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. Jay

    Facts: Mr. Obama used an entire speech without mentioning to the public it was indeed someone else's speech. That is pure and simple plagiarism. He should apologize and drop out of the race now. "I give good speeches".. Yes, but they are someone else's words.
    Doesn't matter if he and Deval are friends or not and even if he gave Obama permission to use his speech, he should have been given the proper credit. If he did that in law school. He would have been kicked out.

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Jane

    As usual, the Clintons will say or do anything just to win.

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Shannon

    Amazing. It is overwhelming how easily national attention can be diverted away from real issues. We Americans flock to these stories – we probably read more about scandal and campaign drama than we read about political positions. I shifted my support from Clinton to Obama right before the primary in my state – due to this exact type of manipulation. The real truth here sounds like exactly what Governor Patrick says and what the Obama campaign is trying to get out – Patrick and Obama are friends who exchange ideas on a regular basis. I wonder if Obama didn't do this almost knowing that the failing Clinton campaign would jump on this and run with it. I hope that Democrats can remain focused on the election and not fall for these Clinton stunts. The Clinton campaign is working hard for Obama these days. He might want to consider paying them for their hard work on promoting him. One more thought: It would be a travesty if the DNC fails to do the right thing this time! It is time for a new American politics .

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Lora

    I did not know that Obama had those words copyrighted?????

    " yes, we can and fired up to go"

    I use words :" yes, you can and we can do it..." for years with my child! So I am not allowed to use them now bc they are a property of Obama?

    any information on this?

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. Daniel from Kansas

    To say this is plagarism is STUPID. It is a DESPERATE ATTACK from the Billary Machine.

    Shame... Shame... Shame on the Lying Billary Machine!!!!

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. Cody

    Totally irrelevant. Many great men and women have plagiarized. Even Martin Luther King Jr. This is pettiness from both of them.

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. Rebecca - CA

    Oh give me a break!! Again Mrs. Bill Clinton.... who's borrowing what from whom???? How about that "thirty-five years of experieince" quote of yours? Thirty-five years ago you were in law school..... Is it possible some of those "thirty-five years of experience" were "borrowed" from Bill??? This is becoming very petty ....

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Anna, SW Missouri

    "Fired up, ready to go" is a slogan that a little old lady gave to the Obama campaign way back early in the election cycle when he visited there shortly after he annouced he was a candidate. I believe it was in a very small community in one of the southern states. He has been using it ever since.

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. rock usula

    What's wrong with CNN – with so much bias in reporting against Hillary. I never saw the article front page that says "Obama copies Clinton". When Bill Clinton use the "fairy tale", why not just write the article that clearly states that he means "the Iraq vote" or that Obama is lucky in his view toward the war because he was not in the Senate.

    All I am asking is for fair coverage. I really hope Hillary wins now. Without hype, she's still the best candidate, regardless whether you think she's mean or not.

    February 18, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Katmido

    Coby, is that addressed to me? I never said he sounds like a child. The Clintons reinvented the double-standard if you ask me.

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. Barb

    A little off the subject but what I care about is yours and my money. I am retired and can not afford many of the things that I am going to be asked to subsidize.

    The latest is that the deadline for "ear marks" (padding the budget) is within the next few days. Finally some one has brought up that Hillary has in the past "ear marked" the budget to the tune of 340 Million dollars. Why should I from NH pay for what the state of NY wants but does not necessarily need (museum for hippies)? Bararck asked for 91 million and John McCain asked for 0.

    People this is the direction we should be going in. Who is going to fix Social Security for our grandchildren? Who is going to balance the budget? Who is going to introduce the line item veto so these "ear marks" can not go to favorite programs (they also get you votes)? Who is going to find the leader of our terrorists? Who is going to secure the border?

    Instead of stupid party questions why do they not get down to the meat and substances?

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. kathleen, illinois

    Calling all ladies!!!! Vote for hope, inspiration. From
    one lady to another! America will be dancing in the
    streets when OBAMA wins.

    OBAMA 2008

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Cheryl J

    What happened to Americans looking for change? I thought we all wanted to energize the country and put a president in office who could best effect the positive change we were looking for!

    Polls have shown that most democrats would be happy with either of the two candidates who remain, so why are we engaging in candidate bashing? I thought we were more interested in listening to what policies the candidates were interested in promoting and voting for the one whose ideas we agreed with?

    If we were really interested in change, I believe we would be debating the differences in policies rather than engaging in divisive remarks about the candidate we opposed.

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. karen

    CLinton will never win because her campaign managers and spokesmen are so petty.

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. jason

    i think it's funny. When hillary comes out and accuses obama, the hillary supporters appear in droves to try to 'rub it in.' but when obama points out that hillary does the same thing, it's "oh grow up."

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. California Voter

    I think Obama's "true colors "are beginning to show. By the way, I believe McCain used the "fired up" phrase as well. Be ready for tea, Obama attack on him. This is why we need more debates. There wouldn't be all this time for such silliness. And for Obama to use as an excuse is he needs to spend time in the states giving people a chance to know him, it's just a cover for not wanting people to really know him by debating issues.

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Randy

    You know what's ridiculous? All the clinton supporters are acting like Obama doesn't care about people, when really he and hillary agree on so many things. Just because he's good at inspiring people doesn't mean hes phony. And really, who cares about this who's words battle. I do agree that it was foolish for the Obama supporters to stab back and say that Hillary did the same thing, since on her part, it already seemed fairly childish.

    February 18, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. Adam

    This back and forth is bad for the Democratic party

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. Barack Oprah

    People, Obama will change. It is guaranteed.
    He is going to change his name from Obama to OPRAH.
    That what I mean BARACK OPRAH!!!!
    Great change.

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. Dru P

    The Democrats need to stop bickering. Their advisors looked like idiots on the Sunday morning news shows re: this issue. Please lets just run clean races on the issues, not rhetoric. If they continue to bicker, name call and fight, all they do is push people toward McCain.


    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. joe





    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Val Davydov, MA

    Obama has got nothing to offer to American people – just his usual rhetoric – he is just a very smooth talker – that's all. I pray to God that he is NOT our next president.

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. Jen

    To s. b. and others:

    "Fired up? Ready to go?" has been Obama's signature many weeks before Iowa. Obama has told the story about this slogan many times, a story about an impressive lady in South Carolina. For those of you who make ignorant comments, please first educate yourself and then comment. Be a responsbile citizen!

    What Obama is trying to do is to make your life better. You do not need to worry about the Clintons, who have millions of dollars from making "meaningless" speeches and writing "meaningless" words, if words really do not matter.

    The negative flase attacks by the Clinton campaign is damaging the democratic party. Someone needs to stop the Clintons.

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Ray - NJ

    So If Hillary says Fired up, ready to go that is the SAME as coping some one's speech? I think not! Nice try NObama!!

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. akaDoug

    This once Hillary supporter is over her! Obama is the change agent...Hillary is just more of the same!

    Vote Obama...don't let the past fool you!

    February 18, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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