On a Clinton campaign conference call with reporters this morning, Howard Wolfson and Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts presented two events as part of the same pattern: the Obama campaign’s apparent equivocating on a promise to take public financing in a general election against John McCain (whether or not what he said constitutes a pledge is disputed) and the emergence of video evidence that part of a recent Obama speech was almost exactly the same as part of a speech given by Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
“If you use someone else’s words of someone else’s ideas, I believe you should credit them,” said McGovern, going to on to say that he worked for Deval and “probably campaigned [his] heart out for him.”
Obama’s inspiring ideas, McGovern said, “seem less authentic and more political. They’re not his ideas.”
The idea was to suggest a pattern of uncredited intellectual appropriation by Obama. McGovern went on to mention Obama’s economic plan, which has been criticized as a copy of Hillary Clinton’s earlier proposal. “His economic plan is really Hillary’s economic plan, and that’s fine,” McGovern said, “but he should credit her.” We need a leader, he added, “not just someone who can copy someone else’s homework.”
Wolfson said, “The point we are making overall is that Senator Obama’s record…is thin. He is really asking us to judge him on the strength of his rhetoric and the strength of his promises.” Wolfson went on to say that “yesterday, [Obama] decided not to honor the pledge and today we learn that Senator Obama’s rhetoric comes from Governor Patrick, in this instance.”
One reporter (who did not identify himself) asked if the Clinton campaign wasn’t “making mountains out of molehills.”
Wolfson repeated that “in many respects [Obama] is asking people to judge him on the strength of his rhetoric and the strength of his promises.” Now, Wolfson went on, “He’s breaking his promises and his rhetoric isn’t his own.”
Responding to the same question, McGovern said that Patrick’s speech was “a very powerful speech, a turning point in Patrick’s campaign.” The fact that Obama took it without attribution, McGovern added, makes Obama seem “politically calculating” and “less authentic.”
McGovern then said that if Clinton had done the same thing, the media would be in a frenzy.
Which is probably true. If reactions I have seen this morning, and the “molehill” question from the reporter are any indication, this is not a narrative that will long endure with Obama supporters, unless the Clinton campaign continues to push it. We haven’t heard the last of this, I’m guessing.