Olbermann Reveals Countdown Killed Bush ‘Plagiarism’ Segment, But Who Ran With it?

Embedded in Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment from last night’s Countdown was the fact that the show had recently killed a segment in which President George W. Bush was alleged to have plagiarized portions of his new book, Decision Points. Citing weak evidence in the Huffington Post’s source piece, Olbermann asked “Would Fox have (killed the segment)? Would CNN have?” Excellent question! So, who exactly ran with what plagiarism story? And which similar story that was too good even for Olbermann to resist?

From Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: (transcript via MSNBC)

Friday night I found, as we rehearsed its presentation, that a segment implying former President Bush had lifted parts of his autobiography from other works of recent history, was largely based on excerpts that mostly required heavy editing and still produced only weak evidence. We killed the segment. Would Fox have? Would CNN have?

While it’s tempting to criticize Olbermann’s onanisitic back-patting, his point was actually not self-congratulation, but rather, the contrast between his own editorial judgment and those of his “neutral” or “Fair and Balanced®” counterparts at Fox and CNN. As it turns out, he hit the nail right on the head. While most of cable news ignored the blog-fueled Bush “plagiarism” story, CNN’s Parker/Spitzer dove right in:


Spitzer actually says “News just broke today that several sections of George Bush’s memoir are apparently plagiarized,” and aside from the use of the qualifier “apparently,” neither he nor Parker evinces the slightest bit of skepticism.

While Olbermann wondered if Fox News would’ve killed the segment, he surely meant if the shoe was on the other foot, and the accused plagiarist was a Democrat. On that count, there are numerous examples, but in this clip, current MSNBC pinch-hitter Cenk Uygur plays along with Fox & Friends, MST3000-style, as they go over a particularly flimsy allegation involving former NY Governor Mario Cuomo.

Cable news networks aren’t the only entities to hear the irresistible siren call of a plagiarism story. During a 2008 presidential debate on CNN, then-Senator Hillary Clinton took aim at “Change you can Xerox,” with an immediate back-and-forth between accuser and accused.

There is another plagiarism story that closely mirrors the current Bush kerfuffle. Like the Bush story, it, too, originated at The Huffington Post. The subject was an even brighter star in the Republican universe, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The “case” against Palin was even weaker than the one against Bush:

…an accusation of plagiarism arose (since denied).  Geoffrey Dunne laid out the case that Palin had lifted portions of the speech from a 2005 article by Newt Gingrich and Craig Shirley (BTW, it must really suck to have a girl’s first name as your last name).  You can plainly see that Palin does, indeed, crib from the article.  So, what’s the problem?  Here’s the problem:

After (an excerpt that appears to echo the Gingrich/Shirley article but doesn’t lift from it directly), Palin acknowledged that, “Recently, Newt Gingrich, he had written a good article about Reagan….” (Recently? It was four years ago.) Without mentioning Shirley, she quotes and paraphrases from the article at length…

Cue needle scratching off of record album sound effect.  She announces that her speech is drawn from the article from which she supposedly plagiarized…While Palin doesn’t mention co-author Shirley, or even allude to Laverne, she clearly credits Gingrich.

So, anyone whose editorial judgement failed them sufficiently to cover that weak sauce is probably in for a good talking-to by Keith Olbermann. From the June 8, 2009 edition of…Countdown?:


There is a small, but key, difference in the editorial judgements exercised here. The Bush segment that Olbermann killed was based purely on that thin HuffPo story. The decision to cover the Palin story was based on the fact that Palin issued a denial, a solid reason to cover it, and part of a pattern by Palin’s people of punching down at poorly-sourced stories.

As to the way it was covered, while guest Lawrence O’Donnell (wrongly, in my view) convicted Palin’s speechwriters of plagiarism, there was at least a modicum of skepticism shown, and the overall effect was to downplay the charge. The plagiarism angle wasn’t even the central point of the segment, but rather, the relationship between Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the direction of the Republican Party.

Still, the newly-reflective, post-suspension Keith Olbermann of 2010 might have covered it differently, or not at all. Only he knows for sure.

Daily Beast: Is Hillary Clinton Staying Silent on Genocide In Iraq?

