Plagarism Should Be the Very Least Of Our Worries Right Now

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

And her speechwriters’s plagiarizing didn’t stop there:

He will never, ever give up. And, most importantly, he will never, ever, let you down.

— Melania Trump (2016)

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down.

— Rick Astley (1987)

Sad! Pathetic! Weak!

Okay, the fun part of this post is over, because the bigger issue is that this silly controversy — and it is a silly one in the greater scheme of things — is overshadowing a much larger problem on display in last night’s convention speeches. If you had to pick one speech that wasn’t filled with gut-level bloodlust and hatred, Melania’s relatively optimistic and positive speech was the only one that stands out. Josh Marshall zooms back out:

In substantive terms, the much bigger story from last night was a hastily thrown together program focused on violence, bloodshed and betrayal by political enemies. We’ve become so inured to Trump’s brand of incitement that it’s barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants to tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain of these parents is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there’s no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people who’s children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn’t illustration; it’s incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it’s normal.

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two – and I think more – actually led the crowd in chants of “lock her up!” There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton’s part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against Clinton for anything connected to her private email server

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that their opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

To be clear: I’m no Clinton fan. I loathe everything she (and he before her) stands for, especially the safe triangularizations that she and her husband have been famous for over the past three decades. But it’s one thing to cynically creep up to and blur the lines between what’s right and what’s wrong — something she’s guilty of in spades — and quite another to obliterate anything that remotely resembles the law, democratic values, citizenship, common decency or facts — things which are today derided as “political correctness.”

I’ve been on the front lines of publicly confronting bigotry ever since I started this blog ten years ago. Some of that work has included going straight into the heart of some rather ugly conferences to hear, first hand, bigotry — there’s no other word for much of it — being spewed by some very angry people. My partner asked me again last night how could I just sit there and not run screaming out of those conferences. I don’t know. I guess I saw these people for what they seemed to be at the time: buffoons who were going against the tide and whose threat was diminishing, at least here in the U.S. (which is why many have been turning their attentions elsewhere in the world). They were on a sinking ship, and the really sad thing is that they knew it. Each year, their conferences were getting smaller and smaller, and they commiserated about the poor attendance in the hallways. Knowing that — keeping that long view — kept me sane and kept me sitting in that seat listening to their bigotry and lies. I wasn’t scared or angry, just attentive, shaking my head from time to time as I took notes on what they said.

And so I can’t say I’ve never seen anything like what we’re now seeing at the GOP convention before — of course I have, but it was always in miniature and never to this kind of a scale. It had its place, but it appeared to be contained to those specific places. Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush again, McCain, Romney — they were all anti-gay, but they were, to varying degrees, relatively nice about it. They were sometimes anti-other people too, though not always, not consistently so, and certainly not so publicly so. To the extent that they were, they were also, to varying degrees, relatively nice about them too. “Relatively” is the operative word here, of course. Also, because there was a whole range of motivations at play, from bigotry to cynicism to cold political calculations, they were always able to maintain a kind of a plausible deniability about whatever motivations they had that led to their policies. And by the way, Democratic candidates and Presidents during that period, I think, were just as guilty. And so whatever the motivation, the end result was nearly always the same, from marriage bans and AIDS neglect to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA.

But now it’s clear that the kind of bigotry I saw on display at those anti-gay conferences wasn’t as contained as I thought. My exclusive focus on anti-gay politics — what I now call my “gay blinders” — kept me from understanding that it was a symptom of something much larger. And that larger thing has now gone mainstream and expanded to include all kinds of those people. In the way they used to just blame gay people, they now blame all those people for all of our problems. Those people: gays, transgenders, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, Mexicans, Democrats, the media, public schools, unions, Supreme Court justices, academics, the Obamas, RINOs, #NeverTrumpers — does it even matter exactly who those people are anymore? They’re all — we’re all — enemies, according to a serious candidate for President of the United States and his supporters. That makes this a real and pressing threat to everything we know in our hearts to be true and right, even among those whose politics won’t let them say so out loud. And it’s because of that that I now have to admit that I am truly scared, in a way I was never scared before at those rather sad and poorly-attended anti-gay conferences. I know I’m not being temperate here, and I don’t take this as a point of pride. I’m afraid that recent events are causing me to lose that capacity. Or maybe, it’s a luxury I can no longer afford.

