Plagiarism in the SOTU?

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US News’ Alvin Felzenberg says those who listened to the State of the Union speech on Tuesday night can be forgiven for thinking they’ve heard it before — and not just because it turned out to be yet another presidential grocery list of “investments,” AKA government spending.  The lack of originality runs deeper than that, Felzenberg claims; he calls it “tantamount to plagiarism.”  And the close inspection of the speech Felzenberg supplies provides some evidence for the accusation:

“After quoting Robert Kennedy early on, Obama tried to have his listeners believe that everything else he said that we might remember were his or his writers’ creations. Had the president submitted the text of his second State of the Union Address in the form of a college term paper, he would have been sent forthwith to the nearest academic dean.”

Normally, direct quotes require either footnotes or attribution in the text.  Politicians usually love to invoke lofty figures from history in order to bolster their own credibility on an argument, even if they provide the quote out of context or tweak it to their own purposes.  Obama did cite Robert Kennedy, so he clearly understands this rhetorical device.  As a former academic, Obama should also understand the need to cite his sources.

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