Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plagiarism in Melania's speech is emblematic of even bigger problems in the Trump campaign

Putting Melania's plagiarism in perspective requires a political, short-range view and a broader, long-range view.    First, as an offense, it ranks pretty low and would easily be overlooked, if it were not for the delicious irony that the lines about values were stolen from the arch-enemy camp itself:   the Obamas.  You know, the guy who lied about where he was born and has ruined everything about America, which used to be great.

But look beyond that.  The whole debacle threatens to mushroom into a serious problem for the Trump campaign because it is emblematic of -- and therefore accentuates -- three serious problems in a Trump candidacy and possible future presidency.

1.  This campaign is woefully understaffed, disorganized, underfunded -- and they simply don't have enough staff to manage things, like someone to vet Melania's all-important convention speech.   In addition, it is almost impossible for his staff and family to contain Donald Trump and keep him focused on important issues.  Instead, they make stupid mistakes and consistently overshadow what should be good news for them by keeping some bad news as the top story of the day.  Example:   on the day that the FBI Director scolded Clinton for her "extremely careless" handling of emails, Trump was still over-explaining how the anti-Semitic tweet he sent out was not an insult to Jews.   In short, if he can't run a campaign, then how can he run the government as head of state, be commander-in-chief, and leader of the free world?

2.  How the campaign has handled this debacle is also worrisome.   Their crisis-mode judgment is not goodFirst, they did not catch the problem themselves.   There are digital programs now that you run a speech through, and it will pick up things like this.   They obviously didn't do that.    But their initial response to it being identified, within an hour, by some smart person with a computer, was denial.   Then they lied and tried to shift the blame.  Paul Manafort:  "The first thing Hillary Clinton does when she feels threatened by a woman is to try to demean that woman."  But Hillary is not the one who brought up the plagiarism, and the media isn't letting Trump get away with that.   This is proven plagiarism, pure and simple, line by line -- calculated by one math whiz to be one chance in 47 billion of happening randomly.   A simple admission of the facts, and an apology to Michelle Obama, would have erased the whole thing in less than a day.   So it's emblematic of how badly Team Trump handles crises, which come fast and furious to the White House.

3.  The third problem this highlights is Trump's values.  In the section of her speech where Melania turns to the values that she and Donald share and want to instill in their children and for the children of America, she does not give us some inspiring story that either she, or he, learned from their parents or from some transformative personal experience.   She turns instead to someone else's words, someone's else's experience.   She could have quoted (quoted, not stolen) words from some great moral teacher.   Or why not say:  "As that great First Lady Michelle Obama said in her convention speech, . . . "  Instead, as described by DailyKos blogger "brooklynbadboy,"
". . .  she decided to use someone else's property, put a huge gold-plated TRUMP sign on itand pass it off as her own. She's definitely learned the family business."
A side note on this came from former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum.  In an article for The Atlantic, Frum listed the multiple impacts this plagiarism will have on the campaign.   Here's one:
"The incident throws a harpoon into the heart of the Trump campaign’s racial politics. Trump’s message: Non-white people are ripping off hard-working white Americans who play by the rules. 'They' cheat; 'we' lose."   Could there be a sharper reversal of that racialized complaint than Melania Trump in her designer dress stealing Michelle Obama’s heartfelt words?"
All of this may not be fair to Melania.   We don't know that she knew this was taken from Michelle Obama's speech.   Maybe it was the ghost writer who supplied the material without attributing its source, and Melania just read what they gave her.  But it is very much an indictment of the campaign's failures to keep such mistakes from happening.  Here's the thing though, quoting "brooklynbadboy again: 
"Nothing she said in that speech about who her husband is as a person has any credibility. That's the way it goes with plagiarism: If anything is rotten, it’s all rotten."
That last idea is so true.   Everything Melania Trump said earlier in her speech about good qualities in her husband already rang false -- because it was so at odds with what we know about him.   Then to have it exposed that their "shared values" were somebody else's stolen words . . . .  Well, it now just seems everything they're presenting is a false front:  who they are, what his business record is, what his policies will be -- all of it.  They're trying to put the Trump brand on values they have stolen from the genuinely moral first couple, Michelle and Barack Obama.

Melania Trump looked smashing (if you like the super-model type), she was poised and gave her speech with a beautiful delivery. . . but the substance was all false.    A beautiful, empty package.


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