Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cruising the Web

I've been traveling all weekend and spent yesterday touring Niagara Falls in Canada. It feels quite a world away from Republican politics and the convention. However, when we got back to the hotel and turned on the TV to check out the convention, it seemed all the channels, even the American ones were spending more time talking about what had happened earlier and what was being said than actually showing the people who were on stage speaking. It's like watching a sporting events where they interview an assistant coach while the game is reduced to a box in the background without any sound - except they do that for most of the game.

I gather that there was a big brouhaha on the convention floor in which those opposed to Trump got shouted down and the chair did some chicanery to ignore their legitimate votes. Of course. However, if the Democrats want to pride themselves on having a much smoother convention in terms of acceptance of Hillary Clinton, they shouldn't be so proud. Both candidates are atrocious. At least some Republicans are rebelling against their candidate. The Democrats are also getting set to nominate one of the most awful candidates in history. She's acknowledged to be a dishonest and corrupt person of little accomplishment who wouldn't be anywhere if she hadn't been married to Bill Clinton and weren't a woman. Don't be so proud of acquiescing to her coronation.

Melania apparently gave an impressive speech. Well, it was impressive until journalist Jarrett Hill realized that a good chunk of it was plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech. I'm a teacher and I can recognize plagiarism when I see it. This is pretty clear. Here is the Obama passage:
"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
And here is Melania's version:
"From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son," Trump said.

And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
This is just another example of what an incompetent group Trump has running his campaign. They couldn't even hire speechwriters who were competent enough to avoid such blatant plagiarism. And now everyone is trying to avoid blame. Witness Paul Manafort's weaselery.
A Republican operative familiar with how the campaign was handling the speeches said a number of senior aides had a role, edited Melania's speech, suggested changes and provided guidance. Manafort told CNN's Phil Mattingly earlier Tuesday that he wasn't involved in drafting the speech and served solely in a sign-off role.
It's a combination of their own incompetence, the unwillingness of competent, experienced operatives to work for Trump, and his desire to spend as little of his own money as possible.

Jonah Goldberg sums up the Trump campaign's incompetence.
This is simply grotesque political malpractice, bordering on sabotage. While I obviously think plagiarism is bad, the way the journalistic clerisy treats it as a capital offense always bothered me.

But, this isn’t some journalistic brouhaha, it’s political malpractice. Obviously, Melania Trump fibbed when she told Matt Lauer she wrote the speech herself — a fib a great many politicians and political spouses have told over the years (I know a disproportionate number of speechwriters and ghostwriters, starting with my wife). I have no doubt she worked on it to make it her own. But it doesn’t matter whether she cribbed those lines herself or whether some idiot on the Trump campaign did it. This was Melania’s introduction to the country, and she knocked it out of the park. But the homerun was called back on account of cheating. Last night the conversation was all about how great she did. That conversation is over. If ever Trump had an excuse to bust out a “You’re fired!” this is it.
What do you think people will talk about today - how great Melania was or the plagiarism?

I'll be using this example in the future when I warn my students about plagiarism. I guess I can pair it with the example of Biden's plagiarism. Though I guess neither example will provide the lesson that getting caught plagiarizing is a career-killer. It would be for them, but not for a guy who went on to become vice president or a woman who is married to a billionaire.

Just remember, Donald Trump tells us we'll become so tired of winning because he's going to hire the very best people. But he can't even get a competent speechwriter for his wife.

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