Don Sherfick

The Obama plagiarism flap and my unmatched sock

Filed By Don Sherfick | February 20, 2008 11:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, plagiarism, socks

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an unabashed Barack Obama supporter, although I have not before this joined any of my fellow TBP contributors in announcing a preference in the current race. Having said that, I want to weigh in on the current brouhaha concerning his alleged plagiarism.

I guess before I do that I need also, in the interests of redundant full disclosure, to say that I am an attorney, which means that I am professionally bound not to deal with the subject of plagiarism (or anything else, for that matter) in just two paragraphs above the break. Actually, somebody else said that first, but I’m not going to tell you whose speech I lifted it from unless you follow me beyond the break.

(If you came here thinking I might also tell you why I support Barack Obama, I really don’t plan to. Jerry, my other half of 14 years, is a proud almost 58-year-old African American male whose eyes mist up at the historical significance of it all, but who still tells me: “You of course are free to support anybody you want, dear.” Yeah, I’ll bet some of you have heard that line in your own households before, too.)

I mostly think the whole thing about Obama’s alleged plagiarism of an earlier speech by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is plain silly. It’s something to fill up the morning news on MSNBC before Fidel Castro decided that he didn’t want to be Cuban President anymore, just still head of the Cuban Communist Party (the one that owns all the cigar factories). I didn’t hear what he had to say, but I suspect he plagiarized something Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said about George Bush, which I can’t repeat here… but I can always be convinced to change my mind. Those guys in Latin America steal each other’s lines all the time. Sometimes they shoot each other’s houses up over it. We just don’t hear about it because Brittany Spears has been rushed to the hospital again and that’s far more important.

I understand that Obama and Governor Patrick are good friends and borrow from each other’s speeches all the time without attribution. That's sort of like how Jerry and I wear the same size shirts and trousers and when we swap never even think about wearing little signs that say “this really belongs to my partner.” Now the ties… that’s a different matter entirely.

I don’t see how you can be a plagiarizer if the plagiarizee (in the further interests of full disclosure my Word spellchecker is yelling that “plagiarizee” isn’t a word, but I’ll swear I used it playing Scrabble once or twice) doesn’t get in a hissy fit over your borrowing his or her words. Jerry doesn’t get in a hissy fit when I appropriate his shirts, shoes, or ties, either. I just find a little note saying “one more time and I start sending invoices."

I don’t know whether the whole flap between Hillary and Barack over the “plagiarism thing” has anything to do with their respective views on pertinent GLBT issues. It might relate to something about “DON'T ASK me if it's my own quote and DON'T TELL me if you've used mine." Bringing that closer to my own household: “I wish you would just ASK/TELL me if you’re going to wear my socks.” Yep, there’s a bona fide domestic partnership issue in there somewhere. I doubt if full marriage equality will really help much in that area. I don't know if the proposed ENDA has a clothing exclusion.

What happens when I don’t tie them both together before putting them in the washing machine and one gets transported into eternal one-sock heaven is beyond the scope of this posting. Let's just say that the famous Maytag repairman could never find the other one, either.

By the way, I told a little fib when I enticed you to come below the break and I'd tell you whose quote I stole concerning a lawyer's professional duty in writing about plagiarism. There is no such duty. We sometimes steal each other's briefs without attribution. We just don't wear them. Not unless we have to.

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Bet you thought Billary was gone from this campaign didnt you.Nope there alive and well and after yesterday batten down the hatches theres a full fleaged Hurricane getting ready to blow!

It will not be pretty from now until the convention.So for those who thoguht only Republcans waged nasty campaigns get ready for a lesson in Politics 101 there aint no rules this is politics!

So kick back and watch its going to be a wild ride.

Michael Bedwell | February 20, 2008 12:48 PM

Thankfully, Don, neither you nor your partner nor Sen. Obama are running for President based on the quality of shared wardrobes. In other threads I have stated my belief that the issue is less the borrowing than the at least lazy if not premeditated failure to consistently give attribution; to take credit where none is due—expect possible for “The Audacity of [Plagiarism].”

But, dear counselor, I resent your trying to make something of relative unimportance into something of NO importance by your cutesy poo attempt at trivialization.

Obama's obvious intelligence is not what people have voted for. It’s not his genuine concern to do good. It's not his record, for, I submit, few know it. It's not his issue proposals for, I submit again, few actually know them. It’s not even really “Change” for candidates of every party have used that mantra forever. His success at convincing many that he can actually achieve it where others haven’t is based on none of those things.

It is based on three things. 1. his personality; 2. the appeal of the mythical “Magic Negro" as gay African-American writer David Ehrenstein has observed; and, 3. his reputation as a Great Original Orator. Expose the charade in one-third of those attributes, and one has something far more serious than exchanged socks.

But, more importantly, Don, have you ever lied to your beloved partner about borrowing his clothes? Have you ever said, "I did not take your missing pants"? Or, "I never got that ketchup stain on your favorite shirt"?

