Biden, Bobby and Me: When I Caught Joe Biden Plagiarizing

What does this have to do with today’s news that Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire? Everything.

It was September 1987.

Senator Joe Biden, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was busy conducting the Senate confirmation hearings for Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. It was a hornet’s nest of controversy, the first of what would become a long line of controversial Supreme Court nominations, with President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh merely the latest.

But Biden was involved in more than leading the Bork hearings. He was also running for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. And unbeknownst to him, one of his rival Democrat opponents had discovered something about Joe Biden.

The campaign of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis had a videotape of Biden plagiarizing from a speech by the British Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock. The Dukakis people had deftly put together a split-screen video of Kinnock waxing on eloquently about his impoverished family beginnings and why both he and his wife had been able to go to college, touching on his ancestor’s jobs as Welsh coal miners. The video would stop – and then show Joe Biden out there on the campaign trail saying an Americanized version of the Kinnock speech – to the letter. Other than replacing Wales with the Biden home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania the speech was almost identical.

What does this have to do with today’s news that Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire? Everything.

Suffice to say the media of the day exploded with this story. Biden tried to calm the waters saying he had intended to credit Kinnock and this was just an oversight. He wasn’t a plagiarist.

Hmmm. I, of all the people on the planet, knew otherwise.

In the day I was a young White House Associate Political Director for President Reagan. Earlier that year, Washington had endured a serious snowstorm, and as always happens in Washington when it has a blizzard, the town shuts down, the federal government closes and everybody goes home.

Except on this snowy day, I stayed in the office. Completely alone, I decided to turn on C-Span and see if there was any political event to watch. There was. It turned out that Senator Biden had been in California speaking at the California Democrats’ state convention. I knew that Biden had a reputation as a great speaker, so, with nothing else to do and nowhere to go except home in the snow, I settled down to listen.

And of a sudden, I realized that I was getting to the end of Joe Biden’s sentences before he was. Say what? How could this be happening? The answer was instantly clear.

In my youth, I was a serious fan of both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby. In 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy, running for the presidency, was, like his older brother five years earlier, assassinated. My teenage self was grief-stricken. I persuaded my Nixon-supporting Mom to get on a bus with me and go to New York, where we stood in line for hours so I could go into St. Patrick’s Cathedral where my hero was lying in state and touch the flag on his casket.

Biden

Empty Biden Room in New Hampshire

Not long after, in the fashion of the day, long-playing record albums appeared with a collection of RFK’s speeches. The geeky teen that I was, I would sit in my room endlessly, listening to him deliver these speeches – which I proceeded to memorize. Now, twenty years later, I knew on the spot that Joe Biden was plagiarizing from Bobby Kennedy.
When the Kinnock revelations burst on the scene in September, Biden was saying to the press that it was just an oversight – he didn’t plagiarize. I knew differently.

Having now seen his denials, I picked up the phone and called The New York Times – specifically reporter Maureen Dowd, who was covering Biden. I told her my tale. She was astonished. It was a weekend, and she asked if I could document what I was saying. I told her yes.

With that, I jumped in my car and drove home to the family home in Pennsylvania. And with one quick trip to the basement located the RFK speech album. I played it, knowing exactly what I was looking for – a 1968 speech by candidate Kennedy at the University of Kansas in Manhattan, Kansas. Then I was back in the car and back to Washington.

On Monday, album in hand, I walked to The New York Times bureau and left the record for Ms. Dowd, along with a note as to where specifically she could find the speech in question.

Two days later, she had a front-page story. Found here, it was headlined: Biden Is Facing Growing Debate On His Speeches

Maureen did a side-by-side comparison of Biden and Kennedy’s remarks this way:


“Senator Biden has given Robert F. Kennedy credit as ‘’the man who I guess I admire more than anyone else in American politics.’ But Mr. Biden has not always given him credit for the words he used first.  When Senator Kennedy was running for President in 1968, he talked in Des Moines and again at the University of Kansas about the measure of a nation.

“‘The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play,’ Senator Kennedy said. ‘’It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.’

‘’It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.’

In the California convention speech, Senator Biden talked about ‘the ultimate moral test of what this country is,’ and denounced what he saw as society’s new materialism.

‘’We cannot measure the health of our children, the quality of their education, the joy of their play,’ he said, after opening his speech by declaring that he wanted to tell the audience ‘what is on my mind.’

‘’It doesn’t measure the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, the integrity of our public officials.’

‘It counts neither our wit nor our wisdom, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country,’ Mr. Biden continued, to applause. ‘That bottom line can tell us everything about our lives except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America except that which makes us proud to be Americans.’”

Then The Times said this: Notice at the White House

“At the White House, N. Jeffrey Lord, associate director in the office of political affairs, was watching as Senator Biden spoke. A devout Robert Kennedy fan as a youth who keeps a print of the Jamie Wyeth portrait of John Kennedy in his office at the Reagan White House, Mr. Lord had listened to a memorial record of Robert Kennedy’s speeches so often that he knew them by heart.

As Senator Biden spoke, Mr. Lord found himself suddenly reciting the words along with him. ‘I was finishing sentences before he was,’  said Mr. Lord, who called The New York Times to point out the similarities. ‘I wanted to listen because Biden had such a reputation as a great speaker that I wanted to hear him. But suddenly I realized the speech wasn’t Joe Biden, it was Robert Kennedy. He was repeating the exact language, without attributing it. I was really ticked.’”

With that, the Biden campaign began to implode. By the very next day, there was a report that said Biden had plagiarized in law school. The Times reported it this way:

“CBS News tonight quoted an aide to Mr. Biden as saying he had been exonerated. However, an academic official said Mr. Biden had been found guilty, ‘threw himself on the mercy of the board’ and promised not to repeat the offense. This, according to the official, persuaded the board to drop the matter and allow Mr. Biden to remain in law school. Mr. Biden’s office declined to clarify the circumstances surrounding the case, saying the Senator had insisted on handling the matter himself at the news conference.”

In very short order, Biden held a press conference to announce that he was withdrawing from the presidential race.

What does this have to do with today’s news that Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire? Everything.

What was on display in that 1987 plagiarizing episode, and what is on display now with the avalanche of allegations revolving around son Hunter’s activities in Ukraine and China, and one gaffe after another on the campaign trail, is a repeated carelessness. Whether it was plagiarizing Bobby Kennedy or Neil Kinnock or on a law school paper, or allowing his son to leverage Dad’s political position for millions it speaks of nothing more than sloppiness, carelessness. An undisciplined mind that at best is completely unaware of the impression he is making or at worst deliberately deceives with the assumption that he can get away with it.

In either event, the collection of these problems has exacted a toll on Biden and on his campaign. And unless South Carolina and Nevada rally to his side to save him, it looks as if the end of his presidential dreams will finally be at an end.


10 comments

  1. Mari Jo Oneill 14 February, 2020 at 16:56

    Creepy Joe is a LIAR and a DESPICABLE person. He needs to wrap up and go home. He cannot even speak in coherent sentences each time he tries it doesnt work. Please stop the ” tough guy” remarks about beating Trump, simply because you are no match of with AGAINST him. GO HOME JOE.

  2. Mari Jo Oneill 14 February, 2020 at 16:56

    Thanks for bringing up Joe Biden and his plagiarism, he has done it for years. I remember the flack back then. I was a Reaganite, he was my guy, even before he became President, I was a fan. The ironic thing is, the first President I got to VOTE for was John F.Kennedy and the people in my age group were all in for him. He was our “hero” our future and look what they did to him and Bobby. After that I became a REPUBLICAN.

  3. Katterkat 14 February, 2020 at 16:56

    Dems when crazy about a sentence that Melania said in a speech because it sounded like a speech Michelle said once. Here Creepy Uncle Joe says almost whole speeches of someone else. And he did this most of his life.
    First President I voted for was Carter. I admit I voted for him twice. Then I vote for Reagan the send term. I never voted for a Democrat or RINO since. Bush’s are RINO’s. When Dems love a Republican it just proves they are a RINO.
    McCain and Romney are one in the Same group.

  4. Katterkat 14 February, 2020 at 16:56

    Dems went crazy about a sentence that Melania said in a speech because it sounded like a speech Michelle said once. Here Creepy Uncle Joe says almost whole speeches of someone else. And he did this most of his life.
    First President I voted for was Carter. I admit, I voted for him twice. Then I voted for Reagan the second term. I never voted for a Democrat or RINO since. Bush’s are RINO’s. When Dems love a Republican it just proves they are a RINO.
    McCain and Romney are one in the Same group.

  5. Mari Jo Oneill 14 February, 2020 at 11:47

    Creepy Joe is a LIAR and a DESPICABLE person. He needs to wrap up and go home. He cannot even speak in coherent sentences each time he tries it doesnt work. Please stop the ” tough guy” remarks about beating Trump, simply because you are no match of with AGAINST him. GO HOME JOE.

  6. Mari Jo Oneill 14 February, 2020 at 11:53

    Thanks for bringing up Joe Biden and his plagiarism, he has done it for years. I remember the flack back then. I was a Reaganite, he was my guy, even before he became President, I was a fan. The ironic thing is, the first President I got to VOTE for was John F.Kennedy and the people in my age group were all in for him. He was our “hero” our future and look what they did to him and Bobby. After that I became a REPUBLICAN.

  7. Katterkat 14 February, 2020 at 14:08

    Dems when crazy about a sentence that Melania said in a speech because it sounded like a speech Michelle said once. Here Creepy Uncle Joe says almost whole speeches of someone else. And he did this most of his life.
    First President I voted for was Carter. I admit I voted for him twice. Then I vote for Reagan the send term. I never voted for a Democrat or RINO since. Bush’s are RINO’s. When Dems love a Republican it just proves they are a RINO.
    McCain and Romney are one in the Same group.

  8. Katterkat 14 February, 2020 at 14:11

    Dems went crazy about a sentence that Melania said in a speech because it sounded like a speech Michelle said once. Here Creepy Uncle Joe says almost whole speeches of someone else. And he did this most of his life.
    First President I voted for was Carter. I admit, I voted for him twice. Then I voted for Reagan the second term. I never voted for a Democrat or RINO since. Bush’s are RINO’s. When Dems love a Republican it just proves they are a RINO.
    McCain and Romney are one in the Same group.

  9. Patricia Kelleher Gray 15 February, 2020 at 10:37

    Oh, it speaks to a lot more than “sloppiness and carelessness”. It speaks to a liar’s soul. A soul thoroughly darkened by a dishonest core. A man compromised by his own venal heart. One might even say a “lying dog-feared pony soldier”

  10. Richard Cornell 17 February, 2020 at 13:18

    We old folks all have something in common. Decades of speeches, thousands of magazine, newspapers, years of TV and radio have been uploaded into our brain. What a person might think is original might be part of a speech that was made by someone else years ago.
    It is the same with music where the author new song sounds very familiar.
    The movie industries has warehouses of scripts for the last 100 years that will never see the light of day. Yet many are base on past movies with a twist.

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