Plagiargate – Whodunit?

Soon after Melania Trump walked off the stage at the Republican National Convention after giving an extremely well received speech in which she praised her husband Donald Trump, the wheels started to come off.  Parts of her speech sounded very familiar to some people and if Michelle Obama was watching Melania on TV, she probably fell out of her chair. Word soon spread on the internet and soon thereafter to the news media that sections Melania’s speech appeared to have be taken almost word for word out of Michelle’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention.  The speech which Republicans were calling “the highlight of the evening” quickly became a real embarrassment.  Not only did word “plagiarism” rear its ugly head, but stealing from Michelle Obama of all people?  OMG!  Someone would have to pay!

So who was responsible for the plagiarism?  (And despite protests from the Trump camp to the contrary, it was plagiarism.)  Even though Melina told several people early on that she wrote the speech herself, the witch hunt for the real culprit was on with vengeance.  Former Trump campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, and Republican National Committee Chair, Reince Priebus, publicly called for the speechwriter involved to be fired as did several other prominent Republicans.

This morning as the national media waited to find out whose head would roll, something unusual happened – absolutely nothing.   No one got fired by the Trump campaign.  Trump’s campaign manager,  Paul Manafort,  insisted that Melina’s words were her owned, not cribbed from anyone.  He then mumbled something about it being all Hillary Clinton’s fault, and then went on to say that the Trump campaign would have nothing further to say about the matter.

Is this, as some suspect, just Trump and his campaign doubling down and pretending that nothing unusual has happened; “nothing to see here folks, move along”.  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  If the plagiarized section of Melania speech was written by a speechwriter, surely he or she would have been fired. That would have been the easiest way out for Trump and his campaign – blame the speechwriter and fire him/her – problem solved.  But it didn’t happen that way. Why?

That’s an easy one. Melania herself must be responsible. Why not blame the speechwriter anyway? Simple, it would destroy his career so a speechwriter is not going to dive under the wheels of the bus and ruin his life to save Donald and Melania some embarrassment. Fire an innocent speechwriter and he is talking to the press a few minutes later telling the real story, unless Trump’s millions can buy him off first, and even that might be very problematic.

It is also reasonable to believe that it was indeed Melania, not a speechwriter, who did the cribbing.  After all, the only tool she needed was Google, and since she is very new to the political game, she probably didn’t think any harm could come from “borrowing” a few phases here and there.  Professional speechwriters on the other hand are quite cognizant of the possibility to be charged with plagiarism.  Many use special software to scan the texts of the speeches they write to detect phrases which are uncomfortably similar to those in other previous writings and speeches.

Early indications are that my initial hunches were right.   The New York Times and other media sources have discovered that two highly regarded speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, were hired, perhaps by Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, to write Melania’s speech for her.  According to several media sources, the pair wrote a draft and sent it to Melania for her approval, but never heard back from her.  According to a New York Time article, “Inside Trump Tower, it turned out, Ms. Trump had decided she was uncomfortable with the text, and began tearing it apart, leaving a small fraction of the original. Her quiet plan to wrest the speech away and make it her own set in motion the most embarrassing moment of the convention…”

So there you have it.  Now you know why Donald Trump is furious, probably because he has no one to blame but himself.  By all reports Melania Trump did not want to give a speech at the convention. You can fire a speech writer, or even your campaign manager, but you can’t fire your wife, at least not in the middle of a campaign for the Presidency.

Cajun     7/19/16

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