Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Biden plagiarism a non-issue?

A post on the National Ledger noted:

In 1988 plagiarism and exaggeration of his credentials were admitted by Biden and he had to forego his attempt to get the Democrat presidential nomination then. Only a few present day articles mention this but spurious charges against Palin make headlines. The governor is called to task for seeking the firing a public safety commissioner because he wouldn’t fire her former brother-in-law but there is almost no mention that the brother-in-law was in trouble for threatening to kill people.

IPBiz notes that the ex-commissioner did confirm he was never asked to fire the former brother-in-law.

There are media reports that Biden's Syracuse plagiarism was exonerated. Biden got an F in the course, and had to re-take the course. It is correct that Biden was not expelled. The current version on Wikipedia (the Wikipedia site on Biden has been changing) states the following:

It was also alleged that, during his time as a law student at Syracuse, Biden had plagiarized a law review article. Though the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden's former professor, downplayed the incident, they did find that Biden drew "chunks of heavy legal prose directly from" the article in question. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and Biden was permitted to retake the course after receiving a grade of F, which was subsequently dropped from his record.[39] Biden also released his undergraduate grades, which were unexceptional.[39] When questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had inaccurately recollected graduating in the "top half" of his class when he actually graduated 76th from 85, that he had attended on a full scholarship, and had received three degrees.[40] He had received two majors, History and Political Science, and a single B.A., as well as a half scholarship based on financial need. [IPBiz notes the Biden defense is the same as the Poshard defense. Jack Shafer wrote in Slate: According to a Dec. 1, 1965, report by the law school, five pages of Biden's 15-page paper were copied without quotation or attribution.]

The nationalledger post notes the lack of coverage of Biden's plagiarism. IPBiz notes that, since the first Saturday, traffic on such searches is not high. Thus, the Obama team correctly predicted that these past events would not be showstoppers.

Negative terms were used far more frequently to describe Palin than Biden. For example, Biden was forced to exit the 1988 presidential race because he was involved in plagiarism and exaggerated his college record, but few articles mentioned those issues — only 3 and 1 percent respectively.

A comment on beliefnet states:

Arguably, we could have avoided the worst of the last eight years if Dubya had had to write everything himself. So much attention is paid to Biden's acknowledged plagiarism without mentioning the almost 100% plagiarism by every politican who does not begin each speech by saying "according to __________, who wrote this speech for me . . . "

IPBiz notes:

#1. Biden's law school plagiarism, which was admitted, had nothing to do with a speechwriter, or a speech.

#2. Biden's copying of Kinnock, which may or may not be acknowledged plagiarism, involved Biden copying facts of Kinnock's life which did not apply to Biden. That's worse than plagiarism.


Slate has the following, related to plagiarism and speechwriters:

While many are busy praising Palin's speech, David McGrath writes an ode in the WP op-ed page to the great, unsung American hero: the speechwriter. McGrath wonders why we react so viscerally to cases of plagiarism, while "those using the words of unacknowledged speechwriters get a free pass." How can we be sure that Palin really meant what she said if she didn't write the words? McGrath says all public officials should at least write their major speeches. "And when they must use speechwriters, they should credit the writer at the conclusion so the public knows the true source of the work."

IPBiz notes that in the area of copyright (unlike the area of patent), the law provides a "work-for-hire" doctrine. The entity hiring the writer ends up with the copyright.

And, more importantly, how can McGrath say "we react so viscerally to cases of plagiarism"? The evidence with Biden and Poshard is quite the contrary. The only recent victim was Allison Routman, and, at best, she copied far less than Biden or Poshard.


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