YouTube Clips are Weapons in Democratic War of Words

As another example of Obama’s speech borrowing surfaces (the video above shows Obama using the same exact language as Deval Patrick used in an earlier speech), the mud is really starting to fly from both the Clinton and Obama camps.

David Axelrod, one of Obama’s speechwriters, worked on Deval Patrick’s campaign for governor, and Patrick has recently said that he authorized the use of his speeches. However, Merriam Webster’s definition of plagiarism (“to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source”) seems to fit these circumstances.

The questions the Clinton camp wants answered is, if you are an inspirational speaker, does it matter if the words you use are your own? Thus far, any semantic betrayal has not resonated with voters, as evidenced by Obama’s resounding wins in yesterday’s primaries.

The AP reports: “Hillary Rodham Clinton says reporters, not her campaign, uncovered evidence of Democratic rival Barack Obama sharing speech lines with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. She made the claim Tuesday despite the fact her campaign posted video clips on YouTube illustrating similarities in the speeches and has suggested in several instances that the shared lines amount to plagiarism. THE SPIN: ‘It’s not us making this charge, it’s the media,’ Clinton told Honolulu television station KITV Tuesday. ‘The media is finally examining my opponent which I think is important. We’re trying to pick a president, someone for the toughest job in the world.'”

The Obama camp is quickly trying to refocus the media’s energy on Clinton’s apparently inaccurate claim that it was the media, and not her campaign, that fueled the allegations of plagiarism.

“…on Monday, the Clinton campaign announced a conference call ‘to discuss a recent speech delivered by Sen. Obama’ and included a YouTube link that showed Obama remarks side by side with similar comments by his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. On the call, Howard Wolfson, the campaign’s communications director, said: ‘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.’ Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in an e-mailed statement: ‘Senator Clinton knows full well that her campaign held a conference call with reporters to fan these flames and the fact that she suggested her campaign had nothing to do with it is exactly the kind of evasive tactic voters are rejecting.'”

The anger of Obama’s speechwriter finally set him off against Wolfson’s sweater: “Without naming him, Axelrod then took a shot at Wolfson: ‘Our buddy in the ugly sweater will show up on your show and try to make this and other things an issue. Anything they can grab on to now.'”

The following debate video of Bill Clinton has also surfaced as a response by Obama supporters to Hillary Clinton’s claims that experience is more important than rhetoric. In it, the former President claims that experience is important, but isn’t everything.

It really has become a YouTube election.

Obama turns tables on Clinton [politico]
“Just Words”, “Just Words” – Is that the Obama Story? [huffington post]
Clinton Fingerprints on Plagiarism Flap [ap]


  1. rudy says

    Thanks for posting the clip Andy. I referenced it in a previous comment. Thanks especially for your passionate commitment to keeping us informed. No where else do we get the range and insight that are your stock in trade. I especially appreciate your follow through on the senseless killing of that poor young man and the lack of media response or, worse yet, the bigoted reporting. Andy, you are a beacon of truth. Thank you.

  2. ANOTHER MATT says

    Of all the underhanded and sneaky things the Clintons have done to obtain and maintain power in the last 20 years, Hillary is making this a big deal over plagiarism?

    She is just so transparently desperate for power, I’m actually starting to feel bad for her.

    Bless her heart.

  3. Blue says

    Candidates employ speech writers all the time and do not credit them in the speech. Politicans have used buzz words and phrases from other historical figures for as long as their has been political speeches. It’s all been said before by someone else anyways.

    The educated voter realizes it is WHAT the candidate is saying and not where the speech came from that matters. The YouTube clips are just the Clinton Fan-boys flaming the current leading candidate.

    Overall it’s unfortunate the Democratic candidates have turned to negative and petty tactics. I don’t want my new President to lack such integrity they cannot stand on their own merits. I have to say my current impressions of Hillary have fallen along with her poll numbers.

  4. Zeke says

    How silly.

    And we thought Swift Boating was an exlusively Republican tactic.

    Don’t worry Democrats, we still have ten whole months to f*ck up yet another “how could we possibly lose” election.

    When will we ever learn, when will we EVER learn?

  5. Christopher says

    If Obama win’s the dem nomination McCain will rip him to shreds on so many unfortunate levels.

    Obama’s actual positions are too liberal. He can’t debate a lick of substance. He is inexperienced particularly when contrasted with McCain. His argument that “we rushed to war” which works against Clinton crumbles against McCain. McCain a war veteran tortured in POW camps would beat him down with that argument. McCain knows war like no other. He is a war hero. War heros don’t rush to war and they certainly don’t rush to sending other men into harm’s way. He knows war. Period. What other argument does Obama have? Campaign Finance? McCain owns Campaign Finance; he practically gave birth to it.

