The (temporary) home of practical progressives

Friday, August 11, 2006

Biden and "Plagiarism"

In 1988, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) was considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination during the year leading up to the Iowa caucuses. On the campaign trail, Biden often paraphrased a speech by eloquent British Labour politician Neil Kinnock:

KINNOCK: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

BIDEN: Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines in northeast Pennsylvania and who would come up after twelve hours and play football for four hours? It's not because they weren't as smart. It's not because they didn’t work as hard. It was because there was no platform on which they could stand.
Whenever Biden used the speech, he cited Kinnock, and the emotional power of the words were magnified by the fact that the words could apply to an American Senator and a British MP along with many people in the audience. But one time, Biden forgot to cite Kinnock when he read the speech, and Michael Dukakis's campaign slammed him for it. Shortly thereafter, someone dug up an old record showing that Biden had been accused of plagiarism in law school, though conveniently ignoring the fact that Biden had been cleared of any wrongdoing. By the time Biden refuted both charges, the damage had been done, and Biden had been forced to quit the race.

Now Biden is running for President again, and people are bringing up the charges again. As in 1988, what is often getting lost in the cacophony is the fact that neither of the plagiarism charges had any real merit.

Citing or using key phrases coined by others is incredibly common in politics. It's actually pretty tough to come across a political speech where the candidate doesn't quote or paraphrase someone else - and often it is done without citing the original author of the phrase. Howard Dean didn't cite Voltaire when he told Ralph Nader that we can't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Bill Clinton often paraphrased Truman and JFK in his speeches without mentioning the source. People generally forget that the portions of the Kinnock speech which Biden used were, in fact, true of Biden's own life. He simply forgot to say "As Neil Kinnock said..." once, and was smeared into the ground for it.

Bringing up the charges of plagiarism that had been leveled against Biden while he was in law school was no less silly, since Biden was cleared of wrongdoing by both the Syracuse Law School and the Delaware Bar Association. Treating a man who was found innocent of a charge as if he was guilty is patently absurd. The irony is that the two plagiarism-related charges which were leveled against Biden were both trumped up, but most people acted if two illegitimate charges are just as good as one legitimate charge.

I admit to having a pro-Biden bias. I don't deny that he is very cozy with the credit card companies from his home state, and I have more than enough personal debt to sympathize with people who are angered by this connection. But among all the politicians that I have met personally, Joe Biden was the only one who came off as genuine. He asked me questions and was seriously interested in my life. After I had joked about the amount of debt that I had, he mentioned some recent changes that had been made in federal financial aid programs, which kicked my mind into gear about consolidating my student loans (which has saved me thousands of dollars in debt). All Senators this side of megamillionaires like Herb Kohl and Jay Rockefeller have some friends in the business world who are politically unattractive, but at least Biden's advocacy is on behalf of an industry that is important to his home state's economy (MBNA is based in Wilmington). And more importantly, I've never met another politican who actually seemed to be interested in solving the problems of a lowly citizen like me.

I'll admit that he talks too much. But who in the world of politics doesn't? The important thing isn't how much you talk, but whether you know what you're talking about. In that regard, Biden is a walking encyclopedia of both domestic and foreign policy, and is one of the few people in D.C. who seems to have their head on straight about what is going on in Iraq and how to deal with the situation there. If people have grievances with Biden on one issue or another, that is obviously legitimate. But we should not disqualify one of the most candid and thoughtful people in American politics over a 20-year old charge of plagiarism that's already been debunked.


Note: Comments should be working again...sorry, I don't know how they ever got turned off.

38 Comments:

Anonymous rachelrachel said...

What was harmful to Biden was not that his utterances fit the legal definition of plagiarism; it was that he seemed to embroider his own family history with details from Kinnock's.

Here's a comparison:

Kinnock: Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Was it because they were weak, those people who worked eight hours underground and then come up and play football, weak? It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

Biden: Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family to ever go to a university? Was it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because they didn't work hard, my ancestors who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It's because they didn't have a platform upon which to stand.


In particular, the detail of the ancestral coal miners working for hours and then playing football are just too close for comfort. When clips of the two speakers were shown, one after the other, Kinnock impassionated and Biden rather bland, the effect was devastating.

9:07 PM

 
Anonymous RSD said...

Still, its this Democrat's opinion that Joe Biden (or Al Gore) would have made a contest of the election if either had been the nominee.

