It will be 25 years next month that Vice President Joe Biden’s plagiarism of speeches by former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock and by former Democratic leaders derailed his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Of course it was later revealed that speechwriters, not the speakers, were the authors of some of the more memorable passages that Biden lifted.
We were reminded the other day of that famous incident after a Loop Fan alerted us to a post by Jeffrey Lewis on the liberal Arms Control Wonk blog.
The post concerned a paragraph from a speech a couple years ago by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.):
“A central tenet of the Obama Administration’s security policy is that, if the U.S. ‘leads by example’ we can ‘reassert our moral leadership’ and influence other nations to do things. It is the way the President intends to advance his goal of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons and to deal with the stated twin top priorities of the Administration: nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.”
That passage, Lewis noted, is virtually identical to one in a statement submitted for the record last week by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs a House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.
Lewis speculated, correctly, as we found out, that a committee aide who had formerly worked for Kyl included it in Turner’s statement for the committee.
The two lawmakers share pretty much the same views so the aide might have liked Kyl’s language — maybe even wrote it? — and could have figured it would read just as well for Turner. The miscue was “inadvertent,” we were told.
Well, perhaps you could argue there’s no plagiarism, since you can’t plagiarize yourself? And since it’s rare that any politician in this town actually writes his or her own stuff these days, we’re guessing this sort of “rhetorical pilfering,” as our late colleague Mary McGrory called it, happens a lot.
But the committee wasn’t amused. This was a “regrettable error,” committee spokesman Claude Chafin said in a statement this week. Turner “had no way of knowing that unattributed comments were included” in that statement.
“We regret the error and will make every effort to ensure it does not happen again,” Chafin said, adding they will be correcting the record to attribute that passage to Kyl.
Might not be a good thing to make too much of a fuss about it.
After all, after the Biden candidacy imploded, the Democrats ended up nominating Michael Dukakis.