    When push ocmes to shove the country needs a Commander in Chief. I am sorry, but Obama is not a Commander in Chief.

    Finally, Obama’s Change mantra dn “words” appear to be getting old.

  6. Tim in Nor Cal says

    If it could be shown that Obama habitually was “unoriginal” in his speechifying I might take this seriously. Obviously that’s not the case. In any case how Obama borrowing rhetorical meat from his friend and fellow traveler Patrick is a disqualifier, I just don’t see it. They point they are both trying to make is what’s relevent.
    I think the Clintons are actually doing Obama a favor by throwing all this muck at him as they have been doing the past two weeks. Its a necessary preliminary to the tarring the Republicans will certainly attempt in the GE if Obama is indeed the nominee.

  7. 24play says

    Christopher, this is how Obama will challenge McCain on Iraq, terror, and foreign policy in general:

    You’re right. One of them is going to get ripped to shreds. But it ain’t Obama. None of John “100 More Years” McCain’s supposed strengths are worth a damn this year, given the electorate’s feelings about Iraq, homeland security, and the amount of money we’re pissing away on a huge Mesopotamian operation that gets us absolutely nothing.

  8. Christopher says

    “I will work hard to make sure Americans aren’t deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change,” said McCain.

    The presumed Republican nominee also knocked his likely Democratic opponent by taking a shot at the “confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate.”

    Obama’s represents himself. It is all about him and nothing else. If you actually look at his ideas there is nothing novel about them. His policy papers on his website represent the status quo. So where will the change be?

    Obama has no clue what he is going to do once in office. H

  9. 24play says

    Yes, Christopher, it’s all over the news this morning that McCain is for some unknown reason choosing to recycle the same old tired anti-Obama talking points that have worked so poorly for Clinton over the past year.

    If that’s the best they’ve got, we’re on Easy Street. The only reason he’s even locked up the Republican nod is because his competition was a once-in-a-lifetime clown car full of fuck-ups. McCain’s a notoriously bad campaigner, and he’ll be facing a total pro.

  10. Jimmyboyo says


    SUSA = survey USA the most acurate pollster this season has Obama beating Mccain by at least 7% points and Hillary loosing to McCain by 12%

    Even if wrong it is time for both sides of our divided family to go after mccain and not each other. Mccain is getting a free pass right now while the dems fight.

  11. jimmyboyo says


    Chris Mathews who actualy lieks mccain and praises him constantly said last night how tired and worn out he looked. Chris wasn’t the only commentator last night to point that fact out about mccain

    8 weeks and the new pundits that actualy like mccan are noticing that he is old and worn out.

    Expect the general election to be over before it is over.

  12. MichaelF says

    I really don’t understand how anyone doesn’t consider this a big deal. Of course phrases and words get recycled from time to time during elections, but this is a totally different matter.

    Obama is using passages from Patrick’s speeches without crediting him. This is the definition of plagiarism. For a candidate whose strength is the ability to inspire through oratory, this calls into question his authenticity. This is Obama’s stock in trade. And the speech in question here even appears on Obama’s website without crediting Patrick.

    It does not matter the Patrick gave him permission to use it. If a student is writing a paper and uses a paragraph from his friend with permission, is that permissible?

    Why should students be held to a higher standard than someone seeking the highest office? It’s really confounding to me that people are just brushing this aside as desperation from the Clinton campaign. It seems that people are wearing some serious blinders when it comes to Obama.

  13. Michael Bedwell says

    The issue is less the borrowing than the at least lazy if not premeditated failure to consistently give attribution; to take credit where none is due—except possibly for “The Audacity of [Plagiarism]” which is NOT just related to “stealing” or “borrowing” but failing to give attribution to the originator whether or not he/she expects you to. It’s not about Deval, it’s about Obama’s AUDIENCE, i.e., voters and their perception of his integrity. Borrow your friend’s classy car? OK. Pass it off to someone you’re applying for a job with as YOUR car—HUGE difference.

    Obama’s obvious intelligence is not what people have voted for. It’s not his genuine concern to do good. It’s not his record, for, I submit, few know it. It’s not his issue proposals for, I submit again, few actually know them. It’s not even really “Change” for candidates of every party have used that mantra forever. His success at convincing many that he can actually achieve it where others haven’t is based on none of those things.

