The other day an editor at a national journal asked if I'd do a piece explaining why voters were rejecting Hillary Clinton in primary after primary -11 in a row at last count.
I respectfully declined. For one things, I had something of the utmost importance to do last week: entertain visiting grandchildren. Not that writing the piece would have been hard. The hard part would have been boiling it down to the specified thousand words or so. There are so many reasons Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is foundering, it would have been like having to abridge "War and Peace."
The way the editor put the question also struck me as less than fair, since I doubt so many millions across the country would have been voting against Sen./Mrs. Clinton if they hadn't been voting for Barack Obama.
Can you imagine any other rival - John Edwards? Bill Richardson? Chris Dodd? Joe Biden? - upsetting the best-laid plans for a Clinton Succession the way Barack Obama has done? Has there been anything like it since Eugene McCarthy and then Robert F. Kennedy swept so many young fans off their feet? Well, maybe the Beatles.
But as luck would have it, no sooner had I declined the editor's request than a short-lived story burst that perfectly illustrated why our own Evita has built up such a trust deficit with the American public over the years. The story revolved around the accusation that her young nemesis had committed plagiarism when he borrowed a rhetorical approach from his friend Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts - right down to using some of the same words.
It seems that in the run-up to the Wisconsin primary, both the Clintons, like a tag-team, had accused Barack Obama of offering the voters words rather than solutions. Which gave him, or any other natural polemicist, the perfect opening. He responded by reciting a litany of words that had made a difference - from the revered opening of the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that all men are created equal, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's assurance that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Without attribution!
That's plagiarism? Oh, please.
Here in Little Rock, we'd made much the same point in response to the Clintons' denigrating the power of words. ("Words, Words, Words" -Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 17, 2008). Our editorial was laced with powerful words not just from the Declaration of Independence but, reflecting our own tastes, from Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill.