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First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card February 17, 2008

Hillary's Bombshell Is a Dud

We've all been waiting to see what nasty attack the Clintons would unleash against Obama as soon as Hillary fell significantly behind.

What hideous dirt would they uncover?

Well, Hillary fell behind, and they let loose their big guns, and ...

And it was nothing. It was stupid.

They called it plagiarism, but it wasn't plagiarism; it wasn't even wrong. It was just a rhetorical technique that is free for anybody to use; just because somebody used it before doesn't mean it had to be cited.

Rhetorical devices are there to be used and reused. When somebody accuses you of not saying anything significant, as Obama has (correctly) been accused, the obvious answer is to say, "You think this is 'just words'?" And then you quote ringing phrases that have inspired people's hearts in the past, and after each quote you say, "Just words?"

So Deval Patrick used that device in his successful run for governor of Massachusetts in 2006, and Obama used that device in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, and they have a campaign adviser in common.

Patrick wanted Obama to use the techniques he used against the same accusations.

Besides, does Hillary Clinton think that every phrase or technique in every political speech has to be original?

If somebody comes up with a phrase that rhymes or alliterates, are they plagiarizing Jesse Jackson?

Oh, I know what the Clinton camp was thinking: When Joe Biden was caught plagiarizing a British politician's speech, it marked the end of Biden's campaign.

What the Clinton people overlooked was (a) Biden's plagiarism was part of a pattern that could be documented, (b) the plagiarism was not a rhetorical flourish, it was in the substantive language of the speech and went on for paragraph after paragraph, and (c) Joe Biden was and is a duplicitous, two-faced politician that the press despised, so they were disposed to take any flaw and run with it.

Obama has no such pattern, the "plagiarism" was not plagiarism; it was the use of a common rhetorical tool; if it was copying, then it was done with permission from the probable "author"; and the press loves Obama and detests Hillary so it isn't going to play the story Hillary's way.

You doubt me? On Tuesday night's ABC News Nightline, they closed the show by running a clip of a speech from Obama, and then one of Hillary using the exact same language; then a clip from a speech by Edwards, followed by a clip of Hillary using the exact same rhetorical flourish.

Their point was not that Hillary is also a plagiarist. Their point was that anybody is free to use rhetorical devices. They're the tools of language and persuasion.

It must have made the Hillary people apoplectic to see the media turn this back on Hillary like that. ABC News Nightline made Hillary look ridiculous for accusing Obama of doing something that she obviously does herself all the time.

Here's what really matters in this affair: Hillary is behind, momentum is against her, it's time to bring out the big guns and shoot Obama down, and ...

And this is all they had?

If we ever wanted proof that Obama's past is squeaky clean, this is it.

Of course, the Clintons are a bit crippled when it comes to smearing opponents right now. Remember that their big treasure trove was those FBI files they "lost" (i.e., "studied intensely and copied like crazy") when they first entered the White House.

That was the most likely source, anyway, of the scandals their surrogates unleashed upon Republicans who were seeking to impeach Clinton. Remember how it was in those days?

Any Republican who had ever committed adultery -- the kind of thing the FBI is very likely to have in their files on any politician who has access to government secrets -- had the matter trumpeted in the press as a clear message to Republicans to back off on impeaching Clinton.

Even Nixon never had the gall to do that -- but of course the Clintons were then the darlings of the press, so the obvious conclusions were never drawn and the press never investigated the sources of those leaks.

The trouble is, Obama was not in politics back when those FBI files were "borrowed," and so the Clintons didn't have the full power of the U.S. government to collect dirt on Obama.

So we're not quite guaranteed that there isn't some skeleton in Obama's closet. But we can be pretty sure there isn't -- because Obama did the smart thing and disclosed, right up front, anything that might be regarded as scandalous.

Yes, I used drugs when I was young, he admitted, but I don't anymore, so give it a rest. That's how scandals are supposed to be handled -- just as Grover Cleveland handled the "scandal" of his admitted paternity of a child born out of wedlock. You simply admit it and move on.

It's only the denied, covered-up scandal that kills you. You know, like the Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky kind of denial-till-you-have-to-admit-it.

The Clintons have fired their biggest gun against Obama, and it was nothing. It was a blank. A dud.

In fact, it was more like it exploded in the barrel, because it's only going to hurt the Clintons. It's a phony charge, yet they clearly expected that with one stroke it would destroy the Obama candidacy. It shows their desperation.

This is going to dry up Hillary's funding and increase donations to Obama's campaign. This is going to energize Obama's supporters and deflate and discourage Hillary's.

Because of this ridiculous faux pas, I would not be at all surprised if Obama now wins in primaries Hillary was expected to win and had to win.

Hillary's mindless viciousness is exposed for what it is, and this time in a climate where the media will not spin everything her way, as they did during her absurd accusations about a "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the 1990s.

The Clintons thought the media were against them when they made big news out of Monica Lewinsky. They were too dumb to realize that the press was actually giving them a sweetheart treatment: "Yes he did it but it doesn't matter."

Now Obama is getting that loving treatment. Hillary's accusation is getting full media coverage -- but with an "it doesn't matter, what idiot would claim it does?" spin on it.

Now Hillary is getting a taste of what it's like to run for President as a Republican, with the media against you every step of the way.

Just wait till McCain starts getting that treatment; he's in for a surprise, too.

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