1. Michelle Obama is under fire for saying: "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." She said that in Milwaukee on Monday, and later in the day, in Madison — at an event I attended — she put it: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country." As I wrote on Monday, I thought she gave a brilliant speech, full of inspiration, and the bad phrase didn't strike me at all. But the uproar shows that anything you say in a campaign can mushroom out of all proportion. Anything can become a weapon for your opponents. People should look at the whole person and her whole message to decide whether this asserted lack of pride somehow reveals a person who feels no solid connection to her country's history and values. Does it resonate with other evidence? Does anything else contribute to a picture of the Obamas as disaffected America-haters who only start to feel good when the country showers love on them?
2. Barack Obama got accused of "plagiarism" for using 2 well-known quotes followed by the exclamation "just words!" from an old speech by Massachusetts governor Duval Patrick. Charles Krauthammer said:
In a Democratic campaign that is so completely empty of ideas and differences, this comic relief is welcome. In fact, Obama changed the order of these quotes. That was his innovation.The question isn't really what counts as plagiarism. We're not imposing sanctions. The question is whether seeing the similarity between the 2 men — Obama and Patrick — makes us think Obama's speechifying is not all that special. And if our good opinion of him is based mainly on his speeches, then we have reason to examine why we're supporting him. But politics is full of stock phrases, contagious memes, and brainstormed messages. If attacks like this work, we'll never hear the end of it. For example, the NYT has this tale of a Bill Clinton "stealing" the phrase "force the spring" found on a sheet of paper in a dead man's typewriter. Do we want every speech larded with acknowledgements? As my wise old friend Joe Blow likes to say.... On the other hand, if that were the rule, you'd probably paraphrase to keep it short — and hide the theft. But it wouldn't be theft if the idea expressed was as unremarkable as the one Obama lifted from Patrick.
It's not as if Duval Patrick had said something original. This is a rhetorical device that Obama had borrowed. It is not as if Obama had stolen his healthcare plan or his solution to Fermat's last theorem, or even his life story, like Biden did of Neil Kinnock in 1988.
So this is really a scraping of the bottom of the barrel. What Clinton is trying to do is to build up a record of inauthenticity. That's all she's got.