Opinion: Note to plagiarism police: Leave Melania alone!

Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, appear at the Republican National Convention on Monday.
(Paul Sancya / AP)

Outrages abound at this week’s Republican National Convention, so there is plenty for Democrats and other Trumpophobes to get exercised about.

Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism of a Michelle Obama speech isn’t one of them.

Granted, it looks as if the potential first lady (or her speechwriters) lifted some passages from the current first lady’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Viewed synoptically, as New Testament scholars would say, the parallels are striking.

Michelle Obama: “Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”


Melania Trump: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect.”

Case seemingly closed. But so what?

1. Melania Trump (unlike Donald Trump’s adult children) is apparently not a campaign adviser. Her speech would have been fluff even if it had been 100% original.

2. The borrowed phrases are trite and generic. (Michelle Obama is no Neil Kinnock, the lyrical Welsh politician famously ripped off by Joe Biden.)

3. Even a sophisticated political campaign might make this mistake, and the Trump campaign is far from sophisticated.

The similarity between the two speeches is embarrassing, and so is the insistence by one campaign official that there was “no cribbing.” A Republican National Committee strategist ramped up the ridicule by noting that other passages in the speech mirrored language used by a character in “My Little Pony.”

It’s also true, as my colleague David Lauter points out, that the controversy has been a distraction for the Trump campaign.

But Democrats (including Michelle Obama) would be wise to play it cool. Even if the mockery is directed at the Trump campaign, Melania Trump will suffer collateral damage — and sympathy for her could redound to her husband’s benefit.

Leave Melania alone!

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