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Sweet: Why didn't Team Obama see Patrick quote flap coming?

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HOUSTON, TEXAS—By this stage in the presidential primary battle, the Obama camp—and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) —knew or should have known that every time Obama lifted lines from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick —no matter who originally wrote or conceived the material—he left himself politically exposed.


Obama is well on his way to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, fueled by his oratorical skills, ability to inspire, a solid ground game, outstanding fund-raising, his opposition to the Iraq war while a state senator, consolidation of the African-American vote and his appeal to crossover voters.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is hoping Obama’s lifting Patrick’s lines demonstrates he is, to use a phrase (I don’t know who coined it), “all hat and no cattle.” While waiting to determine if being a copycat erodes Obama’s growing support—he improves his standing in every demographic group with each election since Feb. 5 and did it again in Wisconsin—Clinton should be thinking of new ways to make her case.

This 35 years of experience and ready from day one stuff is not working for her. She may have found her voice in New Hampshire, but she has yet to develop a potent narrative.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, on Tuesday night stepped up his characterization of Obama as a talker, not a doer and the Patrick/Obama language sharing agreement only highlighted his argument . “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change --no more than an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people.”

Obama and Patrick, raised on Chicago’s South Side are friends and they share in common as their key strategist David Axelrod, the Chicago-based consultant. They swap political tips to the point that that stories were written, starting last year, about parallels in their aspirational campaigns, slogans and speeches.

One of the best and earliest overview pieces is the April 16, 2007 Boston Globe story by Scott Helman and the report, replete with examples, should have served as a warning to the Obama campaign. LINK

Helman wrote, “In the midst of his improbable run for office, Obama and his advisers have evidently studied Patrick's up-from-nowhere victory in Massachusetts and are borrowing themes, messages, and even specific lines for the presidential campaign.

“ It's the latest chapter in a symbiotic friendship between Obama and Patrick that continues to shape their political careers, according to admirers, observers, and associates of the two men.

“The similarities between Patrick and Obama, who have known each other for more than a decade, are obvious: Both are idealistic African-American leaders who came of age after the Civil Rights movement. Both have Chicago roots, a Harvard Law degree, and a gift for appealing to both blacks and whites,” Helman wrote.

The 2008 race for the White House is the first presidential YouTube election. Patrick’s 2006 gubernatorial speeches were videotaped and every Obama speech is recorded. The side-by-side comparisons literally speak for themselves. When Obama used another Patrick riff last Saturday in Wisconsin, it was a tipping point.

I’m not sure if the flap over Obama borrowing elements of Patrick’s speeches will blow over in a few days or if it will have lasting impact. What is surprising is that Obama’s circle of advisors—and Obama—didn’t see this coming and they should have. While this controversy is unlikely to be decisive—it is distracting. And it was avoidable.

8 Comments

Maybe Governor Patrick and Senator Obama should ask David Axelrod for a discount on their speeches since he gave them cookie cutter speeches. Then he adjusted their speeches to suit each one of them. But he isn't even doing that now. They just use each other speeches. The two agents of change who are using the same speeches. However, it is still plagiarism.

One problem is that the Obamas have never had to run a real campaign. The other candidates just went 'poof' and disappeared! The other problem is that Barack did NOT grow up on the South Side. He's an affirmative action baby who met a real south side resident who deserved to benefit from Affirmative action and did. And they are arrogant. Certainly they realize that Republicans are 'voting' them to the top of the Democratic ticket and that Dems will lose in the Fall--but they don't care. They've got their mansion, so they can demean a woman who made it without affirmative action favors (she was rich--but in a way so were they!). Michelle would do well to look at how Hilary Clinton had to tone it down to survive this horribly sexist culture--and get her husband to 'tone' down the criticism of Hilary. Why did the Obamas not fold their inexperienced operation into the Edwards or Richardson campaigns so the Democratic party could WIN in the Fall? I think they liked hearing the cheering. Where was the DNC--how could they let this happen?

I think Obama was tired and wanted to address the issue of Words and becuase the Words that Deval said earlier WERE NOT HIS WORDS EITHER. They are everyone's words, used in political debates and speeches around the world. What Obama said that Deval did not say and that where his words is "Don't tell me words don't matter!" and He said it a lot more eloquently and with more passion than Deval.

I have listened to both sides with their each and own attacks. My question is. I have decided yet whom to vote for. For different reasons. Heres why and this is the ONE question I would love to ask both canidates in the debates tomorrow night. Mr Obama speaks on hope okay tell me what "specifically" you would do to help this country. I dont want to hear runarounds just facts and plans. For Mrs Clinton, you speak of solutions okay tell me "specifically" in detail what those plans and solutions you have are. No runarounds, etc. Im sorry I havent heard either canidate give me SPECIFIC information to help me decide. So give me the facts and truth and no more games. SO that I may make a informed wise judgment for my and my family's future. Thank You

Julie Mack, you say Barry Obama was tired? Wow, I knew you Obama groupies were not too bright, but now you people are getting ridiculous.

Let us be clear now: Obama used Patrick's words and Hillary's complete inventory of intellectual property, without crediting them, because he is grandiose: he believes he is entitled and can get away with it. Obama is RUTHLESS. To add insult to injury is that he used words and concepts of all his valued predecessors by enacting them with studied pauses and impersonations. But his enactment hasn't rung true because he hasn't convinced himself first. It was a lesson learned by heart. So, where is that great oratory his groupies keep talking about?
Please watch the 'Fired Up' speech were he is beginning to be truly himself. Watch him ramble, taking up our valuable time and insulting our intelligence, because he had to get out of bed early in order to go and steal another set of words from the Greenboro lady.
I hope America takes Obama's trespassing seriously. Some change, indeed. Good luck!

Plagiarism is a big deal to journalists, rightfully so. I don't think the general public sees two buddies sharing some 'talking points' as being plagiarism. They see it as...two buddies sharing some 'talking points'. No story.

How come team Clinton didn't see anything coming? Organization vs. Mismanagement !

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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 20, 2008 3:43 AM.

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