Melania Trump — or her speechwriters — stand accused of plagiarizing several lines from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech (which was itself accused of lifting lines from Saul Alinsky).
When Democrats do the same — or worse — the political damage tends to be far worse, since a significant proportion of the media can be counted upon to distill the “larger truth” of whatever it was they are trying to say. Even for Democrats, however, excuses do run out.
Here are the top 10 most serious cases of Democratic plagiarism, among contemporary political figures:
10. Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA). The California doctor and congressman admittedborrowing lines in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee pushing for fast-track negotiating authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Buzzfeed, which made the initial catch, noted that Bera had borrowed heavily from Obama administration talking points and from pro-business sources.
9. Sen. John Walsh (D-MT): Walsh retired in 2014 after youthful plagiarism was uncovered. The New York Times reported: “His withdrawal from the race comes about two weeks after The New York Times reported that in 2007 Mr. Walsh plagiarized large sections of the final paper he completed to earn his master’s degree at the prestigious Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.”
8. Mary Burke, candidate for WI governor. The Democrats’ 2014 nominee against incumbent Republican Scott Walker was caught by Buzzfeed: “Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.”
7. Susan Wismer, candidate for SD governor. In another catch for Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski, South Dakota’s 2014 Democratic nominee was caught borrowing campaign materials — including, ironically, biographical material from Mary Burke of Wisconsin (#8 above), who herself faced plagiarism accusations in the same election cycle, just days before.
6. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The liberal firebrand from Harvard, whose claims to Native American ancestry have never been authenticated, contributed several recipes to a cookbook called Pow Wow Chow in the 1980s. In 2012, it emerged that several of those recipes appeared to have been stolen from the New York Times — and were French, not Native American.
5. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). The current Secretary of State faced several accusations of plagiarism during his 2004 presidential campaign, including the claim that he copied several passages in his 2007 book from other sources, and speculation that he may have stolen a campaign trail “memory” from Hillary Clinton’s memoir of the 1992 election.
4. Michelle Obama. Though the accusation never found traction in the mainstream media, the aspiring First Lady appeared to have lifted phrases from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radical — a classic primer on community organizing — and attributed them to her husband. It is conceivable that Obama, an accused plagiarizer himself (see below), passed them off as his own.
3. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). Biden’s 1988 presidential aspirations were destroyed after it emerged that he borrowed heavily from British Labour Party politician Neal Kinnock — not just Kinnock’s words, but his biographical details. He was also found to have plagiarized in law school. Biden still made it to the top — or near the top — on charm and sheer perseverance.
2. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). The 2008 and 2016 presidential candidate was accused, both times, of plagiarizing others’ lines — and her own. Most recently, she was accused by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) of stealing his talking points, partly in an effort to convince left-wing voters that there was no distance between the two. Her effort inspired a hashtag: #StealtheBern.
1. Barack Obama. The supposedly great orator was caught lifting the major refrain, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, his friend and fellow Harvard Law graduate. The irony of arguing for the importance of words, and then borrowing those words without attribution, was a sign of just how empty so many of those words really were.