When Plagiarism Isn't Plagiarism
[Patrick Appel] Ambinder weighs in on the accusation that Obama is guilty of plagiarism:
Our political conversation is not subject to a copyright, thank goodness, and the controversy over whether Barack Obama borrowed a phrase or two from his friend, the governor of Massachusetts, is silly. [...]
Using the standard that finds an objection in what Obama did, every politician owes residuals to the corps of political pollsters who created the library of platitudinous phrases that so often comprise the average stump speech. "In the end, it's about the children." "This election is about the future, not the past."
The best speakers tend to appropriate and expand; Obama's speeches pay tribute to the entire Kennedy family (and to the Sorensenian/Shrumian influences on their rhetoric); to Martin Luther King and to Barbara Jordan, ("Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation?"), to Calvinist preachers; to Jesse Jackson, to Cicero and Aristotle.
Nonetheless, Obama's speeches are more original, more authorial, more persuasive than any of his competitors.