    It is based on three things. 1. his personality; 2. the appeal of the mythical “Magic Negro” as gay African-American writer David Ehrenstein has observed; and, 3. his reputation as a Great Original Orator. Expose much of the charade in one-third of those attributes, and, if it were not so late in a campaign during which the media have previously joined hands in a force field of noncriticism around him, and you’d have a problem.

    I dare ANYONE to deny that Hillary would be CRUCIFIED for trying to pass off so much speechifying as her own, and then not getting her and her source’s stories straight about exactly when permission was given to borrow a cup of sugared eloquence. But the Dali Obama does it and the Obamites swarm around him like Moonies saying, “So what?

    Still, it’s not the unattributed exchange of speech passages that outrage me, but Obama’s pattern of exchanging truth for lies.

    1. Obama lied to “The Advocate” when he said he was a “chief cosponsor” of the Illinois LGBT rights bill.

    2. Obama lied to “The Advocate” when he said he “passed” the Illinois LGBT rights bill.

    3. Obama lied to audiences in Iowa when he said he had passed a bill regulating the nuclear industry in Illinois.

    4. Obama lies by omission when he touts his superiority to Sen. Clinton’s position of repealing functionally meaningless Section 2 of DOMA by not adding that he, too, supports a state’s right to legally ban any kind of gay relationship.

    5. Obama lies by omission when, as a part-time Constitutional law instructor, he chooses not to add when taking those bows that, as his own instructor in Constitutional law at Harvard, Lawrence Tribe, has admitted, gays at the state level “would neither be worse NOR better off” with DOMA repealed.

    Again, if any of this were Sen. Clinton, many of you would be demanding the guillotine. But Mr. Wonderful does it over and over and you keep giving him a pass.

    As for “Swift Boating,” Zeke, mon frere, PUH-LEEEZE! Your analogy doesn’t hold up if the issue is just “silly.” The attacks on Kerry were about his service in Vietnam; war, death, heroism, cowardice, truth, lies.

    But, yes, there has been Swift Boating about big issues during this campaign, and the name on the side is the USS Obama, and there is something of a connection to the source of some of Obama’s speeches.

    Blake Fleetwood at the Huffington Post:

    “[Deval] Patrick was a political newcomer who swept office on the promise of change in a campaign crafted by the same Svengali, David Axelrod, who created and packaged both of them.

    Both were black and came out of nowhere. Deval, with a prep school education, is perhaps an even more gifted orator than Obama, if you watch the original “Just Words” speech. …

    The Obama campaign tells its supporters not to discuss policy… stick to the inspirational story and promises of change and hope. They are afraid that policy discussions will only bring out enemies.

    Let Obama be what the voters want him to be — is the theme campaign workers are told to stress.”

    And that quickly worked wonders. Mainstream media, already willing pawns of the Anybody But Hillary mindset, started clapping and woofing like trained seals. As pretty however hollow words were his first claim to national fame, he repeated the act over and over, with only minor variation, and when he ran out of his own words, Axelrod was ready with ones that had worked for Patrick.

    Still, they got a huge shock in New Hampshire, when contrary to MSM preprinted obituaries, Hillary emerged alive and kicking. What to do? What to do? What can we hit her with that sticks like Super Glue before Super Tuesday?

    Ta Duh! Ladies & Germs, we give you The Race Card! And dealing the first hand, on MSNBC the very morning after NH, was campaign co-manager Jesse Jackson, Jr. Those “tears” in New Hampshire that MSM had already subjected to pseudo scientific/psychological analysis???? WHERE were her tears for Katrina victims????? [You know, all those BLACK New Orleansians]. Black South Carolina voters have a right to wonder about that, he screeched. [You can look it up if you don’t believe that’s exactly how he spun it.]

    Then begins to circulate a list of alleged racist comments by Clintonistas put together by Obama’s South Carolina campaign. Then allegedly above it all black Dem power player Donna Brazile weighs in saying that she’s offended AS an African-American because Mr. Clinton has suggested that the image of Mr. Obama as Mr. Wonderful is a “fairy tale.” Hmmm. I’ve been around quite a while, and have never seen that connection made.

    And, lo and behold, verily verily, the 20-point lead Sen. Clinton had on Obama in South Carolina, the national indifference blacks expressed about him, reversed virtually overnight

    And just like the lies about Kerry crippled his campaign, the lie that Sen. Clinton and her husband are racists has crippled her campaign by virtue of the backlash it created which gave him his win in South Carolina where over 50% of those voting for him were black. That was mislabeled “momentum” by a media eager to have their false New Hampshire predictions vindicated and their adoration of him from Day One canonized.

