Ed Driscoll

Does Thomas Friedman Write All of President Obama's Speeches?

In the 1984 movie version of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010, The Year We Make Contact, the director of the successor agency to NASA said, “Whenever a president is going to get us into serious trouble, they always quote Lincoln.”

Referencing Lincoln this past Thursday certainly has caused plenty of trouble for President Obama and his media enablers. In addition to PBS’s dalliances with the Memory Hole on behalf of the president, at the Tatler, Ronald Radosh asks, “Is Our President a Plagiarist? Here are the Facts: You Decide”:

“There are plenty of other points to make about President Obama’s speech on jobs, but one thing that leaped right out at me was how one section was lifted, without any credit, from Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s new book That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.”

Here is Mr. Obama:

“We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges.”

Here are Messrs. Friedman and Mandelbaum, on pages 37 to 38:

“Abraham Lincoln is best known, of course, for presiding over the federal government during the Civil War, but during that conflict his administration passed several landmark pieces of legislation that spurred America’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. One was the Homestead Act of 1862, which opened up the West for settlement by anyone who had not fought against the Union. Another was the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864, which connected the eastern to the western part of the country and so laid the basis for a truly national economy. A third was the Morrill Act of 1862, which established a system of land-grant colleges, giving rise to institutions of higher education from Georgia to Californian and from Minnesota to Texas. …Lincoln signed the National Academy of Sciences into being on March 3, 1863, to bring together America’s best researchers to ‘investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art’ whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. Remarkably, all of this happened while we were fighting a civil war.”

Next time, the president’s speechwriters should be more careful or more honest. Or do they want their boss to be known as the plagiarist-in-chief?

I think Ron may be exaggerating things a bit with that last quip. But there’s no doubt that Obama has cribbed pretty heavily from Friedman’s playbook. The prominent Timesman has already been the source of Obama’s hackneyed “Sputnik Moment” reference in January, along with the line “nation building at home” in his post-OBL speech in June, making Thursday’s address to Congress at least the third presidential speech this year that Friedmanesque phrasing has found its way into. And the Times columnist has bragged about hitting the links with the president, when he’s not writing about the duffer in chief for Golf Digest. So I doubt he’s going to sue for plagiarism anytime soon. At least not until he can get the matter adjudicated by a court in Beijing.