I was at a friend's house last night, and he insisted on watching the GOP Convention. The larger problem wasn't having to watch it, but that at the same time the Cubs were playing on ESPN...
It was bad enough to listen to Rudy Giuliani's manic cries of terrorism, but we also had to sit through the sad picture of a mother who lost her song at Benghazi...and blame it on Hillary Clinton. Never mind the seven Republican-lead House hearings that exonerated her from any wrongdoing. And then, at last, we got to Melania Trump.
Before she began, I said to my friend, "I don't know why they're doing this. There's no upside. And it risks being a huge disaster." Yes, I know that the candidate's spouse usually gives a speech. But I still thought it seemed to be a big risk to me.
When she finished, the speech was fine. She read it okay. The sentiments were solid. On the other hand, it was odd that there was almost nothing about her husband and family life, which ultimately is the only real substantive reason to have the spouse of a candidate give a speech at a convention. There was nothing especially good about it, but it wasn't a fall-on-her-face speech either. It was...fine. (Mind you, all I could think about when listening was, "Gee, I wonder how Hillary Clinton's spouse will do when he gives his speech..."(
Afterwards, Republican pundits fell all over themselves about what a wonderful, elegant speech it was. And Democrat pundits wondered why she didn't say much about who her husband was and their life together.
Fine, swell. The speech went perfectly okay. Except...except...
Well, it's just that a bit later there was that Ooops moment. And that whole, "There's no upside. And it risks beign a huge disaster" thing came into play.
It turns out that at least several passages of Melania Trump's speech turned out to be plagiarized. From Michelle Obama. The woman she's hoping to replace. Obviously in more ways than one would think.
Making it worse, the passage that she plagiarized about values, morals and how your word is your bond, all of which were taught to her in a very personal way by her parents..
Apparently her parents were a black couple from Chicago.
Here first is what Melania Trump told the world she learned about values from her parents --
And here is what Michelle Obama said on August 25, 2008 at the Democratic National Convention, about how she was raised.
And by the way, this is the only passage thus far that people have come up with as being plagiarized. Maybe that's all, which is enough, or maybe there's more to come. But making matters worse -- yes, that's possible. And there’s news footage of her talking to Matt Lauer beforehand and saying, “I wrote the speech myself. With as little help as possible.”
Afterwards, I watched some of the discussion on CNN, and one of the pundits, GOP hack Kayleigh McEnany, was falling all over herself trying to explain why this was no big deal and what a great speech it was about the important things she was saying, and how do we even know that Melania even was the one who used those passages. (Clarification, "used" is the wrong word. It's "plagiarized.")
If she went on much longer, I think her head might have exploded from trying to distract people from what was done.
First of all, Joe Biden had to drop out of the 1988 presidential race because a brief passage of a speech he gave had been plagiarized. Second -- in suggesting this was no big deal, if this had been Michelle Obama plagiarizing Barbara Bush, I can only imagine the non-stop, hell-crashing outrage from conservatives and what it proved about both Obamas, and probably even a subtle suggestion about all Black people. Third, if this had been a third-grader caught plagiarizing this much on homework, it would have gotten and F. But fourth -- how do we know Melania Trump was the one who "used" those passages? Well, she said, “I wrote the speech myself.” Okay, with a little help, as little help as possible. Apparently, as it happens, some of that help was from Michelle Obama.
But here's the thing. I doubt that Melania Trump wrote the speech. I suspect most major public figures who get up at a national convention write their speeches themselves. At best, they have a LOT of help, not "as little as possible." At worst, they don't write it at all. They say, "Here's are some things I'd like to say. Now put my words in." So, she probably didn't write the plagiarism -- but the thing is, that doesn't let her off the hook. Because she has said, on camera, "I wrote the speech myself."
So, either she plagiarizes about her values and her word being her bond -- or she's a liar.
And why are we not shocked...?
Here's Lawrence O'Donnell's take on this, on MSNBC. And I think everything he says, down to how Donald Trump will respond, is spot on. Indeed the initial response from Melania Trump's personal Twitter account (whimsically written -- given the context -- by someone else, which we know because it refers to "her speech") does pretty much what O'Donnell suggests, and offers no apology.
In the end, however much Republican pundits and campaign operatives are trying to wash this away as nothing, whatever one thinks about whether this is bad or no big deal..."Melania and plagiarism is NOT what the GOP wanted the Talking Point to be after the first night."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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