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. Joshua, Nashville


    Defending yourself is not whining.


    Barack came out with his economic plan in October – a month before Hillary came out with hers.

    February 18, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. Myrna


    February 18, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  3. Terri Patanus

    Go Hillary!

    I just love how OBAMA sent in the HECKLER in to Bill Clinton's Speech.

    OBAMA must really be worried.

    I will vote HILLARY if her name is not there I will vote McCain.

    EDWARDS you better get the bad tatics that OBAMA is using.

    February 18, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. Jeremy

    Since Obama has high popularity due to his "speaking abilities and ways he brings hope" wouldn't this just prove the fact that he is empty.. Not only does he have not have any substance, but now his inspiring words are proven not to be all his... I have lost all faith in this candidate.... I'd rather vote for someone with substance regardless of the party.....

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. avoteforobamaisavoteformccain

    All of you Sen. Obama lovers: what do you really know about this man? Yes he can give a great speech.........oops even if the words are not his. Do any of you realize 2/3 of the states he has won thus far are never going Democratic in the General Election. Wake up and smell the coffee. Your vote for "change" will do nothing but ensure a McCain victory. It's not too late.....come to the other side and you will see the light. GO HILL!

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. Sacramento

    Hillary is desperate, and the more desperate she gets, the more of a turn-off she is. The age of dirty fighting is over. America wants something new.

    OBAMA 08

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Laura-TX

    Obama's people want to coin simple phrases–well that's fine. But when you say "si se puede" –don't coin that as your own. I'm hispanic and if I want to use it for Hillary...THEN I WILL.

    If you want to sue me, please do. Grow up Obama cult!

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  8. Jackie

    These people — the Clintons, Wolfson, Penn and the whole sorry bunch — have run a remarkably horrendous campaign and they look like amateurs.

    I could find a dozen poli sci juniors at GW and do better.

    What a waste of money.

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Patricia Evans

    Give us a break!!! Wake up America, why are we suddenly embracing a candidate that shares the same middle/name a the " scary man" SADDAM HUSSAIN? And he wnts to talk to all of the dictators immediately after he gets the presidency! Where is his loyalty and patriotism, have we all forgotten–Gulf One and 911?

    Wait, his momentum was created by the generation that is not or was not aware of "history" yet.

    Yes we can change???????? Yet he surrounds himself with the same cronies of OLD WASHINGTON! He is surrounded by the same advisers of the previous CLINTON Administration. Kindly explain to me and my family–a five generation Florida Democrats ( who is probably more AMERICAN than he is) why our VOTES don't count??????

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Julie

    Hey joann...

    Oh Man – boo hoo, boo hoo from Obama again. He just can't take it like a man. He has to come back with every little thing. Everyone says they don't like the fighting but Obama seems to be at the forefront every time. He's such a whiner.

    Ah...I think you need to read the article again, it's the Clinton cam that's doing the whining, once again.

    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. a lilley texas


    February 18, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. charlene

    What spin is that? Since when is all fired up and ready to go Obama's

    February 18, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. Joe G

    All politicians borrow or adapt or steal from each other and history. There is no news here.

    But I do want to know something. Barak Obama smokes, right? I don't care that he smokes – not at all.

    But why is it that we never see him smoke? Is Barak a secret smoker? When he delivers all those great feel good "yes we can" speeches, does he really yearn to get off stage to smoke? And when he does smoke, does he do it in a secret service protected area? I don't smoke, but I'd love to bum a smoke off him.

    February 18, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. WestCoastMessenger

    Shame on you Obama campaign. I used the word yes today. I must have stolen that from you.

    February 18, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. Val

    I lost count a loooong time ago as to how many times Hillary copied Obama's speeches but "tried" to make them her own.
    If he gets a good response, she's saying the same thing the VERY next day. I can't believe the public hasn't noticed this!!!
    He's original, insightful and wise.
    She wants to be but isn't.

    February 18, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. hkitty

    The problem is not that one candidate is co-opting the words of another. It is that Obama is presenting his words as the center-piece of his election, rather than policy. As a result, his words have to be his own. As he has said, words matter. Well, they matter less when they are not your own and you have nothing of substance to back it up. Besides, we could also give credit to Bob the Builder for "yes we can" as well as Cesar Chavez. So ," yes we can" does not belong to Obama, he coopted from others and it is being co-opted from him. The problem is then there is nothing left.

    February 18, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. speeches

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

    well, Mr. Clinton also does say things in his speeches, he also does help around the world, just do some research on his Global Initiative site.
    Insulting Mr. Clinton is like insulting Einstein, or others who did and do a lot for this world and people.

