Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign got derailed in 1987 when he plagiarized a speech by British Labour leader Neil Kinnock, including Kinnock’s personal anecdotes of his family. According to Steve Janke, Barack Obama may have followed in his running mate’s footsteps to some degree when telling an anecdote about workers thrown out of work by free trade. Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s Leftist NDP, tells a similar story — and says he wrote about it to Obama:
Janke notes that Layton got challenged from the opposite direction on this, and issued a statement which strongly suggests that he told Obama to retell this story on his own:
That story about Kenora I first got to tell with the workers themselves right in front of that Abitibi plant which is right in the heart of Kenora. This was when we were doing our softwood sell-out tour and showing how the softwood lumber deal was really failing.
There were beefy steelworkers and paper workers and the office workers were there and these guys were in tears because they had the well-paid jobs, hundreds of them, and they were the ones that would donate to the hockey team and they were saying to me we were the ones who used to give to the local charities and the church and they said our folks are having to pick up and move, their houses are worth nothing, they can’t even leave and I have been to so many places like this and I have told these stories so many times. I must admit I was struck by the similarities because I went down to that convention and of course you may recall I wrote to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton when this issue of trade relationships came up and I said, you know, the trade deal is not working for the middle class of your country or ours and those stories have got to be told and we’ve got to find a way to reach across that border…
It just became clearer and clearer to me, including the big speech at the convention, that we share a lot of these kinds of problems and we have a (something) to perhaps how these issues can be addressed.
The stories could just as easily be separate, but the “packing up the equipment” makes them sound suspiciously similar — especially with Layton announcing that he pushed this and other stories to Obama and Hillary Clinton. That would not be plagiarism per se, but it certainly would be dishonest. For a man running on his superior judgment and ethical purity, it puts him much closer to … well, Biden territory.
Did Obama borrow this story and disguise it by shifting the location to Indiana? If so, that indicates that Biden may have quite an influence on his protegé, although not one that will thrill Democrats.
Update: It wouldn’t be the first time Obama has recycled speeches.