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Does Any Candidate Not Plagiarize?

Mike and I spent the last half-hour on dueling Clinton-Obama conference calls, and the charge that Obama had plagiarized Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came up on both of them. (See this Ben Smith item for the YouTube footage--it's their response to the complaint that they're all rhetoric, no substance.) Both Obama and Patrick point out that they're good friends who share a lot of ideas. I suspect that's sort of right--but that the more precise connection is David Axelrod, who had a hand in polishing both men's words.

Anyway, I find it a little strange that the Clinton campaign would be pushing this allegation. As I noted back in November, you can't listen to a Clinton speech without hearing multiple riffs she's filched from other candidates. Here is my list from back then; I suspect there've been more examples since:

She talked about goals "I hope will bring our country together," a la Barack Obama.

In response to a question about excessive partisanship, she talked about how she's not running to be president of the states that voted for Democrats, she's running to be president of the United States. This closely resembles Obama's "I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America."

She said she didn't want to be part of the first generation of Americans that didn't leave the country better off than when they inherited it, which recalls John Edwards's line about how we don't want to be the first generation of Americans whose children do worse in life than they did.

She talked about how, if video stores can keep track of their tapes and DVDs, surely we can keep track of people here on visas, many of whom overstay them and become illegal immigrants. I've heard Edwards make the same point, except he explicitly cites Blockbuster.

She argued that our young men and women in Iraq are doing everything we ask of them; it's the Bush administration and the Iraqi government who are letting them down. Edwards has argued that our soldiers have done everything we've asked of them; it's our government that's letting them down.

Finally, she made the point that opposing comprehensive immigration reform is tantamount to supporting amnesty, because it allows the present situation to continue. I've heard John McCain make the same point. (At least I think it was him--it's possible that it was some other non-Hillary candidate.)  

I'm tempted to say something about the danger of throwing stones from inside a glass house. But, as Demetri Martin reminds us, you actually should throw stones if you're trapped in a glass house. This may or may not be relevant here...

--Noam Scheiber