It is cliché that in politics it isn’t usually the “crime” which does the real damage, but rather the ensuing cover up. It seems clear that the flap over Melania Trump plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s convention speech from 2008 is a classic example of the undeniable truth of this adage.
I have been outspoken on Mediaite on why, despite my best efforts, I can’t support Donald Trump for president, but this entire episode is a microcosm for many of my reasons for, despite my disdain for Hillary Clinton, not being able to do so.
First, let’s just stipulate that (contrary to the delusions of the many paid Trump “spokesholes” humiliating themselves today) a small but significant portion of Melania’s speech was clearly directly lifted from Michelle’s very similar convention debut. Let’s also acknowledge that this wasn’t just “misdemeanor” grade plagiarism. This was her first major speech, on the largest stage possible, and she stole portions of it from the very person she wants to replace (from a family her husband regularly disparages) in the exact same venue in which the original address was given.
This was effectively like stealing your “unique” wedding vows from your husband’s previous wife (something Melania no doubt avoided doing).
As for what really happened here, we may never know for sure, though it appears very possible to make an educated guess based on the nonsensical and amateurish manner in which the Trump campaign has responded to this mess.
It has been widely reported that Trump is furious, but that no one will be fired over this fiasco. We also know that the campaign has bent over backwards, at great cost to control the news cycle, to pretend that there wasn’t even any plagiarism to begin with.
Knowing what we know about Trump, this means that Melania is indeed the person who did the plagiarizing.
We “know” this simply because if she wasn’t primarily responsible, knowing Trump’s understandable fury over his wife’s public humiliation and his obvious “You’re Fired!” reputation, someone would have been terminated immediately. However, if Melania was really to blame here, firing someone would have been extremely expensive, as well as very risky. Consequently, because no one can be fired, and Melania must be protected at all costs (on orders from Trump), the plagiarism itself cannot even be officially acknowledged because to do so, especially with no firing, would effectively indict her.
There are other solid reasons to believe that Melania is the primary culprit here. It wasn’t just the words that were very similar to Michelle Obama’s convention speech. Her speaking cadence was also extremely comparable. The most logical scenario here is that she was given tapes of other spouses’ convention speeches and studied them intensely. When she wrote the speech she may not have even realized the gravity of the “sin” she was clearly committing (though since she has apparently lied about her education credentials, who knows).
When Melania told Matt Lauer that she basically wrote the speech herself, she was indeed telling the truth. However, due to incompetence and/or fear of making Trump’s wife look bad, no one vetting the final product raised a red flag. This is why the Trump campaign is now rendered completely incapable of properly responding to this mini-crisis, which is currently threatening to take over the convention.
All of this has now provided further proof that the entire operation is neither ready for “prime time,” nor built like a presidential campaign whose primary goal is to be victorious in a way which would also make actual governance possible.
A real presidential campaign would:
- Have a prospective First Lady who would have given a speech before and was able to write one without plagiarizing the current First Lady from the other political party.
- Have properly vetted such a speech and wouldn’t have been terrified of making the boss’s wife look bad if they suspected something was amiss.
- Not have had every organ of the campaign blatantly lie about what was patently obvious to anyone with a brain.
- Would have admitted that a mistake was made, not be more concerned with the candidate’s marriage than the election, and had Melania apologize and move on (which probably would have made her an even more sympathetic figure than she already is, given the mostly rather soft media coverage of her so far).
Of course, we all know that the Trump campaign is totally different than any that has ever come before it. Some of us were just smart enough to realize that this would mean enduring many critical mistakes that no other campaign would have made. Unfortunately, our numbers were not nearly enough to stop this train wreck before it could do real damage.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.