Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Well, At Least the Clinton Camp Didn't Call Obama a "Shameless Extrovert" and an "Acknowledged Thespian"

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Reading the accounts this weekend of the Clinton camp's allegations that Obama is a "plagiarist" called to mind some of the nastier accusations (whether real or hoaxed) in past political campaigns.  I learned this morning that George Smathers in fact did not accuse Claude Pepper of being a "shameless extrovert," a "thespian" and a lifelong celibate to backwoods Floridians in that infamous Democratic senatorial 180pxhelengahagan primary  (it was a hoax made up by a reporter).  But there's little question Richard Nixon smeared Helen Gahagan Douglas (left, as a star in 1920's Hollywood) as a Communist "fellow traveler" in his first run for Congress in 1948.

I won't get into legalisms whether two friends, sharing a common speech writer, using the same relatively innocuous speech lines about "words" can be accused of "plagiarism," which at its core is the false claim or implication of original authorship.  Joe Biden had a real plagiarism issue in his past, which surfaced in connection with his lifting speech lines from Neil Kinnock, but recall that Michael Dukakis ended up firing campaign staff over their involvement in the "leak."

No, the question to Senator Clinton is "why?"  Here's a theory.  In Law as Rationalization, 37 U. Tol. L. Rev. 959, 969 (2006), I argued that it does not take much self-deception about one's ends to move from ethical debate to legal argument to rationalization, and cited the Bernard Nussbaum's advice to the Office of the First Lady as a prime example.  If one's end is winning, it doesn't take much rationalization to get to a decision that one's campaign is in enough trouble to resort to "Pink Lady" arguments.

I think Hillary Clinton is eminently qualified to be the next President.  This stuff starts from the top, and it's what bothers me about her.


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