1:49 PM

 
Blogger SeedFreak said...

We can all cherrypick information and use it. But what is more important is how that information is distributed and portrayed. It is the delivery of the message that can give it impact. Messages can be used to enlighten and educate or they can be used for destructive, thought-controlling propaganda.

Always. ALWAYS. Consider the source.

7:19 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really believe the Biden propaganda machine, don't you? Syracuse thought enough of his plagiarism to give him a failing grade and make him repeat the course. I guess if a Senator can get his state's bar association and his alma mater to clear his name, then he must not have done anything wrong, huh? I'm sure the law school's judgment was much clearer and impartial when a Senator, as opposed to just another student, was asking them to review what was enough for the law school force him to repeat the course.

4:40 PM

 
Anonymous Give Biden a Break... He's Just Not That Bright! said...

ive Biden a break. It’s not like he ever lied about anything else, such as graduating in the top half his third tier law school… Oh wait… you say 76th out of 85 students isn’t in the top half? It’s in the bottom 11%? I guess he must have done as poorly in mathematics as he did in law school… http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,965648-2,00.html

4:52 PM

 
Blogger Cool Rock Party said...

This may seem like a dead issue, but I think it reflects the audacity of our age for the media to try to denigrate a man who has never violated any code of conduct. If there is any legal obligation in this matter, it's on the accuser. Biden has been an exemplary leader in the U.S. Senate. The simple fact that a man recites something that he may of related to in his life, in no way implicates him. How many of us quote Colonel Sanders, when we say, finger licking good? At Cool Rock, we believe that communication is key to bridging gaps. Biden has demonstrated his ability to talk. Is that a bad thing. We all are human. And that simple fact negates any criticism of Biden.

2:35 PM

 
Anonymous Dave S said...

What strikes me is that anyone would want to copy such clap-trap. Have universities existed for a thousand generations (20,000 years)?

4:41 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If plagiarism is caught in graduate or post graduate studies, the University will dismiss you period. He is flawed as Bill Clinton. Think about it, cheating in life, school, where are his values and ethics? What will happen in tough times if he is needed? Someone mentioned - the credit card companies in Delaware - hell - I live 5 minutes from from Biden, and nothing worse than to see all these credit card debt mongers in town.

3:15 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republicans would have to be stupid to not use the college class case and the Knnock's together to paint a picture of a manipulative person.

And the GOP would also have to be out of its mind to not remind credit card holders with large interest rates that Joe Biden sleeps with those credit card companies in Delaware.
I can just see the ad:

"Everytime you pay those outrageous interest rates on your credit card, thank Joe Biden. His small monarchy of Delware loves those credit card companies.

12:15 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republicans would have to be stupid to not use the college class case and the Knnock's together to paint a picture of a manipulative person.

And the GOP would also have to be out of its mind to not remind credit card holders with large interest rates that Joe Biden sleeps with those credit card companies in Delaware.
I can just see the ad:

"Everytime you pay those outrageous interest rates on your credit card, thank Joe Biden. His small monarchy of Delware loves those credit card companies.

12:16 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But we should not disqualify one of the most candid and thoughtful people in American politics over a 20-year old charge of plagiarism that's already been debunked."

What?! His law school gave him an F. They let him repeat the course, but that is hardly the same as saying he didn't really copy his paper word for word from a previous student.

Furthermore, it isn't even the plagiarism that got him in serious political trouble. It was the realization that Biden will say anything and even lie about his roots for political advantage. It is simply not believable that his upbringing and family circumstance was exactly identical to the the British politician from which he copied the speech. It isn't that he forgot to credit some other pandering politician, it's that he LIED about his family roots!

Even if we were to believe his intent was innocent, someone already pointed out that his thinking is muddled to the point of silliness. There were no universities 20,000 years ago for his disadvantaged family to attend.

Why is it that everyone has to be a victim in the first place?

12:53 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try teaching college students that plagiarism is for losers and they will be punished. The Republicans will have a fine time during this national election period.

5:48 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to find an article that verifies your claim that Biden was cleared of any wrong-doing in his law schol plagerism case. He flunked the course (received an "F") but was allowed to re-take it and passed with 80%. Perhaps his being allowed to re-take the course rather than being expelled (like Ted Kennedy at Harvard) implies that he was exonerated, but I have yet to see verification of that in print.