    MD, what have you done for people, or world? What kind of speech are you able to do?

    I personally cannot speak publicly, I would have butterflies in my stomach. I can voice myself on paper, but voicing does not mean insulting. It means to state the facts. And the fact is that Mr. Clinton is wonderful speaker, leader, caring person. Cannot take this way from him no matter how nasty the comments are. Obama seems good speaker, but it does not move me. It does not feel genuine to me – and again, this is my opinion, and will be as such. I watched enough of debates and parts of Obama's speeches, cannot take him talking for too long – it is way too repetitive, not really interesting after short time. Sorry.

    I get fired up by unfairness, by limited thinking. Cannot be silent when hearing such a mess.

    Hillary has the right to point on things, as Obama does. Obama is excused of anything, Hillary not.

    Hillary 08!

    February 18, 2008 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Mrs.Obama

    I saw a cartoon that titled his book

    "The Audacity of Running for President with No Platform, Little Experience, No Money and No Organization." How appropriate!

    I guess the No money part does not apply any more since Aunt Oprah and Uncle George Soros have taken care of that.

    The man is a scam. Just hearing him talk in Wisconsin the other night made me want to puke. He is such an arrogant little thing.

    February 18, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. bahamasconservation4obama

    I have noticed that the US news media are now referring to Hillary Clinton as Senator and to Barack Obama as "Mr. Obama" or simply Barack Obama.

    Please show SENATOR Obama the same respect given to SENATOR Hillary Clinton. The ommission is offensive.

    February 18, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Kris, PA

    William B Lewis wrote:

    'I am tired of the "lack of specifics" charge against Obama. His campaign website has policy manifestoes which have as much detail as those of Hillary Clinton.

    Why is Hillary the default "expert" on policy? This argument is a new type of attack. Not racism or sexism, but agism and I am sick of it.'

    Perhaps he not want to present his ideas in his speeches or to debate the issues in debates is because the policy ideas all over his website were actually written by his advisers and he's afraid he might not be able to actually talk about them in detail because he may actually get "lost" in the details? Hence the reason so many Obama followers simply send people to his website for details, and even HE sends people to his website for details instead of talking about them on the stump.

    At least Senator CLinton IS able to present and debate the issues IN DETAIL she has on her website.

    February 18, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. AZDave

    Repeating phrases like "Yes,we Can" or "Fired up and ready to go" are not plagiarism. These are in common speech and used by everyone.
    But, when you copy what amounts to a couple of paragraphs directly from anothers speech such as Obama did over the weekend from a 2006 speech by Gov Patrick, you are clearly committing plagiarism. Mr Axelrod even tried to cover for Obama in saying,"they often riff off each other". That does not make it any better. Obama cannot toss this off...it is plagiarism! It lays bare a serious flaw in Obamas character.

    February 18, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    Think Team Clinton is just a tad bit desperate?

    They know they are in an extremely bad situation and there's not much they can do to turn things around. Therefore, they are going to be grasping at straws (like this one) and just throwing out anything and everything they can to see if they can halt the huge momentum Obama has right now.

    Problem is, when they resort to these tactics it only reminds people of why they distrust and dislike Hillary to begin with.

    February 18, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. BABucher, NYC

    As close as Obama and Patrick are, were's the issue? Obama was defending himself from the same sort of attacks that Patrick faced, and in both instances, they used famous phrases from HISTORICAL speeches. This is plagerism, it's smart politics from a very good political tandum.

    Hillary's borrowed some of Bill's material, I'm sure. Do we call that plagerism?

    February 18, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. kathleen, illinois

    Well, how ridiculous is that??? Lately, all that you ever hear
    from her is what she copies from Obama.It is desperate to
    lie. She also attacks him first, then blames him for attacking her. I can't believe that people really believe her.
    Haven't the American people heard enough lies from the
    Republicans and Pres. Bush????Come ladies, all races,
    all religions. Jump on the winners team. From one lady to
    another, vote for a winner.
    She cannot change the rules of the DNC by wanting the
    Fla. and Mich. votes to count. The Party made those rules
    upfront. It would just show how unfair our country has become.
    BE FAIR DNC's and Howard Dean and Nancy Polisi.
    OBAMA 2006 Yes, we can!! THOSE ARE OBAMA WORDS!

    February 18, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. John

    “Yes, We Can” and “Fired Up, Ready to Go.” - are you kidding? I'm supprised they didn't get down on him for saying, "How you doing?"

    February 18, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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