February 18th, 2008
03:07 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama, Clinton camps point to 'borrowed rhetoric'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/18/art.obamaclinton.ap.jpg caption="The Clinton and Obama campaigns traded plagiarism allegations Monday."] (CNN) - Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns each accused the other of plagiarizing portions of their campaign speeches Monday, with the Clinton campaign accusing Obama of borrowing from a close supporter - and the Illinois senator’s campaign accusing his rival of lifting from Obama himself.

On a conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said it was clear Obama had “lifted rhetoric” from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Portions of Patrick’s speeches during his gubernatorial run resemble some of Obama’s addresses this year.

“If you’re going to be talking about the value of words, the words ought to be your own,” said Wolfson.

In a statement this morning, Patrick said the two men often shared ideas and language with each other.

As Wolfson spoke, the Obama campaign hosted a competing conference call, during which campaign manager David Plouffe said Clinton was "denigrating the power of words."

The Obama camp also said Clinton had a pattern of borrowing some of the Illinois senator’s signature phrases, including “Yes, We Can” and “Fired Up, Ready to Go.”

They also circulated a YouTube video and list of these alleged instances to reporters still listening to Wolfson.

"...We have seen thousands and thousands of Iowans over the last week and we are fired up and we are ready to go because we know America is ready for change and the process starts right here in Iowa," says Clinton in the pre-Iowa caucuses clip circulated by the Obama campaign Monday.

UPDATE (1:45 p.m. ET): CNN's Chris Welch reports that Obama is playing down the allegations, telling reporters that he's written two books and most of his own speeches.

“Deval and I do trade ideas all the time, and you know he's occasionally used lines of mine, and I at a Jefferson Jackson dinner in Wisconsin used some words of his. And you know I would add I’ve noticed on occasion Sen. Clinton has used words of mine as well,” said Obama, adding, "...As I said before, I really don't think this is too big of a deal."

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (773 Responses)
  1. J R

    As a life long Dem I am fed up. Both of these candidates or pandering, and "repositioning" themselves. Who knows what they really think.
    McCain is the only true patriot who is willing to reach across for the good of the country and is strong enough to hold off the bad guys.
    What happened to the mainstream Democrats?? Are all of us either far left or left out?? Yes, we want out of the war but we need to do it in a way that does not cause far larger problems – neither of the Dems are talking about how to control Iran after the pull out – I hate to say it but McCain is getting my vote this fall.

    February 18, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. Zilpha

    Renee: Speaking of signature phrases: "Yes we can" = "Sí se puede"–the motto of the United Farm Workers (thank you Cesar Chavez). UFW incidentally endorsed Sen. Clinton last month

    That's right Renee, and you gotta know that it was completely calculated to use that phrase to try to sway Hispanic Clinton supporters. It's part of the political game, they all do it. But Mr. Obama always tries to paint himself as above these games. And he's just no different from any other politician...shrewd and calculating.

    And I saw an early speech where he told where he got that "fired up" thing (that he then proceeded to repeat like an automaton!), but he hasn't continued with giving that credit out at his speeches, making it look like it's his brilliant idea! very slick

    February 18, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Aboomah 4 Obama

    She needed SOMETHING to take the attention off Bill's bad behavior in Ohio yesterday: letting his temper flare and arguing with dissenters AGAIN!.

    Really, how presidential is it to stop and argue with a guy on the rope line with cameras rolling?

    Bill's series of macaca moments is what will bring down The Clintons' quest for a 3rd term.

    February 18, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    Here's the dictionary definitiong of PLAGIARISM: "the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."

    Deval Patrick has given Obama explicit permission to riff on his speeches. Therefore this is NOT plagiarism. Enough said.

    February 18, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. Blayze Kohime

    Obama quoted a friend ~with~ that friend's explicit permission. What's more silly is that he quoted them quoting other people.

    February 18, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  6. denise

    now it's come down to this???? certainly has a lot to do with the issues facing americans ths election year.

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. Rajiv Saxena

    Why is so that suddenly is become so sensitive about speeches she talks about having solutions not delivering speeches.

    Why it is so that such a close watch is maintained on Obamas oratory it shows thw weakness in a speaker and the listeners are not dumb to be told by a presidential candidate or their manager to the public that he repeated some lines uttered by some one else.
    The electorate knows as they hear no body should tell them that what x and what y said.
    you discuss and give solutions which is ur strength dont go critisizing if you cant deliver speeches .
    Great leaders have been great speakers as the experience and history shows us.
    English has 26 alphabets and 27th is not invented till today.
    Experience when we talk about likewise should not be counted of others if they happen to be your very own . It does not add to your experience.
    iN that case teenagers would be more experienced because they can claim to use their mothers and fathers experiences in that case ,I feel chelsea clinton would have been the most experieced candidate.

    Stop critisizing the opponents it will only harm, talk substance and solutions if you have otherwise speak ,people are coming to listen to you and they will judge who is good for them and who speaks their language. They will not tolerate put on behaviour and attitude as candidates are here to collect votes. Electorate is much smarter than the candidates in exercising their franchise.
    Solutions cant be judged whether they r right or wrong in the changing scenario of the world by the people who dont solve problems if they could then there would be more candidates in the race.
    Tell them what you can do and not what your opponenet cant do Hillary
    it will only harm your campaign which already is looking rickety.

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. Emily

    If it's no big deal, then why didn't he give credit to Patrick when he was "borrowing" his so-called spiritual words?
    Why hasn't he credited Malcolm X?

    If it's no big deal, then why has he repeatedly borrowed Hillary's policy points and pretended they were his own?