6:54 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure he was found to be "not guilty" in Law School but what I wonder about is what led the Law School Officials to investigate?! They don't just investigate everyone for plagiarism. Something tipped them off. Just because they couldn't prove it doesn't mean he didn't do it. He has a habit of "borrowing" speeches and then "paraphrasing" them to fill his needs. He probably did the same in Law School but got away with it. I don't trust him!

10:20 AM

 
Blogger Mills said...

Cool Rock Party said...
>it reflects the audacity of our age for the media to try to denigrate a man who has never violated any code of conduct.

Ye gods and little fishes! Plagiarism is a "violation of the code of conduct" for every student, writer, and speaker.

>How many of us quote Colonel Sanders, when we say, finger licking good?

"Finger-licking good" (like "Ye gods and little fishes!") is a cliche. Appropriating whole paragraphs and scenarios (as with Kinnock)and five pages from legal articles (as in law school) is plagiarism. That is a cardinal sin for anyone whose livelihood or prominence is built upon their words, ideas, and supposed wisdom.

11:22 AM

 
Blogger Rudy said...

He's a typical politician - - self-absorbed and habitually dishonest. That's what we get in politics! His real problem is he's pretty dumb . . . the Dems will be sweating every speech and news conference he gives for the next 10 weeks. Should be fun to watch!

10:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worry about plagiarism. But if university professors can do it with virtual impunity, why not politicians. I guess it's a sign we've truly reconciled ourselves with living in the age of mechanical reproduction. See, e.g.,

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/plagiarism-and-dead-sea-scrolls-did-nyu-department-chairman-pilfer-chicago-historian-s-work

10:50 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated law school ages ago, and my then-boyfriend was a member of our school's Law Review. I remember his travails when he was trying to write an article, and his editor constantly shredded it to make it as good as possible. I keep wondering: Where was Biden's editor? Syracuse U has a great law school. If they failed Biden and made him retake the course, there was good reason.

What I find really depressing is that successive generations of Americans have become increasingly accepting of cheating to achieve one's goals. I NEVER cheated in law school. In the first place, I was brought up to believe cheating was dishonest, and therefore wrong, and in the second place, I wouldn't have DARED to cheat; I would have been kicked out on my kiester, and rightly so. And what kind of lawyer would I be if I had cheated?

8:43 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but university professors are not public servants (except in their own minds, maybe). They are not managers or leaders of the public at large.

Biden is a bit too morally relaxed (or is it "ethically challenged"?)for me.

8:49 AM

 
Blogger Young at any Age said...

"but then one time he forgot to cite Kinnock"... yes, during the presidential debates. Something tells me he didn't "forget".

6:12 AM

 
Anonymous taboo porn stories said...

Perhaps the effects of the drug are cumulative. I was helpless,there was nothing I could deny this stranger, I was his, body andsoul.
nifty male stories
female spanking male stories
animal sex stories with girls
housewife rape stories
preteen male masturbation stories usa
Perhaps the effects of the drug are cumulative. I was helpless,there was nothing I could deny this stranger, I was his, body andsoul.

8:45 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

flulseplecy
http://www.articlenews.info/?p=445
http://www.ptzzz.com/?p=1160
http://gunnerz33.com/?p=315
http://kettlertricycle.org
http://yaseru.mae-rin.com/cat13/post_5.html
http://drum-nou.ro/?p=603
http://freshartist.net/?p=105
http://askshubh.com/post/2009/01/21/Prevailing-Wage-Information-from-the-State-Workforce-Agency-(SWA).aspx
http://forex.mysearchplace.com/?p=104
http://gebap.net/annem-ve-ben-sex-hikayeleri.html
http://pma2.cn/?p=1783
http://www.infolusion.com/apple-iphone-4-design-video
http://momon.muse-lab.net/archives/286
http://www.nuevennita.nl/?p=4777
http://www.objectivelyreviewed.com/netflix
http://www.kaibara.org/cp-bin/townmanagement/?p=488
http://mundocinema.com/noticias/kung-fu-panda/52
http://omosiro1.net/hohoemi/?p=352
http://www.canariocorner.com/?p=43
http://highstandard.nl/wordpress/?attachment_id=377
http://alanwwolf.com/?p=1
http://www.junction101.jp/WEBLOG-kakogawa/?p=318
http://www.nuevennita.nl/?p=4687
http://kinovision.ru/blogs/main.php/2010/09/03/johnny-depp
http://keiba2ch.com/2010/03/post-19.html

illelekex

8:02 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how to unlock iphone 4
unlock iphone 4
unlock iphone 4

http://www.digg-drug-rehab.info/story.php?id=7505#comments http://www.digg-home-remodeling.info/story.php?id=7838#comments

iphone 4 unlock iphone 4 unlock

iphone 4 unlock [url=http://unlockiphone421.com]how to unlock iphone 4[/url] how to unlock iphone 4 unlock iphone 4

