Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Melania Trump's Speech: Beyond the Plagiarism


Let's get the obvious out of the way right up front. Yes, parts of Melania Trump's speech to delegates at the Republican National Convention last night were indisputably copied from Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:



That, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort claiming otherwise, make Trump and his entourage look like idiots. Not that looking like an idiot has noticeably damaged Trump up to this point, or that it is likely to this time. Like Mencken said, "No one in this world, so far as I know -- and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me -- has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."

But let's unpack this a little. How did it come to pass that Melania Trump made a speech plagiarizing Michelle Obama's speech?

Melania Trump
(photo by Marc Nozell via Wikipedia)
It seems implausible to me that Donald Trump -- or his campaign staff -- would tell Mrs. Trump, who was born in Slovenia and for whom English is a second language "hey, write up a speech to give at the national convention ... no, no need to run it by us, we're sure you'll do fine."

It's far more likely that a speechwriter was assigned to put together her talk, probably in consultation with her, but with the campaign apparatus in control of content because that's what campaigns do: They control the message as best they can.

If that's how it went, did the speechwriter plagiarize Michelle Obama, and if so why? For the purpose of sabotaging the campaign?

Or did Melania propose the language after listening to Obama's speech, on the idea of doing "something like that," not understanding (due to the "second language" issue, maybe) that she needed to change far more than the few words she did change to make it her own? And perhaps the assisting speechwriter had not heard (or at least didn't remember) Obama's speech, and deferred to Mrs. Trump on the language?

Any way you cut it, I suspect a Trump speechwriter lost his or her job overnight.

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