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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Biden on Biden

Friday, September 05, 2008

Because Michael dropped the plagiarism dig against Biden , let's review the history ("Please let's not," I can hear you cry).

The allegations surfaced during the Senator's 1987 run for the Democratic nomination for president, a nomination that ultimately went to Michael Dukakis, who was soundly thumped by George H.W. Bush. On September 12th of that year, an article ran in the New York Times with the headline: "Biden's Debate Finale: An Echo from Abroad." Its author was the inimitable Maureen Dowd. That article featured some serious prose positing that Biden had lifted entire sections of British Labor Party politician Neil Kinnock's stump speech without attribution. Biden, the article said, "lifted Mr. Kinnock's closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23 - without crediting Mr. Kinnock."

It's true. Absolutely true. Here's Biden's account of his speech at the Iowa State Fair, as recounted in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep:
When we left the stage, one of my staff members grabbed me and said, 'You know you didn't mention Kinnock?' I hadn't found a place to stop and slip in the standard attribution. There was a big pack of reporters who had climbed up on the stage to talk to candidates and their proxies.

All I had to do was gather the reporter and say, Hey, folks, I want to make it clear, on the record, that was a bit I end my stump speeces with, and I should have credited Kinnock. I didn't say, 'as Kinnock said.' I should have. I always do. It's his language.
I wish I had. (p.186)
Here, also, is his account of the Dowd article.
I don't remember Maureen Dowd being at the Iowa State Fair, and I don't remember her ever being out on the road with me, but she'd clearly done some reporting in the weeks since the fair. Deep in the story Dowd noted that I had credited Kinnock at various campaign appearances in August . . .

But nowhere in the story did she mention that she'd received a copy of a videotape with my State Fair close and a copy of the Kinnock ad from Dukakis's campaign. Nor did she report that the Dukakis campaign had also peddled the tape to the Des Moines Register and NBC News. (p. 190)
It was a piece he regularly used (and was known to other reporters for using), and a piece he always attributed. Except at the Iowa State Fair on August 23rd.

A week later, another New York Times story ran, this one by E.J. Dione, the guy you've been hearing analyzing the conventions for NPR the last two weeks. That story was the fruit of Dionne's chasing a nugget about Biden getting caught plagiarising a paper in law school. The headline read, "Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not 'Malevolent'. It lead with this paragraph:
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., fighting to salvage his Presidential campaign, today acknowledged ''a mistake'' in his youth, when he plagiarized a law review article for a paper he wrote in his first year at law school.
Here is how the Senator (who was at the time presiding over the Senate confirmation hearing of Reagan's Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork) recalls reading the Dionne article:
Buried in the piece was the recollection of Robert Anderson, who had been in the faculty meeting where my case came up. He said the question of my mistake had been such small potatoes he hadn't even remembered it. 'It is not an uncommon occurence for a freshman to get screwed up on the acknowledgment he should have used,' Anderson had told the Times reporter. (p. 202)
Here, for what it's worth, is Biden's account of the actual law school plagiarism incident:
About six weeks into the first term I botched a paper in a technical writing course so badly that one of my classmates accused me of lifting passages from a Fordham Law Review article; I had cited the article, but not properly. The truth was, I hadn't been to class enough to know how to do citations in a legal brief. The faculty put my case on the agenda of one of their regular meetings, and I had to go in and explain myself. The deans and the professors were satisfied that I had not intentionally cheated, but they told me I'd have to retake the course the next year. They meant to put the fear of God in me; the basic message was that I had better show some discipline or I'd never get through the first year. But the dean of the law school wrote a note to the dean who oversaw my work as a resident advisor: 'In spite of what happened, I am of the opinion that this is a perfectly sound young man.' (p. 36)
The long-and-short of the '87 reporting was that Biden dropped out of the race. That, more or less, is the story.

Obviously, it serves one's interest to describe such failings in the "aw, shucks" tone so given to memoirs like Promises to Keep. For a politician, these are not light allegations. But Biden has never treated them lightly. He has described the infractions as being born of a lack of discipline, laziness, and arrogance. He has been his own worst critic in the matter.

Anyway, there's your history lesson for the day.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:20 PM

1 Comments:

Dowd was also leaked from a Republican t proof that Biden was frequently using Robert Kennedy's speeches without attribution. You can see the quotes here.
commented by Blogger Mo MoDo, 7:31 AM  

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