In the Daily Beast this morning, contributor Reza Aslan has a piece examining the troubling situation of Christian Iraqis — and charges that he says Hillary Clinton is aware of the situation but unwilling to take action to stop it. Aslan charges that “A full-scale genocide is under way in Iraq: a well-planned, well-financed, deliberate plot to cleanse the country of its Christian citizens,” and that both the US and Iraqi governments refuse to do anything about it. Aslan writes:

Christians are a small but historic part of the religious fabric of Iraq. Although they make up only about 1 percent of the population, Christians have been in this part of the world for 2,000 years, as evidenced by the stunningly beautiful churches and ancient monasteries that dot the Iraqi landscape. The town of Mosul is mentioned in the Bible, where it is known as Nineveh. And, to this day, some Iraqi Christians continue to speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

But now this historic community is on the brink of extinction. Since the American invasion in 2002, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country. The Christian community, like everyone else in Iraq, was caught up in the ethnic war that erupted in 2004 between the Shiites and Sunnis, and they have frequently been targeted both by Iraqi militants and by the mostly foreign fighters who constitute al Qaeda in Iraq. But Iraq’s Christians have not experienced anything like the deliberate targeting of their community over this past year. Hundreds of Christians have been murdered in 2010 and thousands more have left the country, fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Despite this unprecedented bloodshed, little effort has been made by the Iraqi or U.S. governments to secure the livelihoods of Iraq’s Christians. “I blame the government for all these attacks. It’s a very weak government and it can’t protect us,” Zeya Moshi, an Iraqi Christian, told the Christian Science Monitor. After meeting with Maliki, the Syrian Archbishop Matti Shaba Matoka sounded less than confident in the government’s ability to protect his congregation. “The security authorities promised to protect us, but we don’t know what kind of procedures they’ve put in place,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.

Read the full story at the Daily Beast here.

Australian Comedians Get Sec. Hillary Clinton To Open Up About Potato Chips

This past Sunday, Sec. Hillary Clinton discussed the world’s view of Americans with the Australian comedians and radio hosts, Hamish & Andy. The interview was one of her most likable and relatable ever, her jovial nature destroying any last vestiges of her image as “cold.” The interview didn’t delve too deep into serious politics (in fact, much of it was about potato chips), but it was a great example of a relaxed Hillary Clinton as human instead of political figure.

Not only was Clinton seemingly having a good time, she also was matching the hosts beat for beat with some charming quips. Like in this discussion after the comedians offered her a pack of the aforementioned chips as a representative gift from Australia:

“Hillary: I am thrilled and I’ll tell you how much this means to me.

Hamish: Are you a collector of chips?

Hillary: I’m an eater of chips.

Hamish: We recommend not – the use by is two years ago. If you try to eat them technically that’s an assassination attempt by us.

Hillary: Should I wait ’til I’m out of Australian air space?”

The whole thing’s just a lot of silly fun. Perhaps if Clinton had given more interviews like this on this side of the globe, the country could be blaming her for not fixing all of our problems in two years. Oh, what could have been.

(h/t Reddit)


Obama, Carter, Clintons Top The Daily Beast’s List Of Best-Selling Politicians-Turned-Authors

Obama book signingWhat with all the brouhaha over George W. Bush’s revealing interview with Matt Lauer, you may have forgotten that the former president’s memoir, Decision Points, has been released today. In honor of that occasion, the Daily Beast took a look at which politicians-turned-authors have moved the most volumes. At the top of their list? Barack Obama, whose two books combined have sold a staggering 4,650,000 copies.

One caveat about this list: the Beast elected to use Nielsen BookScan’s publishing sales information, which meant that they had to limit their list to “elected officials who have either landed on a New York Times bestsellers list or published more than one book since 2001.” BookScan sales data also only represents 75% of book sales, since it doesn’t track copies sold at Sam’s Club or Walmart.

Perhaps that’s why this list skews Democrat. Obama is followed by Jimmy Carter (2,218,000 books sold; man, that guy has written a lot of books), Bill Clinton (1,899,000 copies of four books sold), Al Franken (1,777,000 copies of books including You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You! sold), and Hillary Clinton (1,491,000 copies of four books sold).

