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. NoBama

    George W. Bush used "fired up" repeatedly when first going into Iraq. Wonder if he knew that Obama trademarked the phrase first...

    February 18, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. my computer printer was busted for Plagarism

    Hillary Proves she is and will always be a loooooooooooser.

    February 18, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Howard, Westport CT

    For Christ sake. We have had a president for the last 8 years who is a traitor. He has caused his own country to fall. He has caused the death of his countrymen. If you believe we need more of this vote for Clinton or McCain. They both have been involved in help create this mess. Also a healthy dose of blame goes to the American people. They have allowed their elected officials to run amok. But the only chance of change and a new start is Barack Obama. He has not been fully tainted by Washington yet. Clinton and McCain have.
    My god America you twice elected a retarded, knuckle dragging idiot. Bush's credential were running a state that was worst in the nation in just about everything, worst polluter, worse womens health, etc.

    February 18, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Jenn

    To s.b. – Actually, Obama has been using the phrase for months prior to the Iowa primary. I heard him speak in November 2007 and he told the story about the meaning behind the phrase. Perhaps you should attend one of his rallies so that you can get the facts.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. William B Lewis

    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.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Azdude

    Let's see, Obama plagarizes the work of others.
    His principle advisor Ted Kennedy is involved in an exam cheating scandal when he was an undergrad and had to be bailed out by his Daddy's money.
    This seems to be a trend that needs to be watched.
    When is Obama going start drawing from the Gettysburg address or the Lincoln Douglas debates. There is untapped wealth in FDR's speeches.
    Perhaps he should review some of Theodore Roosevelts remarks such as:
    In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
    In this country we have no place for hyphenated Americans.
    And lastly:
    When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer 'present' or 'guilty.'

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Frank tulsa, ok

    If the originator of the 'rhetoric' says that the two parties often 'share' then where's the 'plagiarism' come in? This is much a do about nothing. First of all, every campaign does it even if the other party isn't 'sharing'. Secondly, CNN must have a slow political news day today.

    With Romney gone, this stuff is just fodder for the Repubs and entertainment for CNN.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Julie, Binghamton, NY

    Obama didn't just use one phrase, he used a number of them, the same ones Deval did. And he has been accused of this before.

    Further, every politician uses the word change; Bill did it, Carter did it, etc. Obama isn't using anything origninal. And the Yes We Can thing- stole from Bush in 2000. And the uniter thing- stole from Bush in 2000. Does this guy have anything original to say?

    Hillary wants to be elected based on the her plans- Obama wants to be elected based on the words of other successful Americans.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. Sandra

    We can't mess up America anymore, we can't have Bush or Bush-clone Hillary and McCain as US President anymore, not at this time. We need to bring America together NOT divide it, promote partisanship and cause more needless chaos in America and around the world. America needs to have a good economy, it needs to be United, it needs prosperity,and integrity, honesty, responsiblity in politics. NO MORE Empty Manipulative Neocon Politics. US President Barack Obama IS THE ONLY Answer.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. john

    To anyone who posts comments like 'Obama has no substance' please also post whether you've a) read his book Audacity of Hope and b) the positions he's articulated on his website.

    Same goes for Hillary bashers. Have you read her books and her positions?

    Where do you people get your info? From the news media? The same news media that covers Britney Spears and Paris Hilton 100x more than anything substantive.

    February 18, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Hillary is a LOSER!!!

    Hillary,

    Give up your dream of presidency and quit. You are such a loser and a sore one at that.

    Go OBAMA!!

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Latina for Obama

    Hillary should be ashamed of her mis-managed camp. She has failed at everything she's ran because of this behavior. She all about scandals. So is Bill. I can't believe he handle the heckler episode in that manner.

    Never got universal health care done and never will because of this behavior.

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. 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.

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  14. dan from MA

    The more i watch of Obama, the more glad i am that i voted for Hillary. We need more than vague speeches about hope to fix this country. I get my hope from the strength of Hillary's policies, and the determination and tenacity she has shown throughout her career.

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Gaby

    Main thing to remember if you do not vote, you can not complain regardless of who you vote for ,and you do not, as a result make a difference.

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. AJ, IL

    This is so petty and desperate of the Hillary campaign. Is this part of the "solutions business" that America needs from the Hillary camp? The media reports on a non-story and the Hillary camp is so desperate for something against Obama that they take it and run with it.

    Unfortunately, Obama's campaign has to get involved in such silliness because Hillary's campaign wants the Democratic party to be distracted.

    Obama in 08!

    February 18, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. Edward Porter

    People keep complaining that words not substance are Obama's only strength....I guess we can subtract the words, too.

    If I wanted a "positive attitude" leader, I'd skip the election and search the self-help section at my library. I want substance.

    February 18, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. John in PA

    Adam, Plano, TX – I suggest you seek out the comments of her constituents in the state of NY, where she has served as Senator for the last 2 terms. They have all been very glowing. Additionally, they re-elected her by overwhelming majority, a sign that she has made improvements, and she carried the state easily in the primary, another sign they are very happy with her performance. A little research goes a long way. After your research is complete, put the records side by side. There is truly not a comparison.

    February 18, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Michelle in Philly

    Obama is full of hot air, and doesn't have the creativity to come up with his own ideas.

    He's got you all fooled, Obamazombies Wake up and smell the crap he's feeding you

    February 18, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. JC, Hot Springs, Arkansas

    PLOUFFFFE!! There goes the air out of Obama the gasbag. Our country needs original thought and action to undo the Bush mess. Hillary can fix it.

    February 18, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Dino IL

    This is pretty petty on both candidates part...I just wonder if too much damage has not already been done.
    Clinton supporters, if Obama wins the nomination will you choose to vote for McCain? If not, how can you support someone that you villify so readily?
    Obama supporters, what if Hillary comes back to win, whether thru the popular vote or due to superdelegates support? Will you find it possible to campaign as vigorously for her as you have for Obama?
    If you can't answer yes to these questions, then I think Mccain is a shoe in and you can all blame yourselves for that.

    February 18, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. Jim

    Be careful everyone: Should Obama pay royalties to Pelosi for using the word "change?"

    I love the term "lifted rhetoric" Isn't repetition kinda entwined in the definition of rhetoric?

    The change that all candidates are offering is insulting to anyone with basic math skills. The Federal government has about a 15% efficiency rate in taking your money and redistributing it. Give that money to the Salvation Army, or any one of a hundred other efficient and caring charities, and you would increase that to over 90% instantly.

    February 18, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. Dave Colorado

    Yes we can – Si se puede – Caesar Chavez – Need I say more????

    February 18, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Latino

    Obama knows how to create his own words, for attacking other people only.

    February 18, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. josh

    obama is O BITER

    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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