With today’s sexier McCain scandal literally rendering the plagiarism scandal to yesterday’s news, it is refreshing to note one thing: it didn’t stick.
The Clinton campaign can throw all the plagiarism marbles under Senator Obama’s feet that it wants, it’s not going to shake the candidate nor his supporters any more than a smug David Frum could through some nitwit syllogism. Major premise: Obama’s campaign is only about words; minor premise, his words are purloined; conclusion: he’s a fake. As if this pathetic attempt at Aristotelian logic would somehow obliterate the democratic frontrunner by the sheer power of argument.
The fact that Senator Obama may have used language also used by Governor Patrick doesn’t change the fact that he actually understands and believes what he is saying. Perhaps this is the change he represents. The breath of intelligent, compassionate fresh air, after 8 years of a president who not only lied his ass off every chance he got, but, like some retarded ventriloquist dummy, never had any words of his own, nor seemed to have any attachment to or comprehension of the ones that were put in his mouth.
Borrowed phrases or not, people are moved by the senator. This is the music of the Obama campaign. But there are also lyrics. Substance. No matter how some try to play it, Chris Matthews on-air de-balling of some Texas state senator had nothing to do with Senator Obama’s record. It was about the interviewee being unprepared. And the interviewer being a dick. And while the question was about his senate accomplishments, the answer could have been a simple one: Barack Obama was a vocal opponent of the Iraq war at a time when the country was hungry for 9/11 payback. Taking that stance, without regard for the potential political backlash took both integrity and foresight. And no matter how the Clinton campaign has tried to spin her actions at the time -- that a vote for war was a vote against it -- it won’t fly. That’s the difference between leadership and sticking a wet finger in the air to see which way the wind’s blowing.
There’s a great line from The Barefoot Contessa, when a failing actress expresses her envy of Ava Gardner, a beautiful and talented star, asking: “what’ve you got that I haven’t.” The response (from Humphrey Bogart’s wife in the movie) “What’s she’s got, you can’t even spell. And what you have, you used to have.”
The problem for Clinton campaign is simple: On occasion, Hillary can do sincerity. Obama is sincere. And that’s what people are responding to.