Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Obama downplays Clinton team throwing spotlight on lifted rhetoric.


WASHINGTON -- After the Clinton campaign threw a spotlight Monday on a riff Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) borrowed from a speech made by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the Illinois senator said he was happy to give his friend credit as he downplayed the questions being raised by his rival about the authenticity of his soaring, inspirational rhetoric.

"Sen. Obama's campaign is premised on the strength of oratory," said Howard Wolfson, chief spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), in a conference call with reporters. The focus was on a portion of a speech Obama delivered in Wisconsin that heavily borrows from a speech Patrick made during his run for governor. Obama and Patrick, a native of Chicago's South Side, are friends and share in common as their top strategist David Axelrod.

"The point here is that he, Sen. Obama, lifted his rhetoric," said Wolfson. Patrick and Obama "are close friends and they do share thoughts, ideas and language," said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in a conference call.

The Obama team -- and Obama -- went on to note that Clinton at times has used some of Obama's signature phrases, such as "fired up and ready to go."

"In fairness, there are phrases that are more common in American life than others. But this is not just a phrase or three words strung together, it was not something that I think we would all consider to be more frequent than not in public use ... this one clearly crossed the bright line," Wolfson said.

Obama, speaking to Wisconsin Democrats on Saturday, tackled what is for the moment a small problem: that some columnists -- even friendly ones -- are asking what is behind Obama's incomparable ability to deliver a moving speech and pack arenas. Clinton has been making the point that she is about "solutions," not "speeches."

With that in mind, Obama said, "Don't tell me words don't matter," and went on to repeat three famous quotes from American history. The syntax was almost the same as Patrick used in a speech in 2006, when he was running for governor.

Obama and his team brushed aside the discovery of his borrowed rhetoric as a Clinton ginned-up contretemps in their Democratic presidential race. But in 1987, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) had his first presidential bid derailed when he was caught not attributing lines from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock (though he had in previous versions of the speech).

During a press conference in Ohio, Obama was asked about the copycat riff.

"Now hold on a second -- I have written two books, wrote most of my speeches, so I think putting aside the question that you just raised in terms of whether my words are my own, I think that would be carrying it too far," he said. Obama has three speechwriters on his campaign staff: Jon Favreau, Adam Frankel and Ben Rhodes.

Obama continued, "Deval and I do trade ideas all the time. And, you know, he's, you know, occasionally used lines of mine, and I at a [Democratic Party] dinner in Wisconsin used some words of his. And, you know, I would add that I know that Senator Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well."

The Clinton campaign highlighted the controversy the day before the voting in Wisconsin and Hawaii.


Clinton says she has Solutions but the Solution she offered, when it really mattered to millions of lives of young people and to our country, was the Solution and Authorization to go to War --the Iraq War, which was the most Important Policy Decisiion of Our Times. Her 35 years of experience didn't get it Right then, and that speaks Volumes.....

Clinton talks about getting Real as she hurls False Charges at Obama. Just because Obama used a few lines from a political advisor and friend for a speech, something that is common in the Senate and in Political Discourse, Clinton Camp hollers Plagerism, which by definition means you are stealing someone's words or lines without their knowlege, which is a very serious Charge. Is that her Solution to make this falshe charge and non-issue into something it's not, to offer more Spin and Illusion, when they know full well exactly what it was and and what it is, and because they too are guilty of the same thing, this borrowing of lines which in political discourse is common practice.

Her get-real solution to this simple act, is to insult the intelligence of every day average, citizens by these FALSE CHARGES, distorting the situation, which is total hypocrisy, because they too have done the same thing and are doing it NOW.

They should apologize to the Country, for turning away from being so-called Real, as she likes to say, to puting out this kind of false Slime, Distortion and Illusion into the water, trying to Cloud the issues -- to Cloud Reality! If you are going to raise doubts about an oppenent, it should be about real facts and not about illusions -- about truth and not about falsity.

And Words Do Matter, Words are Not Cheap!

OBAMAS accomplishment: During the first (8) eight years of his elected service he sponsored over 820 bills. He introduced 233 regarding healthcare reform, 125 on poverty and public assistance, 112 crime fighting bills, 97 economic bills, 60 human rights and anti-discrimination bills, 21 ethics reform bills, 15 gun control, 6 veterans affairs and many others. His first year in the U.S. Senate, he authored 152 bills and co-sponsored another 427. These included: **the Coburn-Obama Government Transparency Act of 2006 (became law), **The Lugar-Obama Nuclear Non-proliferation and Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction Act, (became law), **The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, passed the Senate, **The 2007 Government Ethics Bill, (became law), **The Protection Against Excessive Executive Compensation Bill, (In committee), and many more. In all Barack Obama has Over 20 Years of Public Service.

Wolfson: "Sen. Obama's campaign is premised on the strength of oratory.", that is to say, Obama's power in this campaign is his skill, nay, eloquence, in making speeches.

Well, there you have it. If you wish to be the most powerful man in the world, be thankful that, regardless of content, you can turn a phrase.

"What good fortune for governments that the people do not think."

Last call.

All in, all done? America sold to the best confabulator?

I got the vapors. I think I'm going to faint.

Plagiarize -- "to use the product of another without crediting the source" Each of us must decide what it means that Obama takes credit for others' efforts. The fact that it happens is incontrovertible.

Gimme a break and a half. Is this the most they could come up with to accuse Barack Obama of doing? So what, do I really care if he used the words from his friend's speech? NO! Do I care about someone who is fresh and new getting into the White House and trying to unite people and make some much needed changes? ABSOLUTELY! Do I think, hope and pray that Obama can be that person? Again absolutely!!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 19, 2008 8:53 AM.

Sweet: Barack Obama lifts some lines from Deval Patrick speech. Video comparison. UPDATES was the previous entry in this blog.

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