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. Joseph

    Billary are lying hucksters who do not have an original thought in their collective head.

    If they win the nomination, I hope that most Obama supporters, like me, will either stay home or vote for McCain. Billary was a disaster in '92 and '96, they'll be a bigger disaster in '08!

    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Katmido

    Borrowed or not, Obama's rhetoric got this Republican female to switch sides and it is people like me who will sway the election. He is original because he asks us to pony up, to be apart of the solutions he is proposing. When you have that kind of mandate behind you, things are going to get done, and they will be not HER solutions, but OUR solutions. BO is asking us to get involved – and people from all over who usually stay home are getting off their duffs to become engaged. Call it what you want – I call that progress.

    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Kirstin

    Obama actually has the balls to complain that Hillary used "his" Yes We Can? Hello Barack, some of us KNOW history and just cause it was in espanol doesn't mean that "Yes We Can" belongs to you. Cesar Chavez deserves to be recognized for basically handing Obama his entire campaign slogan.

    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Jim in FL

    "Did not !" "Did too!" "Did not!" "Did too". Good Grief !Aaaaaaarrrrrgggggh !

    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. josh


    February 18, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. Jack

    "Yes we can" was a Cesar Chavez slogan. Mr. Chavez would not object to any, well intentioned person using it. This election is about real, worthwhile change and the experience and political savy to make it happen. Senator Clinton has that. Her opponent has eloquent speech and charismatic smiles. Too bad that is not enough when dealing with Washington insiders, corporate CEO's and World leaders.

    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. CST

    Im taking my ball...AND GOING HOME!

    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    The issue is whether we want talk or action in the White House. The choice is clear between the Democrats.

    However, we MUST have a Democrat for President this time. We cannot afford more of the same. So, my fellow Democrats, don't be so crazy about whether it's Hillary or Barack – either one is so much better than the alternative.

    Those Obama supporters that say they will vote for McCain over Clinton – and those Clinton supporters saying the same thing – you don't make any sense. We're not voting for Mr. or Ms. Likeable Lovely here – we need a change in direction, period.

    There is a HUGE difference between the Democratic and Republican parties and their interests.

    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. Thursday

    Oh this is just stupid........

    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Alison, FL

    The nerve of Billary to claim Obama lifted a speech from one of his best friends...what a joke! Especially when she is constantly stealing from him. I wish people would be more informed before they posting dumb comments. Well it's pretty obvious why smart people chose Obama.

    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. Richard

    We saw none of this several months ago when Hillary was ahead by 20 point. Senator Obama and Senator Edwards continued to discuss their vision and issues.

    Who do you think is responsible for this negative turn in the campaign? He is a liar, a plagarist, a flip-flopper, blah, blah, blah.

    I argue that Senator Obama is a REAL LEADER and Senator Clinton is not. She has resorted to the same old politics when she started to lose.

    If Senator Obama does not respond to these numerous attacks, he will be swift boated.


    February 18, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  12. wycliffe

    Hillary copies from OBAMA himself...
    look...Yes, we can
    Fired up, ready to go
    Change that you can believe in

    what next "AUDACITY OF HOPE"

    OBAMA 08

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  13. John

    Hahaha Well Obama doesnt write his speeches. That's the problem, unlike MLK who's words were his own. People are finally clueing into BO. Just a whole lot of words (not even his own) and not much else there. I figured that out a long time ago. welcome!!! PS wonder if he plagiarized in Harvard too.

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. JoAnne

    Anyone who votes for Hillary Clinton needs to realize that if you put her in the White House this is what we're going to get for 4 years. When she doesn't get what she wants she attacks using the most petty tactics possible. Hey Hillary...Americans are dying in Iraq because you voted to send them there! Americans are losing jobs and their homes! And all you can come up with is that Barack Obama used the same words as someone else. You are truly a dispicable woman!

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. marge

    She also recently used John Kerry's campaign line from 2004, "Help is on the way!"

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. applecrispbetty

    This "contretemps" will not change anyone's minds.

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. TheTruthHurts

    First, this is getting childish. Remember who started the complaining though. Barack started his campaign ignoring attacks and now feels it necessary to strike back even at these blatantly petty attacks.

    Second, anyone claiming plagiarism needs to get a law book. It is simply good public speeking to use key phrases from great speeches. As far as the language used in campaigns, speech writers share ideas all the time. The important thing is not to use an idea without the knowledge/permission of the original author.

    Deval has already shared that he has traded with Obama repeatedly.

    What we should be focusing on is who says what they believe and can do what they say.

    Other than that, this is simply an attempt to throw as much mud as possible and see if anything sticks.

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. Todd from AZ

    The Republicans must LOVE this. I can't believe these primarys have gotten SO petty. If we Dems don't WAKE UP, we will be in Iraq for 100 more years, bomb Iran,have more tax breaks for the super rich and looking like complete idiots to the rest of the world. All this infighting is just going to be ammunition to the republicans this fall whether it be Clinton or Obama.

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  19. James D.

    This is just silly. Obama should not follow the Clinton's lead in this petty direction.

    February 18, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. Sheila, Tampa, Florida

    Good Lord people. I think they both need a time out. A time out to re-group and to get focused on the real issues. This tit for tat stuff is such a turn off.


    February 18, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. Thursday

    Hillary Clinton is handing this right over to McCain........

    February 18, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. Stacy

    Oh my. . . . you mean we've never heard "Yes, we can" and "Fired up, ready to go" prior to Barack Obama? Give me a break, Obama camp – I don't think Obama can claim he has the copyright to these phrases – they've been around for awhile and are not new.

    However, I do understand why the Obama camp would be upset. After all, the catchy slogans and phrases seem to be the main thrust of his campaign. Personally, I'd rather hear and see real solutions.

    February 18, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. PatheticCNN

    CNN – How pathetic you are! This isn't much of news and you make a big scene out of it! We should really watch out the quality of your news team!

    February 18, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. ssmolly

    Oh, my! Hillary said something SIMILAR to Obama...once, almost 2 months ago! That is really reaching for something to complain about. Obama plagairizes so much...he is just hype. And I think FINALLY others are realizing it. 🙂

    February 18, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Brennan - Seattle, WA

    The Clinton campaign is grasping at straws. This shows their ultimate desperation. I think it is great, but I wish Barack would stay out of it. The Clintons are showing their true selves. He should let them do it. Have faith in the American people to see their faults rather than saying "Well they did it too". We understand that this is a petty and silly argument that they are making and will vote accordingly.

    Oh and again the Clintons get burned by trying to say something before they have all the facts. 1st she says she will send out former presidents Clinton and Bush to make friends with other countries, to which former president Bush says "no way". Now she says Obama plagerised to which Deval Patrick says "No way"

    February 18, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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