Did Pete Buttigieg steal Joe Biden’s secret plan for revamping health-insurance coverage? Perhaps, but only after Biden stole it from his old boss. Buttigieg’s rise in polls after switching tone to a more moderate position — on health care and other issues — has clearly gotten under the former VP’s skin. In a presser on the No Malarkey bus, Biden lashed out at Mayor Pete, accusing him of, er … “plagiarizing” him:

Biden lamented media coverage that he said initially dismissed the durability of his candidacy because he was too moderate and didn‘t embrace policies like Medicare for All. Biden said the field was now moving closer to his views and away from the left. When asked whether he unintentionally set the stage for Buttigieg, who is leading in the polls in Iowa, Biden grew animated.

“Set it up? He stole it! Set it up?” Biden said of the mayor of South Bend, Ind.

When asked whether Buttigieg now had the enthusiasm and the moderate positioning, he again scoffed. “No, he doesn’t have the enthusiasm and the moderate — moderate plan. It’s the Biden plan.”

The Biden plan in this case is a rehash of Barack Obama’s original plan. At the heart of the dispute is the hoary “public option” contained within the original version of ObamaCare, but dropped after it became clear that it had no chance of surviving a vote even in a Congress dominated by Democrats. Biden now uses an opt-in for Medicare as a model for the public option, but a Trojan horse by any other name would smell just as pungent. Now, as then, the Medicare opt-in is designed to undercut private insurers with government-subsidized low prices on the exchanges, effectively setting up a back door to single-payer Medicare for All while sustaining massive losses.

In the context of this primary campaign, it was clever of Biden to resurrect the public option as a Medicare opt-in. In 2009, the public option was a radical Trojan horse, but in 2019 it sounds like a moderate transition, given the more radical options touted by nearly everyone else. When it became more apparent that dumping 150 million Americans or more from their current coverage was going to be deeply unpopular not just in the general election but also in a lot of primaries, Biden’s other competitors had to do a lot of dancing around that point — except for Bernie Sanders, who’s sticking with his single-payer system no matter what. Biden had the virtue of consistency, plus had the ObamaCare-fulfillment aura to strengthen his case of continuity.

And then Buttigieg spoiled it all by stealing what Biden had appropriated for himself, even though no one born before 2009 could possibly have mistaken Biden’s idea as original. Small wonder that Biden resents the upstart mayor from South Bend for encroachment, but maybe Biden should shy away from the “p” word … for multiple reasons:

The former vice president then accused the media of going too easy on Buttigieg, saying his opponent had once supported a more liberal health care plan but then pivoted. Buttigieg embraces a plan he calls “Medicare for All Who Want It,“ and he has advertised heavily in Iowa and other early-voting states on that proposal.

Biden contended that if he had supported one plan then shifted toward another plan that looked like that of an opponent‘s, the media would have shown him no mercy.

“What would you have done to me? You would have torn my ears off,” Biden told reporters. “I would be a plagiarizing, no good, old man who did bum bum bum.”

Well, in fact Biden was a plagiarizing, no good young man in 1987 when he lifted portions of speeches from British politician Neil Kinnock’s speeches, including part of his bio. Then-NYT reporter E.J. Dionne caught him at it, along with other issues of ego and comportment, forcing Biden out of the Democratic presidential primary race. Bum bum bum was a pretty good description of Biden’s profile for future presidential runs 32 years ago as a result, and he’s obviously still sore about it.

It’s also not a good look for Biden in this cycle, either. Politico and CREDO noted back in July that Biden had lifted his Green New Deal agenda from other sources without attribution, which raised the specter of Biden’s plagiarism all over again — albeit less seriously:

Josh Nelson, vice president at the progressive group CREDO, first flagged the similarities on Twitter. The text contained the same language about technology designed to capture and store power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions as documents previously released by the nongovernmental organization Center for Climate and Energy Solutions as well as the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental and labor groups. …

Biden’s plan appeared to lift a sentence that said “Carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) is a rapidly growing technology that has the potential to create economic benefits for multiple industries while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” which matched language the BlueGreen Alliance had used in a letter to Congress.

News organization the Daily Caller also flagged other passages in the Biden climate plan: one on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from air travel that looked similar to language from a Vox story; another on aging sewer infrastructure that resembled wording from environmental group American Rivers; and another on the risks warming temperatures pose to native Alaskan tribes that mirrored government website Climate.gov.

Let’s just say that there’s a whole lotta borrowing going on in 2019, and the man with the No Malarkey bus might be doing more of than some others. Mayor Pete’s got nothing on Sheriff Joe on that score.