    But the breathtakingly successful Swift Boat hasn’t been dry docked. Long after having been happy to be made a superdelegate, Ms. Brazile is now challenging the very idea of superdelegates—that is, if they should dare annoint anyone but……wait for it…….Barack Obama. And they say the Clintons will say and do anything….

    But back to the observations of Mr. Fleetwood:

    “In Massachusetts, a groundswell for change, and promises of change, were not enough for Patrick to produce change. Patrick eventually needed to succeed in the tough, stalemated political system that he was criticizing, and he failed miserably.

    Deval tried to ignore the real world politics that dominated the Massachusetts legislature and quickly became bogged down with rookie mistakes. He squandered the goodwill of the voters and many of them turned against him. Many Democrats regretted their votes for someone they now consider a false prophet.”

    Knowing virtually nothing about MA politics I have no idea if his description of contemporary reality is substantively correct. But the style, mes amis, the style—like the rhetorical ruffles and flourishes—I’ve been watching for the past 10 months.

  14. says

    Another Matt said “Of all the underhanded and sneaky things the Clintons have done to obtain and maintain power in the last 20 years, Hillary is making this a big deal over plagiarism?”

    Care to enumerate the many underhanded and sneaky things the Clintons have done to obtain and maintain power? Just curious. People SAY things a lot but I’ve found, particularly when it comes to Bill and Hillary, that they have very little evidence to back it up.

    Please, enlighten us to the underhanded things Hillary has done. I’m curious.

  15. Danmac says

    I’ve noticed Andy’s posts of late seem to favor Clinton. Nothing wrong with that, but obviously Towleroad should not be seen as objective, as it’s not. With good reason – it’s one person’s (excellent) blog.

    I have concerns about Andy posting about the so called plagiarism of Gv. Duval’s words by Obama. This story was explained very quickly by Obama and Duval and there is an earlier clip of an old Obama speech where he credits Duval’s words and laughs, saying that it was about time he borrowed some of Duval’s words since the Gov. “shared” some of Obama’s best lines during his gubernatorial race.

    Plagiarism is such a serious accusation and Obama clearly is a great writer, both of books and speeches. I feel that this issue was a total storm in a teacup and I’d much prefer to have my daily dose of Towleroad minus the cable news, ratings generated spin cycle (of EITHER candidate).

    Andy, if you support one candidate over another, I believe it is time to show your hand. This blog is an influential and widely read forum, but, as it’s formed solely by your editorial opinions, it requires clarity. Major newspapers endorse candidates and still attempt to show balance in their reporting, but that endorsement gives readers a sense of how the editorial opinion might be shaping the content.

  16. westside says

    how has she lied? well, off the top of my head…

    she planted questioners in the iowa caucuses. not very genuine if you ask me.

    just google ‘hillary clinton’s lies’ and you’ll come up with SCORES of (probably right-leaning) examples. (i won’t post all of them, unless the need arise.) regardless of the source, you can see that where there is smoke, there is fire. don’t think for two seconds that she doesn’t lie, cheat and steal with the best of them.

    that’s the thing (one of the many): she’s been lying and cheating MUCH longer than obama has. her list of favors is MUCH longer than obama’s.

    she is going to lose to mccain because ALL republicans will rally against her. obama will beat mccain because moderate republicans can handle obama.

  17. rich says

    if did then would .

    Ii hate sentences like this. So hannity-esque. Hypothetical bullshit if you ask me. I ask, “How do you know?”

    Hillary co-opted the “Yea, we can!” with “Yes, we will!” She has big posters using the word “change” as if she coined the word.

    Perhaps she is capable of being president. But she is uninspiring, and I am not interested.

  18. says

    MichaelF seems shocked that I wouldn’t consider this a big deal, but I don’t.

    They shared the language, Barack Obama didn’t steal it. The other guy knew about it, and says that he’s probably used Obama’s language at certain points as well.

    Besides, it’s not like Hilary hasn’t lifted a few words or phrases here or there.

    The Hilary supporters are getting worse on this non-issue than the Ron Paul supporters have been.

  19. BANNE says

    I think Maureen Dowd gives a pretty good explanation of why the whole copying from someone else is actually important in Obama’s world view. Feel free to go there and read if you choose. I think she makes plenty of valid points regarding this issue. In the end, I find it interesting that he and what’s his face have the same campaign manager and frankly Patrick is a fairly shitty governor. He’s a good example of why words just aren’t enough.

    Also – I LOVE LOVE how you try to enumerate a list of underhanded and sneaky ways the Clintons have maintained power but then actually don’t mention any. All you say is she lies. Um, okay. Yes, lying has made her a Senator and won her husband the Presidency. Twice. You got it.

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