by John Kass | July 20, 2016 12:04 am
CLEVELAND — If there’s anything more foolish than plagiarizing a political speech at a national convention, it’s pretending it didn’t happen and blaming others for pointing it out.
But that’s what the Trump campaign did early Tuesday after Melania Trump’s Monday-night address at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
You could feel the city buzzing with the news, and then the horrid sound of the Trump campaign chairman smashing his skull on reality.
“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told CNN. “These were common words and values that she cares about — her family, things like that. I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy. This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down. It’s not going to work.”
Is he saying Melania didn’t lift Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention?
It’s not only ridiculous, it’s stupid, and the Trump campaign is now the 8-year-old boy with chocolate cake all over its face, telling mom he didn’t have any snacks before dinner.
It takes a bad one-day story and drags it out another day or two, and it allows the Clinton campaign and her champions in the media to peel the skin off the Trump convention and rub lemon and salt right in there.
Did Hillary Clinton’s team point out the glaring similarities of the two speeches? Perhaps. It would be the smart thing to do, to call a reporter and make the case.
But that’s politics. If you don’t like it, get out and take up some other hobby.
And now the Melania issue isn’t just about a speech, but about how Donald Trump may govern if he’s elected president.
You don’t wing a speech at a convention. You make sure it wasn’t taken from someone else. Not doing so raises legitimate questions about whether you have any idea how to run a national political campaign.
And you don’t wing it in the Oval Office.
Because if you do, the world shudders and screams, and Americans and others end up dead.
Republicans here are already pointing to instances of plagiarism or cribbing: President Barack Obama lifting from a Deval Patrick speech, something pointed out quite vigorously by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008. Vice President Joseph Biden committing plagiarism in law school and borrowing from a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.
But Patrick forgave Obama, making it a nonstory. And Biden apparently does whatever he wants because he’s thought of as a crazy uncle kept in the basement playing with string and therefore is not responsible for the many stupid things he says or does.
The smart thing to do would be to present the metaphoric head of Melania Trump’s speechwriter to the media. Make it a “Game of Thrones” moment. Just put it on a spike outside the Republican convention hall, let CNN and others jeer at the gaping face and sightless eyes, and leave it to the crows.
But the Trump campaign doesn’t seem to be able to do that. Why?
I can’t say, unless the speechwriter is one of Donald Trump’s kids or family members or Trump himself.
Mrs. Trump has to come out quickly and explain. She delivered a good speech, graciously and well, and the crowd loved her.
Too bad some of the best lines had been delivered by Mrs. Obama.
(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His e-mail address is [email protected], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)
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