Friday, September 12, 2008

The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

One of the more common attacks on Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s running mate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is that he committed plagiarism during his 1988 presidential campaign and during law school in 1965. These accusations are patently false and highly irrelevant, and anyone who bothered to do a little research wouldn’t sink to the level of repeating them.

Biden always quoted and cited British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock in his stump speeches, but forgot to make the citation during his closing remarks at an Iowa State Fair debate. He writes in his memoirs that the memory slip was because he'd spent the previous few days in his role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee preparing for Robert Bork’s confirmation hearings rather than properly preparing for the debate. He readily admits that he made a mistake in not gathering the reporters afterwards to say, "Hey guys, I messed up."

The dropped citation only became a scandal when Michael Dukakis campaign manager John Sasso leaked a tape of the slip-up. Reporter after reporter refused to print the rubbish, until New York Times reporter (now sour columnist) Maureen Dowd took the bait and ran a hack job. The result? Dukakis fired Sasso, the man who had convinced him to get in the race in the first place. Now, why would Dukakis fire Sasso if his allegations were true?

Several other plagiarism myths were also debunked, but not until they had formed a pattern in voters’ minds, much like the Bush-is-stupid, Gore-is-a-liar, and McGovern-is-weak memes. Biden was accused of quoting Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey without attribution, but says the quote was slipped into his stump speech by irresponsible aides like Pat Caddell. He was also accused of plagiarizing a law school paper in 1965, but the Delaware Supreme Court’s Board on Professional Responsibility cleared him of any wrong-doing. The paper was poorly written and used the wrong citation format, but completely honest – lazy and stupid, but not unethical.

Even if Biden had done something wrong, which of course he didn’t, these scandals date back 20 and 43 years, to before Biden's life-altering brain aneurysms and "long slog back to credibility." Given the challenges we face in today's world and the fact that people change with time, a non-scandal from a different era should not be an issue. I’ve met with Biden and his family members on numerous occasions, and am proud to be a long-time supporter. He is one of the most honest and upstanding persons in all national politics, and if this nation has its priorities in line, it will choose to focus on his authorship of the Violence Against Women Act and expertise on Middle Eastern affairs rather on smear journalism from days gone by.


Dogwalkmusings said...

You're pretty thorough. Who do you think is going to prevail?

Nathan Empsall said...

Thanks, DWM. I think that it's going to be far closer than anyone anticipated, but the upper hand still goes to Obama. McCain may be ahead in the polls, but it's virtually a tie - the RCP average has McCain up 2.3, and that includes the 10 point Gallup outlier of LVs, a model I don't think makes sense for this election. And Bush was much more ahead of Kerry at this point, who really narrowed the gap. Plus, Obama's not doing too poorly with the electoral college, popular vote aside. With almost two months to go, I don't think Palin can whip up any more excitement, and I think the Dems have the edge in the debates. Plus, the anti-GOP environment continues. It'll be close, but I think BO has the edge, barring an October suprirse like capturing bin Laden.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Only if it's McCain who captures him! Lol!

Thanks. I enjoy reading your perspective. I know how we geezers think and why; I'm far more interested in the younger generations who will have to live far beyond my expectations!