Newspaper logo


Just when you think the media couldn't get any worse...

by Dave Lindorff

Excuse me, but we have a criminal $1-trillion war raging in Iraq that is sucking the lifeblood out of the American economy and the media are focused on what? The momentious question of whether Obama lifted a quote from Gov. Patrick without acknowledgement?
Mon, 02/18/2008—I would not have thought that the coverage of the US presidential campaign could get more shallow and meaningless, and then, along comes the plagiarism story.

OMG! Barack Obama, the silver-tongued front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, lifted a couple of lines and an idea from the black governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. Patrick, himself something of a wordsmith, had been hit with the same attack by a wooden opponent, and responded by saying that words matter, and citing Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" line and the Declaration of Independence's ringing "all men are created equal."

Obama, whose oratorical skills have left the robotic and monotonous Hillary Clinton sounding like a pull-string Barbie on the stump (remember "Math is hard!"?), has had the Clinton campaign frantically casting around for a rejoinder, and the best they could come up with to date was a charge that he's "all hat and no cattle" (itself a line lifted, uncredited, from Texas populist Jim Hightower, if I recall, though I think it has an older lineage among Texans, and has been appropriately applied to President Bush on numerous occasions). Obama decided to respond using some of Patrick's lines.

Now, one could argue that Obama would have been better advised to give fair attribution to Gov. Patrick, but since when have politicians gone around putting footnotes on their public speeches? Most political speeches are excercises in cut and paste, full of regurgitated pablum and lifted quotes. If plagiarism were a political crime, 90 percent of members of Congress would be out on their ears.

Besides, come on now! We're not nominating an English professor, god knows. If we were, how in hell would we have had Bush for president for the last what seems like eternity, with his maddening use of the word "nukular," his drunken "sh" slurs all over the place, his grammatical attrocities, and his mangled quotes (remember "if you fool me once..."?)?

Excuse me, but we have a criminal $1-trillion war raging in Iraq that is sucking the lifeblood out of the American economy, killing American troops by the day and slaughtering innocent Iraqis by the hundred thousands, we have an economy that's racing for the toilet like a party-goer who ate too many bad shrimps, we have bridges collapsing, we have the North Pole ice vanishing faster than Bush's credibility, and the media are focussed laser-like on what? The momentious question of whether Obama lifted a quote from Gov. Patrick without acknowledgement?

We have Democrats trying to decide whether to select a woman senator who used insider information to make a killing in cattle futures, who has accepted massive donations from the healthcare industry and military contractors, who voted enthusiastically if cynically for George Bush's Iraq War, and whose husband wants nothing more than a new shot at some eager White House interns, or a black senator who spoke out against that war before it happened, when to do so was to risk being called a traitor by the Commander in Chief and his minions, and the best our vaunted "independent" media pundits can do is what? Accuse Obama of plagiarism?

Thank you, Fourth Estate, for making us a well-informed citizenry.

Lindorff speakingAbout the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at

Copyright © 2008 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on February 19, 2008.