Priya Lynn

July 19th, 2016

“To be clear: I’m no Clinton fan. I loathe everything she (and he before her) stands for…”.

That says more bad stuff about you than it does about her. “everything”?! Get real.

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

Given that she has stood for very little beyond Hillary Clinton — the whole email mess is testament to that — I think I can stand by that. She has my vote. I’m furious that she has my vote because the alternative is too awful to contemplate, but she has my vote.

Eric Payne

July 19th, 2016


Welcome to the club. Like yourself, I’m not a fan of Mrs. Clinton == I remember she and her husband in California, actively seeking “the gay vote,” and glad-handing their through fundraisers in the gay “community” from San Diego to San Francisco.

I didn’t trust them at the time. They were just too quick with seeming capitulation to any “gay” issue put before them when they sought money, but even quicker to cave to “compromise” once in office. Even though I understood their reasoning (which when filtered and parsed was, essentially, “Hey, we can’t do this until our second term!”), I felt, personally, dismayed. But it was when Billy-boy snuck back into DC from a Hawaii vacation late on a Sunday night to sign DOMA into law before the bill expired, then immediately returned to Hawaii to enjoy his vacation, I was more than dismayed. I was pissed.

But I’ve been scared about a Trump presidency since shortly after he entered the race, and definitely since his first primary. Having family that all live south of the Mason-Dixie line, and all of whom are racist and casually drop the “ni**er” of “fa**ot” or “we**ack” into conversation (My aunt’s backhand compliment concerning my husband after she met him? “I can see why you like him; he doesn’t act like a queer.”), I recognize the keywords.

Being a Monty Python fan, I immediately recognized Trump’s public statements in which he denied any racist meanings in previous public statements were nothing but a continuation of troupe Python’s “know what I mean, know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more” sketches.

Last night’s RNC speakers were nothing but a lynch mob, with Mrs. Clinton being the presumed “black man raped white woman!” culprit, whipping stupid people into a frenzy of hatred and bloodlust… and who would have thought there were so many stupid people? Donald Trump would. He’s built a fortune on fleecing the stupid.

And the thought of Trump saying the wrong thing to his counterpart of some other country? It brings Randall Flagg immediately. It’s not inconceivable he may force all of us — not just us gays, but ALL IF US — into some Stand in a nightmarish world that, in its horror Stephen King couldn’t adequately describe.

Priya Lynn

July 19th, 2016

Jim, if you truly loathed “everything” she stands for she wouldn’t have your vote. Its ironic you would make such a statement about her in a post condemning the GOP for portraying “them” as the unconditional enemy – saying “I loathe everything she stands for” is much the same thing. Such hyperbole has no place in the post you were trying to make.


July 20th, 2016

She has been a consistent advocate for women and children’s rights. Do you loathe that, too?
Instrumental in avoiding war with Iran and ending their nuclear weapons program.
Another loathing?

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

She has only held one conviction in the past 20 years, and that was in President Clinton. That’s the only thing she has ever really stood for, and that is what I loathe about her. Her positions, for the most part, are admirable (today) but they are on quicksand, carefully tested and triangulated, with plenty of pandering thrown in whenever she thinks that might open up a further advantage toward the only conviction she ever held. Nancy Reagan opened a conversation on AIDS? Really? Please.

As I said, I loathe what she stands for, and that’s because she’s only ever stood for one thing. But she has my vote, for the simple reason that I don’t believe she will wreck havoc on the country the way a President Trump would, and she might even do quite a lot of good. But it won’t be out of conviction. If there’s one thing we ought to have learned from 20 years of watching the Clintons, you have to watch them very, very closely. And if it’s to their advantage to cut their losses and brag about it, they will. To borrow a phrase: vote but verify.

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

And all that contrasts sharply with Trump. So for me, it’s a no-brainer. We can vote for Clinton and hope for the best, while expecting the worst. But Sec. Clinton’s worst will never approach the kind of American Trump envisions for us. Like I said, it’s a no-brainer. But I am furious that the Democratic Party couldn’t do better than this.

Ben in Oakland

July 20th, 2016

“If there’s one thing we ought to have learned from 20 years of watching the Clintons, you have to watch them very, very closely.”

I learned exactly the same things from Bush I, Shrub, and Reagan, Johnson, and Nixon. I have never felt that way about Mr. Obama or Mr. Carter.