    Does the guy have one original thought of his own?

    The whole idea that media should wait until this charleton is nominated to vet him is a joke! It's like hiring someone and then checking out his resume!

    Okay now lets watch how media spins this in his favor. We all know they think he walks on water.

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. I can't wait

    he has my vote tommorrow.

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Jason CT

    I've been waiting for Bob the Builder to file a plagiarism suit against the Obama campaign. Can we fix it? Yes We Can!!

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. Katmido

    I'm tellin' ya...go rent the movie "Election" with Reese Witherhspoon and tell me that isn't Hillary all over!

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. SC

    Sorry, Obama, but "fired up and ready to go" are already in the public domain.

    Sounds like Obama is getting desperate, now that the media (Time magazine and newspapers) are questioning their over-arching support
    of his "cultish" campaign.

    February 18, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Rick L


    "Yes We Can" was used by Cesar Chavez in the 70's (Si Se Puede)

    It was also used by Bob The Builder (Can We Build It? Yes, We Can)

    OBAMA CANNOT CLAIM TO OWN "YES, WE CAN" By claiming that he was plagiarized by Clinton for using "Yes, We Can", the Obama team is claiming ownership of that phrase, and therefore – THEY are committing plagiarism, because THEY did not write it!

    The Just Words speech is obviously plagiarism. The Yes, We Can claim is bunk.

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. Maria

    People, why do you always blame the Clintons when something negative is revealed about the Obama camp? I blame the media. They are always dogging the Clintons. Now they're trying to show that they engage in fair reporting by dogging Obama. I'm glad to see this. We need to learn as much as we possibly can about Mr. Obama. He may become the democratic nominee.

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. Jackson

    s.b. Really? I remember going to his campaign rally in Aiken,SC long before the primaries and he and the lady from Greenville who first introduced the phrase were using it (Fired up! Ready to go!) at the end of the event. This was in early October of 2007. Quit spreading lies. It's because of stuff like this that he keeps having to defend himself.

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Coby Austin, Tx.

    Nina wrote: I would dare say that all the people that that you call old and uneducated supporters of Hillary Clinton paid for the educations of the Obama supporters which has not been paid back yet. In fact Obama didn't pay his back until he started running for President..

    That sounds like accurate information that you made up. I guess you have Obama and Michelle's s.s. #? I guess you ran a credit check? You are as desperate as the Clintons also.

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Karen

    Glad that American people wake up that Obama plargiazed other's word, that means he can't run for President. I believe Obama used other's words at Havard ! I am glad that American people wake up and know what's going on with Obama's words that's not his words!! Obama did not write his own speeches !!!!!!!! Stop voting for Obama because it's dangerous . President have a heavy job !! Vote for Hillary!

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    This article seems rather pointless, I shudder to think that so many Americans are swayed by speech rather then action. For the leaders of this country to be stealing each others words just to show each other up really shows us how much original thinking we have in office.

    February 18, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Latina

    I have been Pointing this out for a long time, and I am glad that Hillary (as always) has the courage to "bring this to light". I just cannot believe that people think "plagiarism" is a small issue.It is not ALLOWED in Schools all across this country, Even Joe Biden, admits that he did this back in College, and had to Drop out in the 88 race due to Plagiarism.

    Make no mistake, he does this all the time, as I been stating, he is not original. I hope that CNN along with All other Media begin investigitaing him on this, and time to bring this out.

    It's funny how the Obama camp refers to youtube on Hillary.

    1st, Hillary did not take the "yes we can or "si se puede" from Obama..LOL They do not even BELONG to him..how funny. The hispanics brought this about, he managed to incorporate (Plagiarism) into his Rallys. However, in Salinas, CA The Hispanics (i myself) Chanted the "Si se puede" After the Union Endorsed her.

    If Obama is a youtube watcher, I wonder why he has not answered the charges of "Larry Sinclair"? To those who have yet to hear about "Obama's little secret" search youtube "Larry sinclair".

    It is time that the Media Exposes him.

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. Marie

    Obamanada totally plagerized Hillary Clinton's speech on the economy. He had no plan...except to get to the Whitehouse. And he is trying to "talk" his way into it! WAKE UP AMERICA! If this is all it takes, I think I will run!

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. CEP

    Every good leader borrows from other good leaders...adding knowledge ton knowledge to formulate better strategies. As long as he's not committing perjury or claiming that they're his original ideas then what's the big deal?

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Anon

    Here we are again. Talking nonsense about nonsense. This is childish from the surrogates from both camps.
    Hillary and Obama are two fine persons who will be good presidents. Not excellent but good enough. Hillary has made her share of mistakes and she is in tough spot being a woman and expected to be tough. Politics is a dirty world. You are seeing the worst of two fine individuals depending on who you support.
    Take a pause for a second, be objective. Support a candidate because of what they stand for and ignore all this BS.



    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. centauri

    Barack Obama copied "Yes we can" from United Farm workers. We know all about Debate Obama Vs Speech Obama. with out his speech writer he is just an empty suit.

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. John

    Maybe when Hillary is done parading around the country for her personal gain she can come back to NY and actual pretend to represent us in the Senate.

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. John Hall

    This would be funny if it were not so serious. Have the democrat candidates really gotten this desparate. Keep going guys, you're going to give this to the Republicans yet. I can't wait for the next headlines "Hillary (or Obama, pick one) drops out, endorses McCain." We need to amend the constitution. Instead of simply requiring people to be born in the US and be 35 years old, we need to change that to "be 35 years old and an adult."

    February 18, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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