Evidence is accumulating that Barack Obama is an equal opportunity plagiarist, readily borrowing some of the catchiest lines in his campaign speeches and ads from a variety of literary, movie, political and popular sources, all without giving credit or attribution to the original source.
The charges began when the Washington Post reported on Feb. 18 a Clinton campaign charge that Obama delivered a speech in Wisconsin including a near-identical passage to a speech delivered two years earlier by then-Democratic Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.
“In many respects, he [Obama] is asking the public to judge him on the strength of his rhetoric,” said Howard Wolfson, a top Clinton advisor, according to the Washington Post article. “When we learn he has taken an important section of his speech from another elected official, it raises very fundamental questions about his campaign.”
A YouTube.com video plays side-by-side the similarity between Patrick’s and Obama’s speeches.
An ABC analysis later showed Patrick’s 2006 speech quoted many famous phrases, “‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’ … just words. ‘Ask not what you can do for your country,’ just words … ‘I have a dream,’ just words,” he said, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Obama’s Wisconsin speech was nearly identical, with Obama saying, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter … ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words. Just speeches.”
Appearing on ABC on Feb. 19, Patrick defused the controversy by claiming the charge of plagiarism was “unfair.”
“It’s an elaborate charge and an extravagant one,” Patrick said on air.
On Feb. 18, at a press conference in Youngstown, Ohio, Obama admitted he should have given credit to his friend, Gov. Patrick, saying, “I was on the stump, and, you know he [Deval Patrick] had suggested that we use these lines. I thought they were good lines. I’m sure I would have [given him credit], didn’t this time.”
“Deval and I do trade ideas all the time,” Obama continued, “and, you know, he’s occasionally used lines of [mine]. I, at a [fundraising] dinner in Wisconsin, used some words of his.”
A second video clip on YouTube.com shows Obama using another Patrick speech segment nearly word-for-word, again without attribution to Patrick for the original use of the language.
Patrick is heard to say, “I am not asking anybody to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.”
Obama’s speech contains nearly identical language: “I’m not just asking you to take a chance on me. I’m also asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.”
Analysis by Internet bloggers has shown that Obama’s heist of language was not limited to Patrick’s speeches.
“Bamboozled” is the title of a Internet piece in which blogger Seymour Glass tracks Barack Obama’s many instances of plagiarism, in which Obama readily borrows from a wide range of sources, including film producer Spike Lee’s script for his 1992 feature film, Malcolm X.
Glass pointed out that in many primary states, including South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, and Texas, Obama has used over and over the words “bamboozled” and “hoodwinked,” arguing how the truth has been hidden from voters.
He traced the word back to dialogue Spike Lee wrote for Denzel Washington to speak, playing the character of Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s movie of the same name about the radical African American activist of the 1960s.
Grace also pointed out that Malcolm X never uttered “bamboozled” or “hoodwinked” regarding political maneuvering in the African American community.
Again, a clip on YouTube.com shows exactly how the words “bamboozled” and “hoodwinked” appear in both Obama’s speech and in Denzel Washington’s speeches in the movie, playing the character of Malcolm X.
Jay Freeman, writing in the Boston Globe, traced the words “bamboozled” or “hoodwinked” back to Lord Greville’s memoir in 1885, “Palmerston never intended anything but to hoodwink his colleagues, bamboozle the French, and gain time.” And also in H.L Mencken, writing in 1928, “He does not merely tell how politicians hoodwink, bamboozle and prey upon the boobs; he shows precisely how.”
Freeman was writing to show the two words were not uncommonly connected, such that Spike Lee using the words in “Malcolm X” was not a unique use from which Obama necessarily copied.
Yet the YouTube.com showing the comparison with the Spike Lee movie also shows clips where the Obama phrase, “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” echoes back to a music album by the Visionaires by the same title, a book by Alice Walker also using the title, a Dec. 12, 2007 column by New York Times writer Thomas Friedman and a Dennis Kucinich campaign speech in April 2004 also using the same phrase.
The same video traces a phrase Oprah Winfrey used at a Dec. 9, 2007 rally in Columbia, S.C., to identify Obama. “He is the One,” traces back to the Warner Brothers 1999 movie, “The Matrix.”
Even the phrase “Si, se puede,” that Obama has used as the English, “Yes, we can,” traces back to Caesar Chavez and his organizing of Hispanic workers in the United Farm Workers in the 1960s. More recently, according to the Moscow Times, the slogan has been heavily used by a former Soviet official who has ruled his republic of Russia since 1991.
That the phrase “Yes we can,” became firmly identified as a signature phrase with the Obama campaign is witnessed by the “Yes We Can” Barack Obama music video produced by DipDive.com, now viewed on YouTube.com over six million times.
The YouTube.com video clip ends making the point that many similarities in Obama’s speeches, including phrases such as, “I choose hope over fear … ,” or “I’m not just asking you to take a chance on me, I’m asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations …,” may trace back to Obama’s campaign manager David Alexrod, who has introduced similar themes and phrases into the campaigns of many of his clients, including John Edwards (2004) and Deval Patrick (2006).
In the 2006 movie “Man of the Year,” Robin Williams plays a comedian who gets elected president.
In the movie, Williams gives a speech in which he says, “Red States, Blue States. There [are] no Red States and Blue States. There’s only the United States of America.”
Obama, in his 2008 Iowa caucus victory speech said, “Because we not a collection of Red States and Blue States. We are the United States of America.”
Media wishing to interview the author of this article, please e-mail Tim Bueler.