July 20th, 2016

The comments about Hillary Clinton just show that you have imbibed 30 years of defamation by Republicans. I don’t mean that she is a perfect candidate, but she is the most qualified candidate for president in my lifetime (except for Obama in 2012 as opposed to 2008). As for the emails, I suppose every other previous Secretary of State in the Internet Age should also be investigated and jailed. Colin Powell even blithely admits that he destroyed official documents on his personal email server.


July 20th, 2016

I am no fan of Bill Clinton either, but I find comments like this very ill informed: “Welcome to the club. Like yourself, I’m not a fan of Mrs. Clinton == I remember she and her husband in California, actively seeking “the gay vote,” and glad-handing their through fundraisers in the gay “community” from San Diego to San Francisco.

I didn’t trust them at the time. They were just too quick with seeming capitulation to any “gay” issue put before them when they sought money, but even quicker to cave to “compromise” once in office. Even though I understood their reasoning (which when filtered and parsed was, essentially, “Hey, we can’t do this until our second term!”), I felt, personally, dismayed. But it was when Billy-boy snuck back into DC from a Hawaii vacation late on a Sunday night to sign DOMA into law before the bill expired, then immediately returned to Hawaii to enjoy his vacation, I was more than dismayed. I was pissed.”

These events did not happen in a vacuum. Clinton campaigned in the gay community at a time when no other presidential candidate would have. Do you think George H.W. Bush would have been better for gay people? You think more Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas (as opposed to Clinton’s appointment of Justice Ginsburg) would have been good for gay people? Do you think the Republicans, including especially Colin Powell, and the DINO Sam Nunn had nothing to do with passing DADT? Or DOMA?

Get real.

Priya Lynn

July 20th, 2016

Its a cop-out to say the only thing Hillary has ever stood for is herself. That’s nonsense. That’s the sort of sweeping defamation the Republicans are known for. You should be better than that. I’ve always thought you were better than that.

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

Well this is all very fascinating. I’ve voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton ran the first time. Only three of those votes cast were enthusiastic. The rest were duty votes. The next one I cast will also be a duty vote, the least enthusiastic of all of them, but it will be so cast. If I cannot sing this candidate’s praises, then I’m sorry. I can’t. And I know that I am FAR from alone in this. Y’all will just have to be happy with my vote, cuz I’m just not going any further than that. If that disappoints you, then all I can say is them’s the breaks.

Eric Payne

July 20th, 2016


I’d like to ask you a couple of questions. How old are you? In what election cycle did you first, actively, follow politics?

My first was in 1980, for Jimmy Carter.

You are correct to point out the differences between the campaign style of the Clintons vs. their GOP opponents, but you missed what I was saying: The Clintons made a point of appearing at “gay” events to be seen, had both public and private fundraisers specifically targeting gay donors, publicly agreed on addressing and correcting policies and legislation that negatively impacted gay lives… then not only completely failed to correct those policies and legislation; they made it worse.

Clinton could have vetoed DOMA.

He didn’t; instead he hustled back to Washington, DC, to ensure he signed it into law.

As this President has shown, Clinton could have issued an Executive Order halting the practice of discharge from the Armed Forces during the “homosexuality is incompatible with military service” era’; instead, he helped to create and implement “DADT” a “compromise” in which, by percentage, more persons were discharged, per year, for being gay.

And, yes, the general tone of legislators, from both sides of the aisle, had a general dislike/distrust of gays so, no, all of this did not happen in a vacuum. There’s more than enough blame to go around.

But when the Clintons had a “thank you/we’re sorry” dinner at the White House for gay donors, and when those donors were greeted at the White House doors by Secret Service wearing rubber gloves…


July 21st, 2016

Eric, Clinton’s campaigning in the gay community, especially his promises (which he fulfilled) to end the blanket ban on gays in the military and to fund AIDS research were very important. He was by far the best choice for gay people. President George H.W. Bush wouldn’t even deem to address gay people directly, and Barbara Bush had to remove her AIDS ribbon at the Republican Convention in New Orleans. Pat Buchanan’s rabble rousing speech summarized the Republican position on gay rights and AIDS.

