The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

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.

Tags: 2008, joe biden (all tags)



Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

Just another reason I don't like Maureen Dowd.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-09-14 02:17PM | 0 recs

Its not important who might have said what someone said before they said it. What IS important is WHAT THEY SAY. The GOP IS DOING THEIR VERY BEST TO PUSH ALL DISCUSSION OF THE ACTUAL ISSUES OUT OF THIS CAMPAIGN IN EVERY WAY THEY KNOW HOW. DONT LET THEM DO IT!

Who cares about something as idiotic as that. What I care about is that the GOP is LOOTING AMERICA and DESTROYING OUR FUTURE...

by architek 2008-09-14 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism
I have always liked Joe Biden, he was actually my first choice for president this year.
One thing I've always liked about him is the way he talks about complicated subjects (like sectarianism in Iraq, for example) in terms that anyone can understand.
His roots have always been at home in Delaware, which keeps him very grounded and in touch.
Thanks for the diary.
by skohayes 2008-09-14 02:56PM | 0 recs
Joe Biden

I too was a Biden supporter ... if he was from a bigger state with more resources, I think his chances to be president would have been a lot better.

by Monkei 2008-09-14 03:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Joe Biden

He had great resources in the '88 run. I think he could have done it in '04 had he chosen to run, he just needed a field with fewer celebrities so he could get some media coverage.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-09-14 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

Who's talking the ancient plagiarism charge? If the mccaniacs are, then it's time dig out the Keating Five Scandal.

by ObamaBiden 2008-09-14 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

Conservative blogs, Ann Coulter, places like that - completely untrustworthy sources that some voters trust anyways. I had some links in the original Wayward post, but didn't want to give them the benefit of exposure from a place with MyDD's traffic and Technorati ranking.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-09-14 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

Dowd has about much credibility as the late unlamented Bob No-Facts

by zerosumgame 2008-09-14 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: The truth about Joe Biden and plagiarism

I always wondered about this myself. People said, "you can't possibly name Joe Biden, people will be outraged because of plagiarism charge from 87" and I was like... Are you worried about the pivotal English Professor vote? Who actually cares about this? Shit, he could have been implicated in having robbed a bank 20 years ago and nobody would care.

by vcalzone 2008-09-14 04:14PM | 0 recs
I'm a proud Biden fan

But you excuse too much: it wasn't just that Biden took lines from Kinnock speeches -- he claimed Kinnock's life story as his own.  It was bad.

by Adam B 2008-09-15 05:24AM | 0 recs
Biden did commit plagiarism in both instances

The truth is that in the speech he did not cite the source of the quotation, so audience members thought it was original to Biden. For a law school class he copied without citation heavy chunks of prose.

There's no getting around the facts here. What we can talk about is how serious the two incidents were.

by fairleft 2008-09-15 11:56AM | 0 recs


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