and give up, then I guess so.

    I interpret your attitude as “How dare that woman really fight for the chance to serve her country as president,” as if every candidate doesn’t give it his or her all to win the nomination, through ups AND downs.

  24. Michael Bedwell says

    Here I am, Crispy Critter. Sorry to keep your curdled little self waiting but, well, if you must know my HazMat suit, that I was forced to purchased after being slimed by so many Obama Zombies, arrived in the wrong color, and I was off exchanging it.

    First things first: didn’t see the debate, so I have no opinion other than to say that quoting Kos is no different at this point than quoting Michelle Obama, and that I see little has changed since “Newsweek” writer and frequent Hillary basher Joe Klein wrote after Super Tuesday: “Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.”

    And that, in my far from humble opinion, is what it has come down to at this point in our multi course political meal: sizzle has triumphed over steak.

    I still urge anyone yet to cast their primary vote to vote for substance over celebrity, but, and Obama Girls shouldn’t take too much comfort in this as I’m almost invariably wrong in my political predictions, I believe that Obama will get the nomination. I also believe that he should ask H to be his running mate but don’t believe he will, and doubt that she’d accept. I also believe that, like Massachusetts’ Gov. Deval Patrick, a creation of the same campaign manager as Obama, O 2.0, if elected, which I genuinely hope he is if H cannot be, will quickly learn that governing and speechifying are too very different things. Whether he rises to the occasion, or like George Bush pere rises only to his highest level of mediocrity only time will tell. But Dems regaining the White House for only four years might not be enough time to accomplish my highest goal—filling all pending vacancies on the Supreme Court with people who are not fascists when it comes to civil liberties.

    Nevertheless, a sincere shout out to JimmyBoyo. We have often disagreed in the past, and still disagree over Obama, but the wisdom and generosity he’s demonstrated of late is a too rare thing in this growing hurricane of hostility. “18 American Beauty Roses,” as Kate Smith used to say, to Derrick, too.

    As the seconds on my Bush Time Left In Office LED diplay first started ticking down, I never expected to have to vote for someone that I felt had played our people so much, but so it is written, so it is likely to be. We must not have a rerun of the Nader Political Suicides of 2000. What is at stake is bigger than any of us, and that includes H & O.

  25. Jimmyboyo says


    Edwards up till the day he suspended his campaign said he was going all the way to the convention.

    Her being gracious last night doesn’t mean she isn’t oing to give it her all till march 4th. Bill himself has aknowledged that shemust win BOTH Tx and Ohio to continue.

  26. nic says

    i still stand w/hill, but i am afraid that we are going to elect a one term president. obama is a neophyte. and i cannot let go of the intellectual dishonesty that pervades his one-trick-pony show.

    would i like to make sweet, sweet love with him, oh you betcha! but, that does not define my thinking.

    exes and ohs to all who have remained somewhat civil in this discourse (i’m talking to you, jimmyboyo and derrick from philly). one of these days we should all sit down and have a drink together. hell, derrick, you can resurect the silly jordan. he was fun.

  27. Jimmyboyo says


    If you remember, I wasn’t civil a while ago. You helped by calling me out on my shit.

    xoxoxoxoxox back at ya

    Your crtic of my crazy rantng moved me towards civility

  28. Michael Bedwell says

    Friday afternoon, Feb. 22nd. Sen. Clinton just released this statement:

    “I was deeply saddened by the recent death of 15-year-old Lawrence King who was killed at his school in Oxnard, CA. No one should face intimidation or violence, particularly at school, because of their sexual orientation or the way they express their gender identity.

    We must finally enact a federal hate crimes law to ensure that gay, lesbian and transgender Americans are protected against violent, bias-motivated crimes. We must send a unified message that hate-based crime will not be tolerated.”

    Paging Sen. Obama. Sen. Obama, white courtesy phone. What? Elvis has left the building? Nevermind.

  29. FunMe says

    McCain will NEVAH become President.

    People are tired of same old, same old.
    People are tired of bush.