Yes, DADT turned out to be a disaster. But it was forced on him by the military and the Senate. Had he issued an executive order changing the policy, there would have been a revolt within the military even greater than his DADT proposal. (Obama, you may remember, refused to issue an executive order halting the discharges under DADT, and that was at a time when the policy was under attack in the courts and repeal was supported by huge majorities. So I do not know what you mean when you say that Obama issued an executive order halting the discharges. HE did not.)

Clinton could have vetoed DADT, but that would have left the status quo when gay people were automatically excluded. DADT was dreadfully and vengefully implemented by Colin et al., who did not adide by their part of the compromise. The policy was supposed to be “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” The military conveniently forgot the “Don’t Pursue” part and witch hunts continued.

DOMA should have been vetoed, but it is possible, even likely, that the veto would have been overturned. And it would have made gay rights the central issue of the campaign at a time when gay rights (and gay people) were very unpopular. It might even have elected Dole president, which would not have been good for gay people. Moreover, in 1996, marriage was not a top issue even for the lgbt community. That is why gay people overwhelmingly voted to reelect Clinton in 1996.

One might ask, with more pertinence, why Obama did not repeal DOMA when he had huge majorities in both houses of Congress in 2009-10? The answer: even with huge majorities, he could not have gotten the necessary votes to withstand a Senate filibuster (assuming even that it would have passed in House.) It was hard enough to repeal DADT.

Under Clinton, the country enjoyed peace and prosperity. Crime rates declined. The economy boomed, and its results lifted all boats not only that of the wealthy. For the first time in decades, the country not only achieved a balanced budged but enormous surpluses that promised to wipe out the national debt within a decade. Unfortunately, George Bush was selected by the Supreme Court, and what followed has not been pretty. He squandered the surplues, left the country deep in debt, shattered the economy, and destroyed the country’s reputation by virtue of his ill-advised wars and cowboy dipolomacy.


July 21st, 2016

PS. concerning a comment above about Obama’s refusal to issue an executive order stopping discharges under DADT. It is true that when a District Court in San Diego declared DADT unconstitutional in 2010, Gates announced that investigations and discharges under the policy would end while the court decision was under appeal. But Obama’s justice department launched a vigorous appeal, arguing that the country would suffer irreparable damage were the policy struck down. An appellate court granted the Justice Department’s request for a stay and the policy remained intact until the authorization for repeal was finally passed in the lame duck session of Congress in 2010.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2016

Jim, I’m not asking you to sing Clinton’s praises, but “I loathe everything she stands for” is an absolute condemnation you could and certainly should stay away from. That’s a perfectly reasonable request of you.

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

It’s a reasonable request on your part, as far as that goes. But I’m going to decline that request, although I’ll try to take your criticisms to heart.

Because here’s the thing. There are an awful lot of people who feel about Sec. Clinton as I do — you don’t deny that, do you? You don’t agree with them or me, obviously, and that’s fine. But they/we are out there, and there are an awful lot of us. And a lot of those people, who are of the pox-on-both-houses variety, are looking at this and saying they’re just going to stay home, or that they will cast a protest vote for the person they think will lose (i.e. Trump) to keep it close, or to a third party candidate.

If these were ordinary times, with ordinary candidates of both sides of the aisle, then I guess those sentiments are somewhat tenable to different degrees. We all get to cast our votes however we want. Even that middle option, as irresponsible and cynical as it is, wouldn’t do much to change the outcome in an ordinary election. Because in an ordinary election, even the Republican candidate in normal circumstances would be likely to unleash a massive wave of misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, democrat-ophobia, and all of the other phobias simultaneously, coupled with a complete disregard (or worse, ignorance) for Constitutional protections and the rule of law, as official White House policy.

So this is no ordinary election. Pox-on-both-houses people like myself have perfectly legitimate reasons to view Sec. Clinton as among the most craven political animals nominated by a major political party since Nixon. (Nixon was in a unique league all by himself. She’s no Nixon; I’m just saying that’s how far back you have to go.) So I’m not going to sugarcoat my dislike for Clinton because I don’t want anyone else to use their disdain for Clinton as an excuse to ignore the bigger problem.

They/we bear an awesome responsibility that is unique to this election. We don’t have the luxury of sitting this one out or petulantly throwing our votes in a direction that does nothing but strengthen Trump and his followers. That’s the point I’m emphasizing in that statement. I’ll see if I can refine this line of thought in the future, but this is where I’m coming from.

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