I don't know if Sen. Obama and Gov. Deval exchange clothes as easily as they exchange speech passages, but I do know that:

1. Obama lied to "The Advocate" when he said he was a "chief cosponsor" of the Illinois LGBT rights bill.

2. Obama lied to "The Advocate" when he said he "passed" the Illinois LGBT rights bill.

3. Obama lied to audiences in Iowa when he said he had passed a bill regulating the nuclear industry in Illinois.

4. Obama lies by omission when he touts his superiority to Sen. Clinton’s position of repealing functionally meaningless Section 2 of DOMA by not adding that he, too, supports a state’s right to legally ban any kind of gay relationship.

5. Obama lies by omission when, as a part-time Constitutional law instructor, he chooses not to add when taking those bows that, as his own instructor in Constitutional law at Harvard, Lawrence Tribe, has admitted, gays at the state level “would neither be worse NOR better off” with DOMA repealed.

It's not just rhetoric that Obama has been exchanging, but truth with lies.

Try those on for size.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 20, 2008 1:02 PM

Golly, Michael Bedwell, I appreciate everything you say in a serious vein about the pros and con's of Obama's stances on GLBT issues and otherwise. And I agree with parts of it and don't agree with others. And I generally chose not to do serious pieces on national presidential politics. Other contributors to this site do a far better job than I ever could, I think.

But come on now, please lighten up a bit with the "But, dear counselor, I resent your trying to make something of relative unimportance into something of NO importance by your cutesy poo attempt at trivialization."

All work and no play, you know......

Its all politics as usual with any of the candidates. They will say or do whatever they need to, to get get elected.
Sometimes, I think that any one capable of being elected POTUS should by no means be allowed to have the job.

Michael Bedwell | February 20, 2008 2:51 PM

Thank you, Don, for your kind words. I, in turn, appreciate the serious, heartfelt attention you give to the issue of marriage equality.

And I luv humor, satire, particularly "gallows humor" which has saved me many times.

But the seriousness of my response to your playful words is the result of how even gentle humor can be lost in the tornado clusters of bitterness and character assassination and ruthless tactics that Election 2008 has swirled into, and the Repugs, the Masters of Deadly Political Weather, have barely begun to blow.

So, forgive me if I could not separate your post from the river of similar comments across the airwaves and printed pages and Net—and, more specifically, on a site that could frequently be taken as a branch blog of the Obama campaign itself—that are meant not to merely amuse but to distort and distract, the common theme being, yet again, "How dare anyone criticize St. Obama/there's no substance just more Hillary desperation." Or "Billary" as Cathy snidely spins. It's logical in a sad way, for every "God" needs a "Devil."

Pax vobiscum.

on a site that could frequently be taken as a branch blog of the Obama campaign itself

I don't even know where you get that, considering how many contributors here are Hillary supporters. Or is it that anyone dares question the assumed future diva-in-chief? Because that's what the Obama campaign's built on - webpages that question both candidates. It's really all that he has going for him.

And how Cathy is part of the Obama cabal, I don't even know where that's coming from.

Don~ You know, I've never had the missing sock problem that everyone else seems to. Maybe I'm not doing my laundry correctly!

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 20, 2008 6:50 PM

Actually, Michael and Alex, after I wrote the piece I remembered something: the name of a famous Clinton pet: Socks. Just please don't tell my other half that. He'll start going barefoot.

I don’t see how you can be a plagiarizer if the plagiarizee... doesn’t get in a hissy fit over your borrowing his or her words.

I agree completely, Don. Maybe we should start outlawing speech writers too since then the candidates would be using someone else's words! *gasp* Mountain out of a molehill.

on a site that could frequently be taken as a branch blog of the Obama campaign itself

Really? Then maybe I should take down Bruce's post from yesterday or the day before about how Hillary is best. Almost all of Rev Monroe's pieces for the past three months would have to go out the window, and Jerame, one of the site owner's, would be angry that his posts from the past month or so would bite the dust. And don't get me started on Dustin or Steve Ralls or Lane Hudson - all Hillary supporters.

In fact, I think Becky, Marti, Michael and I (and now Don - sorta) have declared for Obama. So now we're 6 to 5 in Hillary's favor. I wonder what the other 39 contributors think.

Too broad of a brush there, Michael. :)

Aint politics grand it is after all a contact sport.It can make many a grown man or woman cry and wonder why they were crazy enough to get into "The Game"! If you think this this is bad wait till Hillary loses even just one of the big two on March 4 btw Vermont and Rode Island are voting that day to.They have been lost in the whole Ohio and Texas affair.

So what if Obama "lifted" a couple of words. Nobody cares about plagiarism anymore. It isn't wrong. Everybody does it. The only people that can get in trouble are students. And you don't go to jail for that. You only get an F.