Texas Democratic Debate Highlights Plus

(Editor's Note: As the usual public service after the Democratic presidential candidate debates, this blog is providing video highlights of the salient moments. The debate was co-sponsored by Univision and CNN. This debate was held at the University of Texas in Austin.)

by Rick Rockwell

Although most of this debate was a repetition of past exchanges, stump speeches and policy notes, the candidates did get into more detail on issues key to Texas voters such as immigration and bilingualism. The sharpest exchange of the night also centered on the charges that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) plagiarized parts of a speech he gave in Milwaukee during the campaign leading up to the Wisconsin Primary.

Anchor Jorge Ramos of Univision led off with a question about whether the candidates would reach out to Raul Castro, after his brother Fidel stepped down as president of Cuba.

The candidates also discussed immigration policy, relations with Mexico, and the construction of fences along the border.

The only heated moments of the debate centered around the charges of plagiarism leveled against Obama.

Although Obama calls the plagiarism charges "silly" now, when he was first confronted with them by the media this week, he had different answers. At first, Obama said perhaps he should have cited Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) as the source of part of his speeches, but simply forgot to do it. By the time of the debate, the Illinois Senator had a smoother response. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) put the issue of plagiarism on the table to highlight Obama's inexperience and question his character. The video comparison of Patrick's speech and Obama's speech is below.

Although Obama downplays the plagiarism issue now and Patrick says he gave Obama permission to use his speech, plagiarism charges were enough to knock Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) out of the presidential race the first time he ran in 1988. Politicians, students, and others have lost their positions, degrees and reputations over plagiarism in the past, although it doesn't seem to have much traction so far in this campaign.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Photo of Sen. Barack Obama campaigning in Washington, D.C. in 2007 by realjameso16 via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Tom said...

Prof. Rockwell, you hit it right on the nose with your plagiarism comment. Students, teachers, and other politicians have been punished before, so why is Sen. Obama any different? This is the attack Sen. Clinton should have made. Such an attack could have been the shot in the arm necessary for Clinton to carry TX, OH, and PA. The problem is that in this case, the Democratic party leadership has all but crowned Sen. Obama as their nominee for President, and so has the media.

Now, as for me, I would prefer Rep. Ron Paul for President, but that's not going to happen, partially because he doesn't play well with the Republican leadership, and partially because of the media.

I think Sen. McCain is better prepared to defeat Sen. Obama because the Republican party will use Obama's inexperience to Swift Boat him back to Illinois. I am concerned, however, that Obama's rhetoric for change will take him to the White House. We have blindly followed before, and where has this led us?

Anonymous said...

Hardly a plagiarism charge, Obama also used Deval Patrick's line in a January speech he gave in NH. "Don't vote for your fear, vote for your hope and aspiration. this is a line from my buddy Deval Patrick, as we often use each other's lines"
Should politicians all be fired because almost all of them don't write their own speeches?
I understand you have different beliefs, but Barack Obama is best for our country at this point. This guy refuses to demonize his opponent for christ sake, I don't appreciate anyone try to demonize or criminalize him.
Also, millions of people in our movement are not simply delusional. We long to unite the country under common values and purposes. When will you accept the truth?

Rick Rockwell said...

That example of a citation is just what Obama should have done in Milwaukee and elsewhere too. Just doing it once doesn’t absolve all the other instances. That’s just respect for each new audience.

Does the public care that most politicians don’t write their speeches? Some are unaware of this. However, the politician assumes the role of editor in these instances: they still bear responsibility for what is said. They are saying it. So perhaps Obama’s speechwriters were just sloppy or worse. But his cavalier response to this is telling.

So much for transparency, responsibility, and the ethical need to clearly cite sources of information.

When will we accept the truth? The truth is apparent in the videotape.

When will those in “the movement” accept that they are buying the propaganda and looking beyond Obama’s faults and weaknesses? This is not demonizing or criminalizing. This is fair criticism during a political race. But as we know, now that there is “a movement” that is no longer relevant because rational criticisms are swept aside by the faith that each member of “the movement” must have. And any criticism is subject to the hyperbole associated with converting unbelievers.

As some on this blog have noted before (here and here) the Obamamania movement must be working on faith because any proof he can deliver on his promises is sorely lacking.

P.S.: Thanks Tom for seeing the plagiarism issue has merit. But as we see, society is very inconsistent about this issue, which only makes it harder to create institutional standards for what constitutes plagiarism.

John Charles Palazzo said...

it's been a most interesting political campaign. I too thought the Obama use of Deval Patrick's line would have hurt him a bit more. That said, the Biden Kinnock parallel is not a good one because Kinnock was a British poliitcian who did not stand up and immediately defend Biden like Patrick did Obama and because Biden had had some other more serious problems with plagiarism in his past, still the Youtube video of Obama did look bad. In the end, I think Obama has beautifully orchestrated his campaign to roll on the wave of Bush fatigue and the most beautiful part for anyone who dislikes Hillary is that everytime she goes negative, she loses more ground, no matter if her attack has legs or not.

Currently the most interesting move is Obama getting very aggresive against Hillary on NAFTA, including attacking her for positions that were more her husbands than hers. This is a very smart tactic that plays on the fact that Hillary wants us to accept that her 8 years as first lady are part of her deep experience. Given that, its fair that she not be allowed to be slippery on NAFTA. The NAFTA bill was a bad bill for Ohio and NAFTA could cost her the Ohio primary if Obama's attacks work. Another delicious irony.

Comparisons of Obama to Jimmy Carter are fair, part of me wishes that McCain wins the general just so the GOP gets full credit for the inevitable consquenced of the post Bush era. Al Gore is probably the only democrat truly experienced enough to wade through the post Bush morass but Gore is not running, I am going to vote for Obama in the hope that FDR is a better parallel than Jimmy Carter. In the end, I certainly don't think Hillary is the answer!

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