    Out with bush … in with the new!

  30. Paul R says

    Funme, I agree. But McCain also has a major weakness in just being old, with numerous health problems. By the time his first term ended, he would be 76. My parents are 75, and though they are wonderful people, their minds have failed them a bit and I wouldn’t vote to have them lead the country.

    Hell, one of Cheney’s biggest weaknesses is that everyone thinks he’s so damn old. But he’s only about five years older than Bush. Perhaps being cold-blooded—not just in his temperament, but in his likeness to a reptile—has aged him faster.

  31. JP says

    Obama equals “the new”? Robert Samuelson at Newsweek has something to say about that–“The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark.”

    “The Obama Delusion
    The gap between his rhetoric and the reality of his views.
    By Robert J. Samuelson
    Newsweek Web Exclusive
    Updated: 9:44 AM ET Feb 20, 2008

    It’s hard not to be dazzled by Barack Obama. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he visited with Newsweek reporters and editors, including me. I came away deeply impressed by his intelligence, his forceful language and his apparent willingness to take positions that seemed to rise above narrow partisanship. Obama has become the Democratic presidential front-runner precisely because countless millions have formed a similar opinion. It is, I now think, mistaken.

    As a journalist, I harbor serious doubt about each of the most likely nominees. But with Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, I feel that I’m dealing with known quantities. They’ve been in the public arena for years; their views, values and temperaments have received enormous scrutiny. By contrast, newcomer Obama is largely a stage presence defined mostly by his powerful rhetoric. The trouble, at least for me, is the huge and deceptive gap between his captivating oratory and his actual views.

    The subtext of Obama’s campaign is that his own life narrative—to become the first African American president, a huge milestone in the nation’s journey from slavery—can serve as a metaphor for other political stalemates. Great impasses can be broken with sufficient goodwill, intelligence and energy. “It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white,” he says. Along with millions of others, I find this a powerful appeal.

    But on inspection, the metaphor is a mirage. Repudiating racism is not a magic cure-all for the nation’s ills. The task requires independent ideas, and Obama has few. If you examine his agenda, it is completely ordinary, highly partisan, not candid and mostly unresponsive to many pressing national problems.

    By Obama’s own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans “are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change,” he recently said. Shortly thereafter he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:

    * Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).
    * Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.
    * Expand the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and “double spending on quality after-school programs.”
    * Enact an “energy plan” that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a “green energy sector.”

    Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they’re standard goody-bag politics: something for everyone. They’re so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing Obama of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama’s “universal health plan,” the odds of enacting his full package are slim.

    A favorite Obama line is that he will tell “the American people not just what they want to hear but what we need to know.” Well, he hasn’t so far. Consider the retiring baby boomers. A truth-telling Obama might say: “Spending for retirees—mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—is already nearly half the federal budget. Unless we curb these rising costs, we will crush our children with higher taxes. Reflecting longer life expectancies, we should gradually raise the eligibility ages for these programs and trim benefits for wealthier retirees. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for inaction. Waiting longer will only worsen the problem.”

    Instead, Obama pledges not to raise the retirement age and to “protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries.” This isn’t “change”; it’s sanctification of the status quo. He would also exempt all retirees making less than $50,000 annually from income tax. By his math, that would provide average tax relief of $1,400 to 7 million retirees—shifting more of the tax burden onto younger workers. Obama’s main proposal for Social Security is to raise the payroll tax beyond the present $102,000 ceiling.

    Political candidates routinely indulge in exaggeration, pandering, inconsistency and self-serving obscuration. Clinton and McCain do. The reason for holding Obama to a higher standard is that it’s his standard and also his campaign’s central theme. He has run on the vague promise of “change,” but on issue after issue—immigration, the economy, global warming—he has offered boilerplate policies that evade the underlying causes of the stalemates. These issues remain contentious because they involve real conflicts or differences of opinion.

    The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the media—preoccupied with the political “horse race”—have treated his invocation of “change” as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s major problems when, so far, he isn’t.”

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