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. richard

    Plagiarism, huh Obama? Signature phrases, huh CNN? "Yes, we can?" Translate it to Spanish and it is "Si, Se Puede". Obama's been plagiarising since day one. Hey who knows maybe hes got MLA format all over his speeches. Disgusting...same old politics from Obama...don't let him fool you.

    February 18, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Scott

    Obama is showing that he is not as trustworthy as many think. Plagerism is considered a serious matter.

    February 18, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. Terry

    The ship has sunk. CNN this is not news who cares. Who are you spinning this for Clinton or Obama? Obama 2008

    February 18, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. marge

    Joann February 18th, 2008 12:44 pm ET

    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. Hillary has been very dignified and a true lady through all the Media's scrutiny of her. I think if I took as much "hate" and bad mouthing as MSNBC, CNN and FOX news has given her I'd have lost it by now and would have blown up. Her attitude is so good. She always comes out with a smile, she always takes questions and shakes hands, takes pictures until the sun goes down and then leaves with that same smile. I never see any of this from Obama. He doesn't smile (that's a gas pain), he doesn't take questions (because he has no answers) he's just too sullen. Go Hillary

    Obama camp has never initaited the conflict. Hillary doesn't exactly answer questions...I've been waiting for over a year to hear her explanation on why she voted for the war...
    But enjoy this non-event Hillary supporters....It's been a long time since you've had anything to talk about,OTHER than eight straight losses!

    February 18, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. Aaron

    Hillary... presidential does not equal petty. Bad form.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Kevin

    I went to a concert Saturday night here in Austin, and this band – an amazing guitar duet played this amazing and very lively set.

    However, during the show they riffed a couple of chords from The Who and Led Zepplin. Each time, they stopped and one of the roadies came out to cite the source.

    C'mon fellow 'crats. Let's not get carried away. Neither candidate is 100% original, and neither is a proven liar or crook.

    Can we debate the merits of their health-care plans or whether one will be ready on day one and the other right...

    LMAO.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Ann

    The problem is most American only hear what they
    want...they want to hear about change and better government.
    So that is what they are hearing from Obama. They are just
    words that will hopefully get him elected...you should be
    wondering who or what is behind this candidate who has
    virtually no experience and certainly not the money to run such
    a successful campaign...several weeks ago you could compare
    the corporations that were donating to his campaign...they were
    amazingly identical to Hillary's...however that material has been
    removed from websites.....aaahh..what's up with that Obama?

    Perhaps you all should go back to a speech that Kerry made
    4 years ago where "we are fired up and ready to go" was part
    of a speech made alongside of his military buddies.

    Come on people, smarten up...your being had by a great
    orator....

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. Waiting for Miracles

    Obama is as fake as the three dollar bill, even his inspirational words are not his own; he borrowed it from JFK, RFK, MLK, BILL CLINTON and others.

    For months many people have been calling him "empty suit" an emperor with no clothes. Finally, the media are catching up what majority of the American people have known for a long time.

    One thing with new technology, the media don't have monopoly anymore. Senior citizens spend an average of 70 hours a week surfing the internet, they're not uninformed as a lot of young people perceive them to be especially the media.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. therealist

    Two third grade scuffling to show that they can act like the President of the United States of America. Exactly what we've come to expect from democrat wannabees since the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. GK

    Yes, it sounds like whining. BUT, as John Kerry learned the hard way, if you let your opponent define you wrongly, and you don't nip it in the bud, and set things straight, it can become lethal. What is truly sad, is that Hillary sets such a poor tone. She's been grasping at straws for weeks, and for those paying attention, she only hurts herself. Unfortunately, there are those who DON'T pay enough attention, to see her manoeuvering for what it is.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. B

    Yes We Can is NOT

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Tom in MA

    Just so you Obama people know, the Clinton Campaign did not start this. An ABC commentator did in a column he wrote. Complain to him.

    February 18, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. Carol (Independent)

    “Yes, We Can” and “Fired Up, Ready to Go.”

    Are you kidding? Are the Clintons trying to say these two and three word phrases are patented or subject to FIPT?

