To sort of plagiarize Donald Trump: "I'm so right, I'm getting tired of being so right." After successfully betting on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be chosen by Trump to be his Vice Presidential running mate (at least for now), I present this from Monday's MULLINGS:
Joe Biden, for his part, in 1987 lifted - verbatim - parts of a speech by British Labour leader Neil Kinnock in a stump speech he was using. Biden got caught, and his campaign was over.
Melania Trump gave the major speech during the first night of the Republican National Convention. She did a great job delivering it. I Tweeted:
This is tough to do even for a trained political professional. Melania is nailing this speech.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Trump's speechwriters lifted - verbatim - parts of a speech by Michelle Obama when she performed the same task at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. The Trump campaign came up with a number of explanations.
"In an interview with Matt Lauer, Melania said that she wrote the speech herself, with '[as] little help as possible.'" - Washington Post
"Melania's team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking." -- Trump Campaign Statement
"These were common words and values that she cares about her family and things like that." Paul Manafort on CNN
In a different Matt Lauer interview Gov. Chris Christie, when asked if he thought this was plagiarism said, "No, not when 93 percent of the speech is completely different." Which cut no ice with Professor Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virgina, who said on CNN later in the morning (paraphrasing here as I was driving),
"I've been a college teacher for 40 years. I've had 20,000 students. If one of them had handed this in as his or her own work, they would have been sent to the Honor Committee and would be off the campus within 24 hours."
I have a friend (pausing for laughter to subside) who is, in fact, a professional speechwriter. This friend has been a volunteer speechwriter at previous GOP conventions. I asked her how the process works.
She said that for the most part speakers come in with their remarks already drafted and the convention speechwriters help "tighten up" the language (often to meet time constraints), make sure the text matches up with the message of the day, and will do some basic fact-checking.
She said, to her knowledge, even at a fully staffed operation there was not a research department to fact-check every statement, but she would occasionally find something in a speech that was demonstrably incorrect, and fix it or take it out.
The convention program staff would then look over the speech for glaring errors and, finding none would have the speech loaded into a Teleprompter for the principal to read in a small studio until they and the convention staff were satisfied with the content, the length, and the delivery.
Sometimes things go off the rails. I suggested that someone probably got the task of reading other First Spouses' convention speeches to see how they handled it, and the Michelle Obama material just got cut-and-pasted in.
Clint Eastwood's famous (or infamous) empty chair debate four years ago was a major train wreck.
Alas, Melania's speech Monday night will be remembered not for her grace in delivering it, but in the campaign's blundering in writing it in the first place.
Will this alter the arc of the campaign?
It might. Hell hath no fury like a candidate's spouse having been embarrassed by the campaign staff.
The wild fire in the press filing center may die down when everyone gets tired of writing about it, but I guarantee that if a line of trust ever existed between Melania and the campaign staff (to include Trump's elder children) that line has been erased.
As the pressures of the general election campaign continue to grow, look for any sniping among the professional and personal family members to leak out into the press.
In all this convention did, at least on Day One, defy the professionals: The chaos was inside the convention hall, not on the streets outside.