Unsurprisingly, the first Republican to make the list is Sarah Palin at number six. Her memoir, Going Rogue, has sold 1,455,000 copies. Palin’s showing is especially impressive considering she’s written just one book. Then again, Obama blew the competition away despite having penned only two volumes (his third, a picture book, will be released November 16). It’ll be fun to see how George W. stacks up to these heavy hitters.

Read the Beast’s full list here.

Mark Penn Says Obama Needs ‘Similar Event’ to Oklahoma City to Reconnect with Voters

Mark Penn, Democratic strategist and former chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, let out the kind of doozy, on last night’s Hardball, that must be seen to be believed. Comparing Obama’s current situation to the aftermath of the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Penn noted that it took the Oklahoma City tragedy in order for President Clinton to “reconnect” with the American people.

He then stepped off the cliff by saying that President Obama needed a “similar event” to achieve that reconnection following his party’s midterm losses. (h/t Eyeblast)

Host Chris Matthews, however, barely notices, as he’s already started his next question:


It is a bit of tone-deafness to make you nostalgically reach for your Yoko Ono records, but Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey puts it in proper perspective:

Occasionally, political pundits get so wrapped up in their analysis that they don’t think through all of the implications of their commentary. That happened to Mark Penn, longtime Democratic pollster, in his appearance on Hardball last night, in the most charitable explanation possible.

Either way, here’s hoping the President gets to reconnect with the American people using a less-deadly medium. Slurpees, anyone?

Hillary Clinton: Obama Is Envious I’m Out Of The Country Today

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a notably absent presence in this year’s midterms. While husband Bill has been stumping around the country, Clinton has kept almost entirely clear of this year’s Midterm circus, something she thinks President Obama may be a little green with envy over. From ABC News:

“I think he was a little envious that I am here,” Clinton told a town hall audience in Kuala Lumpur today, a nod to the Democrats’ expected drubbing today.

Can you blame him. Clinton also explained the possible GOP drubbing thusly:

“If that happens in our elections, and it may or may not … it is sort of the way American politics keeps itself in the center,” she said, according to an Associated Press reporters traveling with her. “A new president gets elected, he usually does an enormous amount in the first two years, and then everybody in America says that’s either not enough or that’s too much. So they send a message to the new president by voting out members of Congress of his party.”

Too little or too much? One look at the headlines this morning suggests no one actually knows.

Hillary Clinton Records ‘It Gets Better’ Video For LGBT Youth

The It Gets Better Project has been a tremendous viral success with tons of videos being uploaded including those by the folks at Google and a Texas councilman. Hillary Clinton added her name to the list yesterday, releasing a new video entitled “Tomorrow Will Be Better” just in time for Spirit Day.

In the short video, Clinton pleads with troubled teens not to take their life and describes the many accomplishments of LGBT individuals in the State Department. She also compares the struggle of sexual minorities to those of women as well as racial minorities.

“Your life is so important—to your family, your friends, and to your country. And there is so much waiting for you, both personally and professionally— there are so many opportunities for you to develop your talents and make your contributions.

And these opportunities will only increase. Because the story of America is the story of people coming together to tear down barriers, stand up for rights, and insist on equality, not only for themselves but for all people. And in the process, they create a community of support and solidarity that endures. Just think of the progress made by women just during my lifetime, or ethnic, racial and religious minorities over the course of our history —and by gays and lesbians, many of whom are now free to live their lives openly and proudly. Here at the State Department, I am grateful every day for the work of our LGBT employees who are serving the United States as foreign service officers and civil servants here and around the world. It wasn’t long ago that these men and women would not have been able to serve openly, but today they can—because it has gotten better. And it will get better for you.”

It’s curious that Clinton would change the title from the ubiquitous “It Gets Better” to “Tomorrow Will Be Better.” Perhaps she was trying to create a little distance between herself and the project’s founder Dan Savage with some of his edgier comments. Whatever the case, the message is the same and the video is now on the home page of the project’s YouTube channel.

We can only hope and pray that the project will end up being as successful in the real world as it has been online. If it’s only half as such, we can expect a vast number of lives will be improved or even saved.