    Do I need to get written approval to say them? What a joke? Hillary's desperation is getting ridiculous.

    February 18, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. Thursday

    J.inPA,
    I don't expect anything better of the Clintons either......Obama needs to stay positive and keep it moving....this is sooooo petty and destructive.

    February 18, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. aware

    Obama does demonstrate a pattern of using Hillary's policy issues as his ideas. I watched his face as Hillary spoke at the last debate. It was interesting to watch his eyes connect with her ideas. 🙂

    This is much different than using general mantras that Barack took from others originally.

    I hope he never has to face the Republicans. 🙂

    If not Hillary then John McCain – Barack can whip up a crowd but he can't do the job.

    Hillary the Hope of 08

    February 18, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Mr. Ohio

    The Clinton ship is sinking. The so called "experienced and full of substances" candidate is resorting to personal attacks. Too late to little. Hillary just give up because none one is listening to your phony message.

    Yes We Can
    Obama 08

    February 18, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. kaylee

    Desparation!
    It is shameless what Hillary's camp is doing.
    Instead Relaease the Tax Returns. What are you hiding?
    It is amazing why Hillary's supporters don't demand the release of her Tax Returns. I guess they don't trust her after all.

    February 18, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Francois

    Well, Well, It seems that Obama's campaign is starting to falter, now that it is under pressure of being the front runner....
    It is surprising that Obama, who is an excellent speaker and speech writer himself, would"borrow" and use these sentences from his friend and supporter , Gov Patrick. First of all they are beside the point and the accusation that is being levied against him. Anyone knows that HRC in her attack is not saying that "We the People" and "Ihave a dream..." are only words. Her point is Obama's promises are empty and devod of value because they are more words than commitment.
    Why on earth he would use such a poor counter attack is not only a show of poor judgement on substance, it is a major mistake to do so when "borrowing" or plagiarising from somebody else's speech, albeit a friend and supporter...
    Obama did not need to do that, but pressure, overconfidence, or at times arrogance can play tricks on front runners and that is why it is important to let primaries play out completely before deciding to cut the game short and call a winner in February when the race is supposed to end in June....

    February 18, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. kevin from alaska

    3 ghostwriters wrote Hillary Clinton's "It Takes A Village."

    Barack Obama wrote "The Audacity of Hope."

    Learn your facts and get over it people.

    February 18, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. phil

    Why isnt the media going afterObama.If this would have been anybody else.the media would be all over it.Thanks Fox news is the only one covering this The medianeeds to find out little about him if he going to be president .

    February 18, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Faiz

    Would you all grow up.

    Obama is explaining in this article that borrowing from eachothers speeches is not the big deal that the Clinton camp is making it out to be.

    Th Clinton camp brought this up and Obama is answering the allegations.

    Not whining, not crying, not being unpresidential.

    Please read the full article before blogging.

    February 18, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. st louis

    This is such an outrageous news article. Come on CNN (Clinton's News Network) Whats next the crying again. Give us a break and report something news worthy.

    February 18, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. an octogenarian for obama

    I've heard politicians use catchy quotes of FDR, HST, JFK, Ike and Ronald Reagan for many years, sometimes crediting the source and sometimes not. But even without attribution, I never thought anybody was stealing something, since the words were so well known.

    White House fever is a strange disease. It's making partisans in both camps appear stricken by constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth. That by the way is a quote from Fred Allen on his opinion of loud mouths in general. Time to stop acting like children. And kiddies, if ou aren't old enough to remember Fred Allen, drop his name into Google.

    February 18, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. MacMo

    Didn't Clinton say words are cheap? I think people are just following others blindly.
    Gobama '08!!!

    February 18, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. WP

    Obama has been consistent in his message from the start. It is Hillary who has repeatedly stolen/changed her message, and its even been highlighted on several politcal shows. Experience, change, soft Hillary, back to experience. She's desperate to find something that will work! Everyone is always talking about how the "Republicans will eat Obama for lunch". He's showing you that he won't back down to anyone or anything and you still complain.

    February 18, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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