The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism
by Nathan Empsall, Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 02:17:43 PM EDT
This is something most folks on this website may already know, but it's just one of those right wing narratives we've got to debunk between now and November.
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 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 have also been 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 was still 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 his 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.
Cross-posted from my personal blog, The Wayward Episcopalian.