7:43 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked your article. cardiovascular Read a useful article about tramadol tramadol

7:04 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The industryspecific needs have a strong influence on the course curriculums. vpn setup jaunty. You may think that the world's nonverbal communication is universal, in fact just the opposite. vpn tunnel through port 80

8:48 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that particular person is a young child, then it would be a wise idea to buy him/her an educational toy, this item will help the child learn while having fun at the same time. Yes, it does happen. microsoft vpn tcp ports. It also has an automatic winding movement that produces over 28,800 vibrations per hour. That one head light you see in the distance may be a motorcycle or simply a vehicle with one light out., vpn but no internet. Multiaward winning photographer discusses why it is important to get the images right incamera and not on the computer. debian vpn

6:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Therefore, it may take considerable time to pay back that cost difference through whatever energy savings a gas heater may generate compared to an electric heater. Munching on things like raw nuts, fresh fruits and healthy trail mixes can really keep you from experiencing any hunger throughout the day and help control any cravings that may come up. uk vpn sky go. There are legions of mediation tips to be followed by beginners at the initial stages. Candles to give up the perfect body, is to own the brightness; mood to give up profane noise, is to own calmness., vpn gate 1000. But it is astute to already accompany a dog in your abode while he is still a puppy. vpn online download

9:35 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anti aging products are of various kinds, for example, some are in the form of a cream and others in the form of supplement. net with ms access

2:13 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be designed from the company’s end and similarly a logo can be proposed by a good professional logo design provider., munchausen by proxy syndrome case study. The key to a happy and well organized wedding is preparation and organization. Now there are many sources available on the net that offers online vat registration to domestic as well as international clients. gdi marketing marketing movie.ws network network observetodo. If you are trying to get link from an article directory that should be done only if you feel that, the article is unique and helpful information about the topic. pro mbps integrated ethernet lan

10:24 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shared eating utensils, razors and towels may spread this infection., virtual synth. Moreover, they also keep your phone from acquiring dusts and dirt. When entering the room first to replace the wet clothes with the dry. prate server. The long and short answer to this question is so that you won't end up needing a job in order to put food on your table once you've reached retirement age. network administration consultant asheville nc

1:12 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was brought up by hometown government welfare agencies., att access code germany. Earlier, you only had to pay thousand dollars filling out a credit card application in order to nourish your business venture. At present, a person who had done a nose job would not create too much of a fuss as much as if she had done decades ago. network interface en1. The cause of anxiety and depression is usually a combination of low selfesteem and negative beliefs. remote desktop rebooting

12:13 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of my top picks include antiaging properties and sunscreen protection. microsoft my private folder 1.0. If you buy the magazine regularly anyway, then why not take advantage of a subscription and see if you can save money too? caught signal 11. server aborting

9:39 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.magicaudiotools.com/convert-flac-to-mp3]flac to mp3 free[/url]

9:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seldom write comments, but i did some searching
and wound up here "Biden and "Plagiarism"". And I actually do
have 2 questions for you if it's allright. Could it be only me or does it look as if like a few of these comments appear like they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting on additional online sites, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of every one of your shared sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

Also visit my weblog; twitter buy followers

4:17 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's remarkable in favor of me to have a web page, which is good designed for my knowledge. thanks admin

Also visit my site ... followers twitter buy

2:23 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.
I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this short article together.
I once again find myself personally spending way too much
time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still
worth it!

My web page ... bathroom in northern virginia

5:53 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asking questions are actually pleasant thing if you are not understanding
something entirely, except this article gives good understanding even.


Take a look at my web-site :: kitchen in northern virginia

9:37 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whеn I огiginаllу commented I clіcked the "Notify me when new comments are added" chеckbox and noω еaсh timе a commеnt is addеd I get
seѵeral emаilѕ with the samе commеnt.
Iѕ therе any way you can remoνe me fгom
that ѕeгvice? Chеers!

My web-sitе :: coffee pure cleanse side effects

1:11 AM

 

Post a Comment

<< Home