The Washington Post

Scott Brown’s plagiarized value statement

Apparently, Scott Brown’s Web site included a personal value statement that was copied, verbatim, from the Web site of Elizabeth Dole. Oh, I’m sorry, “inadvertently transferred without being rewritten.”

Brown’s Web statement:

I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference. From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.

Minus the opening words “I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter,” this is exactly what Elizabeth Dole said at the launch of her campaign in 2002.

That's just delicious.

Maybe plagiarize something else, like a policy idea. But your value statement? I thought you were raised to believe that there were no limits to individual achievement.

Couldn't your parents give you some values of your own?

Don’t you see the irony of plagiarizing a value statement? That's like killing someone during a safety demonstration. That’s like plagiarizing a diary! That's like claiming credit for someone else’s memoir. "The only thing that sets this apart is that you have crossed out the title The Autobiography of Ben Franklin,” everyone says.

This was, apparently, his staff member's fault for being too inspired by Elizabeth Dole’s Web site — so inspired, that he forgot to stop being inspired and start creating original content.

It's at least a relief that he didn't plagiarize the biographical portions of the Web site.

Then again, they’re not bad values.

Looking at this makes you realize how similar everyone’s values are — at least among those running for U.S. Senate. You can’t really go out on a value limb when you’re posting vague general statements on your Web site, under the obligatory photo of you smiling while leaning on a fence. They are supposed to be bland and uniform, and generally we take them as assumed. You learn from reading value statements that you never learn anything from reading value statements.

If you read them in swift succession they all tend to blur together. Elizabeth Warren says she “came up the hard way . . . out of a hard-working middle class family in an America that created opportunities for kids like me.” She has made her life’s work fighting for middle class families,” Warren’s Web site proclaims.

“I was reared by hustlers who taught me to embrace sloth,” tends not to fly with the electorate. There’s no room for flourishes — just say what you’d say if you were running for Miss America, something about I Love My Daddy and I Support the Working American and Stick Around For the Swimsuit Portion.

It’s a catechism of cliche. It’s supposed to be — you want them as interchangeable as possible. Sure, candidates can differ on policy, but Americans want leaders who share their values.

Just not verbatim with Elizabeth Dole.

Update (3:45 p.m.): A Brown spokesman takes issue with describing the page on the Massachusetts senator’s site as a “value statement,” describing it as a “welcome message on the student resources page.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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