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January 29th, 2010 8:02 pm
Obama Plagiarizes From Jimmy Carter in State of the Union
Posted by Print

If George Will and Charles Krauthammer are the brains of the conservative movement in print, then Peggy Noonan probably has a good claim to be the heart. While you rarely see her dissect policy minutiae, nobody does an ethereal meditation on exactly where America is at in any given moment quite as well.

Noonan’s reaction piece to the State of the Union in today’s Wall Street Journal is characteristically strong, but one passage jumped out at me:

They’ve chosen a phrase for the president’s program. They call it the “New Foundation.” They sneaked it in rather tentatively, probably not sure it would take off. It won’t. Such labels work when they clearly capture something that is already clear. “The New Deal” captured FDR’s historic shift to an increased governmental presence in individual American lives. It was a new deal. “The New Frontier”—we are a young and vibrant nation still, and adventures await us in space and elsewhere. It was a mood, not a program, but a mood well captured.

“The New Foundation” is solid and workmanlike, but it attempts to put form and order to a governing philosophy that is still too herky-jerky to be summed up.

Not only is the phrase a bit too pedestrian … it’s also a retread from the Carter Administration.  Readers of Robert Schlesinger’s excellent book “White House Ghosts: Presidents and their Speechwriters” may remember that “The New Foundation” was actually the title that President Carter chose for the agenda he presented in his 1979 State of the Union. Both the policies and the tag line failed spectacularly.

As the Obama Administration starts contemplating staff shakeups, someone in personel might want to start asking around about which White House staffers think that plagiarism is (a) necessary and (b) best accomplished by borrowing from the work that came out of dying days of the Carter Administration.

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