Trump Jr claims Barack Obama plagiarised his quote in convention speech

Donald Trump Jr claims Barack Obama ripped the quote 'That's not the America I know' from his Republican National Convention speech. Photo / AP
Donald Trump Jr claims Barack Obama ripped the quote 'That's not the America I know' from his Republican National Convention speech. Photo / AP

The Donald Trump campaign is still apparently sore about being caught plagiarising last week. And now they have a great retort - better even than that "My Little Pony" defence: They might have plagiarised an Obama speech last week, you see, but now an Obama is plagiarising them.

Obama said at one point in his speech on Wednesday night, "That is not the America I know." And Donald Trump Jr used that exact same line just a week prior - albeit with a contraction: "We will not accept the current state of our country because it's too hard to change. That's not the America I know."

Case closed. It's plagiarism. The media's double standard at work, yet again.

Except that, by this standard, Obama didn't plagiarize the line from Trump Jr. until Trump Jr. had already plagiarized it from him. Obama, after all, has said this phrase on several occasions. And that wasn't even its first bout of plagiarising; none other than George W.

Bush used it before Obama.

NBC News ably recapped the rampant plagiarism here:

During an economic address in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010, for example, he said "Instead of setting our sights higher, they're asking us to settle for a status quo of stagnant growth and eroding competitiveness and a shrinking middle class. Cleveland, that is not the America I know. That is not the America we believe in."

The use of the "America I know" refrain was also a common phrase for former president George W. Bush.

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, for example, Bush spoke about his view of the country during a visit to an Islamic center.

During an economic address in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010, for example, he said "Instead of setting our sights higher, they're asking us to settle for a status quo of stagnant growth and eroding competitiveness and a shrinking middle class. Cleveland, that is not the America I know. That is not the America we believe in."

The use of the "America I know" refrain was also a common phrase for former president George W. Bush.

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, for example, Bush spoke about his view of the country during a visit to an Islamic center.

"Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America," he said. "That's not the America I know. That's not the America I value."

But the plagiarism doesn't stop there. Before Obama re-plagiarized something Trump Jr. had plagiarized from him after Obama plagiarized it from Bush, you see, Bush plagiarized it, too.

From Walter Cronkite, in fact. Cronkite said it in 1998 in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "This is some kind of a resurgent Puritanism that suggests that we all should live by someone else's moral standards. That shouldn't be. That's not the America that I know and love."

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Photo / AP

And Cronkite, as a titan of American journalism, should know better than to plagiarise. And yet, he took the words from civil rights activist Julian Bond, who said in 1995 of allegations of racism in the O.J. Simpson trial: "Those who express surprise or horror now have been living in a dream world. That's not the America I know."

Bond, meanwhile, apparently lifted the words from another George Bush - the first one - who offered some version of the following stump speech at more than a dozen events for his 1992 reelection campaign: "Once you cut through all the patriotic posturing and all the tough talk about fighting back by closing shop and look closely: That is not the American flag they're waving; it is the white flag of surrender. And that's not the America that you and I know."

Alas, Bush is just another plagiarist American president. He got the line from a top official in the Drug Enforcement Administration, David Westrate, who said at a National Press Club speech in 1989: "My conclusion from that is that that really was not the America that I know."

Westrate's use of the phrase is the oldest in LexisNexis's database. Accordingly, Trump Jr., Obama and both president Bushes all owe Mr. Westrate an apology.

Oh, and so does Hillary Clinton, who used the same phrase on June 2.

Back to being serious for a second: The Trump campaign is using this to press the idea that there is a double standard. And there is a double standard - one for actual plagiarism and one for not-actual plagiarism. Melania Trump's speechwriter admitted to inadvertent plagiarism; this stuff is simply using a common political phrase that 3 of the last 4 presidents - and potentially the next one too - have already used without copying anything. It's dozens of lifted words versus a couple words that happen to be the same.

This is an attempt to obfuscate and/or claim that the plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech wasn't a big deal. And perhaps it wouldn't have been a big deal if the Trump campaign didn't spend 36 hours making ludicrous arguments that it wasn't plagiarism - ludicrous arguments, kind of like Donald Trump Jr's on Thursday.

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