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. Christy

    Where are the Clinton Whitehouse Papers detailing Hillary's failed attempt at universal healthcare????? Release the papers of don't expect to be trusted by the American people!!

    Release your 07 Tax Returns so we can see how much has been donated to your "charity" by big name LOBBYISTS!!

    February 18, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. Margie James

    These are two of the silliest people ever running for anything. I wouldn't vote for either. I'm voting for John McCain – an adult.

    February 18, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. MD

    There you go! Everybody does these.....Nobody "owns" words and everyone has the right to use it. John MacCain uses "Fired up and ready to go" and hillary recently said in Ohio, "Yes we can, yes we will".....

    I believe that what makes Obama special is NOT just these words, but its a combination of how he puts it, along with his tone. If these worlds come out of Edwards or Hillary's mouth, it would be one other boring detailed stuff.....

    Hillary – Please don't say words are cheap. Bill makes $800K for these speeches.

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  4. john

    Politics sucks and this really makes me hate the entire process.

    That being said – OBAMA in '08!!!!!!

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. Jerry Tsai

    This is stupid. The candidates are not being evaluated for originality, but for their policies and their ability to effect those policies.

    It's interesting Clinton always has something negative to say, though, while the Obama campaign must respond. It seems like the Clinton campaign is all about being negative. We voters are tired of this. She never for something (unless it's herself), she's always against something.

    Her campaign is now all soundbites and backbiting. Meanwhile Obama's campaign has its hands full refuting her allegations. Clinton campaign "decider"s– you don't give us any reason to vote for your candidate– you only give us a reason to vote against your opponent.

    The net result: I will not vote for Senator Clinton. All she does is slam, lie, pander, and do everything we voters hate about politicians.

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Robert

    Instead of repeating what the camps' PR hacks are saying, how about earning a living and writing about something that actually justifies your journalism degree.

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Adam, Plano, TX

    ABG February 18th, 2008 12:44 pm ET

    Senator Obama talks about change. What change has he delivered in his short political career? Words mean nothing without concrete action. He uses others' speeches and plans. I would expect nothing less from someone with little experience banking on the American people to be inspired by his speeches and "hope" he can really deliver. We have had enough of that for the last 8 years!

    on the same note ABG, what "solutions" has hillary brought about?

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Mr. H

    Of course the media is at it again! Trying to make Senator Clinton look bad, but whatever!
    OVER IT!

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. George

    "We are fired up" and "we are ready to go" are Obama's words not to be used by anyone else? What a joke!

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. Krishna

    The national media put out the candidacy of Joseph Biden (otherwise an excellent candidate to be President) once before on the issue of plagiarism.

    In fairness Obama should be held to the same standard.

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Jermika

    This is a non issue, Hill. Try tears, again. Wayyyy more effective.

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. Jane

    Clinton's speech in WI Saturday night was filled with references to the issues Obama raised way back in IA. She now finds value in "brining the people along with us" since Obama has said all along that this is about us, not him. He has insisted from "Day 1" that Washington must be changed before we can accomplish anything in the way of policy.

    Clinton can't find a message of her own so why not steal Obama's? If she's going to give his speech, she should at least include a footnote. However, she can't deliver on those promises. Her negatives make it very unlikely she can win in Nov. but even is she could, there would be no coalition to make anything happen.

    Obama can govern with broad based support. Don't let us waste another 4 years...

    February 18, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. Tyler

    "Yes, we can" and "Fired up, ready to go" are both commonly used and well-known phrases. It's very hard to claim ownership in such instances. Employing commonly used phrases (Clinton, Obama) and deliberately using a unique arrangement of words (Obama's use of Patrick's speech) are two ENTIRELY different things.

    February 18, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. California Independent

    Obama is back on his campaign strategy.... everyone's picking on me.... come in to the light.... come in to the light....

    I'm still waiting for the 'epiphany' he tells me I'm supposed to have. I still don't see his special 'light' shining through the window.

    It must be the cloud cover.

    February 18, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Brandon PA

    It sure doesn't sound like politics as usual when your response is, "well, she's doing it too!" Typical Obama, refusing to substantively talk about very real issues.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Adam

    Goes to show Obama can't make a rational thought on his own....not surprising seeing how he answers questions about his own policies during the debate.

    This man is all scripted (apparently) talk and no action.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. AJ

    Obama is a lying huckster who does not have an original thought in his head.

    If he wins the nomination, I hope most Hillary supporters, like me, will either stay home or vote for McCain. Obama is a disaster!!

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. John

    Barack Obama borrowed a few lines from a CLOSE FRIEND with his friends permission!!!

    Does anyone know the definition of plagarism? It's to borrow words WITHOUT CONSENT OR ACKNOWLEDGING THE SOURCE.

    Devon Patrick gave Obama permission to use these lines. I don't think Obama has given Hillary permission to use his.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. NC

    My husband did a presentation a year ago and used some of these same lines and even the "just words" part of it, he was talking about inspiration without perspiration! How funny! Maybe someone will say he plagiarized some of the most famous quotes in history.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. TheLeftNut

    In the general election, Democratics should vote for whoever wins the nomination. Don't get so hung up on your candidate that you can't see the forrest for the trees and wind up letting Republicans win in November.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. Dana

    Ummm...I'm surprised that no one sees this as a problem. Yes, the plagarism thing is small, but the fact that he defends his rhetoric with more rhetoric is ridiculous. The guy has no substance, no policy or plans. Are Democrats so blind that they can't see that he won't make any changes in the White House?? He'll just give great speeches while the America we know crumbles around us because he is too busy trying to imitate MLK and trying to not make anyone mad. And Change and Hope stump speeches can not be compared to the speeches that MLK or JFK gave. Democrats are wrong if they pick him as their nominee. Hillary is obviously the best candidate, but democrats are so pathetic they'll destroy their own party in the end.

    February 18, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. John

    I don't get it. Have they never heard the expression the pot calling the kettle black?

    The Clinton campaign keeps attacking Obama on places where they have very weak stances. Exelon. Public Funding. Now this?

    Devon Patrick and Barack are close to best friends. Devon Patrick has told the press he has given this line to Obama! Hillary is the one who has stolen line after line from Obama. What a joke.

    What is this woman's game plan? To give John McCain the Presidency? Cause if she keeps this up that's exactly what shes gong to do. I know this much – I will never support a Clinton again.

    What a shame. Three months ago I still considered Bill and Hillary one of the leading couples of the Democratic party. It takes a lot to get on my bad side.

    Beating Hilary in the primary will be more pleasurable than beating McCain in the general election.

    February 18, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    It is pathetic that the candidates are bashing one another about this instead of focusing on the issues.

    Certainly both have used the rhetoric of others in their campaigns.

    Get a life!

    February 18, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. DH Florida

    Uh..... I believe "Fired up! Ready to go!" was borrowed by Obama in the first place. So he's accusing Hillary of borrowing a phrase that he borrowed first?

    February 18, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. RuthieM

    How in the heck can Clinton and her campaign attack Obama on plagiarism? Clintons and her campaign have not only used his words exactly from him but they have stolen his ideas - after he was the first to come up with "Dinner with Barack" they came with "Send in a donation and Have lunch with Hillary" and then Bill Clinton with "Have popcorn from a bowl with president Clinton and watch HIllary at the debate". The words Obama used were from famous people that Obama quoted which is not plagiarism. He and Deval have traded words for a long time, and Deval used these words too, from JFK, MLK and other famous people. Hillary Clinton is even trying to speak exactly like Obama using his cadence and his 'healing' words. Give me a break!!

    February 18, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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