Photo by Disney Television Group/Flickr
Melania Trump at the RNC
You have probably heard that parts of the speech delivered last week by Donald Trump's wife, Melania, at the 2016 Republican National Convention were plagiarized from a 2008 Michelle Obama DNC speech.
And you may have heard that Meredith McIver, aide to Donald Trump, has taken the blame saying that she wrote the speech and that Trump had merely provided those quotes as an example of the tone she was seeking.
But what you have probably not heard is how horrible Michelle Obama's original speech was, why anyone would want to plagiarize it in the first place and how bad our political landscape must be that they did. In fact, in the wake of the scandal, everyone seems to revere Michelle's speech; as if it was some "I have a dream" or "Tear down this wall" gangsta shit. But it's not even close. Let's begin with the first of the stolen passages.
"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, that you do what you say you're going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect..."
Oh, please. That thing is riddled with clichés and platitudes. Mrs. Obama didn't invent the concepts of hard work, keeping your word and showing respect. Why on Earth would anyone want to steal that white noise in the first place? And if you really did regard this string of clichés as something so profound it needed to be stolen, why not just come up with your own? Any semi-decent writer could have knocked off their own un-plagiarized version in the time it takes to count the minorities at a Trump rally.
There's also a glaring redundancy. Look again: "...that your word is your bond, that you do what you say you're going to do." Well if your word is your bond then you already do do what you say you're going to do! How does a redundancy like that make it onto the big stage? Remember, it was Sarah Hurwitz who wrote that speech. She is the former chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton and a Harvard graduate who surely must know that every wasted word in a political address equals ten thousand channels changed.
What's even more amazing is the plagiarized Trump version. Not only did McIver—an accomplished author and editor working as the in-house-staff writer for one of the most powerful conglomerates in the world—leave the redundancy in the Trump version of the speech, she tacked on another! Yup, Melania really piled it on when she said, "...my parents impressed on me the values that your word is your bond, and you do what you say, and keep your promise."
Well hot damn! A Triple Rundy! I guess McIver wanted to cover her bases, thinking, What if there are people whose word is their bond but do not do what they say or keep their promises? Or, what if their word is not their bond, but they keep their promises and do what they say? Or, what if they keep their word and their promises but don't do what they say? Or...
Want more examples of pure, unabashed, public speaking garbage? Take the following passage from Obama's speech, also cribbed by the Trump camp. "We want our children and all children in this nation to know that the only limit to the height of your achievement is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them..."
Christ, Michelle, could you dance around the point any longer? And how about fixing the grammar? It should have been "...the height of their achievement s " and "the reach of their dreams."
In his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" George Orwell wrote about this kind of ineffective, political writing: "As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse."
And doesn't Obama's passage remind you of exactly that? The thing is awkward, bloated, circuitous and, worst of all, pandering. I mean, are we ever going to get to a time when our leaders don't need to mention The Children in order to get elected? Did that passage even need to be about kids? Can't adults strive for dreams, too? And was the term "The Nation" really necessary? I know Michelle's a patriot but why is it only the children of this nation who should work hard to reach their dreams? What about other nation's children? Are they chopped liver? And can we please stop telling people there's no limit to their dreams? You can work your ass off your entire life to achieve the dream of deflowering The Marchant twins in a zero gravity space station but it just ain't gonna happen.
And what's funny about all this is how easy it is to write a sentence that doesn't suck. Here, try this: We believe that perseverance is the best path toward achieving their goals.
See? Was that so hard? No bloat. No children pandering? No Nation thumping. Just truth, in a nutshell.