Rand Paul, plagiarist

Where do they find these clowns?

UPDATE Paul is a recidvist plagiarist. See below.

This is really too funny for words. Rachel Maddow nails Rand Paul ripping off pieces of an anti-abortion speech he gave at Liberty University in support of Ken Cuccinelli’s dying gubernatorial candidacy from the Wikipedia page from a 20-year-old dud sci-fi movie.

Libertarians are often puzzled why the rest of us have a problem taking their ideology seriously. I dunno, but perhaps there’s a hint in here somewhere. Plagiarism aside, the concatenation of “anti-choice,” “Jerry Falwell,” and “Ken Cuccinelli” with “personal liberty” really doesn’t make much sense.

It’s a measure of the basic lack of self-respect of the contemporary GOP that this probably won’t cost Rand Paul anything if he runs in 2016.

Update Buzzfeed has Rand Paul cold plagiarizing another speech, also from Wikipedia. Paul is still refusing to comment. Red Blogistan is still as silent as the tomb.

Just to clarify: I doubt Paul knew he was plagiarizing in either case. He was just reading the pap put before him by his speechwriters, which is normal for a politician. But of course the speechwriter in each case knew. (It would be interesting to know whether it was the same speechwriter in each case, and whether more cases will emerge.)

What Paul is guilty of is hiring staff without basic morals and creating a culture in his office where people thought this sort of thing was OK. Sorta goes along with calling yourself a “board-certified” physician when you created the “board” yourself.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

53 thoughts on “Rand Paul, plagiarist”

  1. “…the basic lack of self-respect of the contemporary GOP that this probably won’t cost Rand Paul anything…” – ??? Another party nominated plagiarist Biden for the Vice Presidency and takes him seriously to this day. Are you saying I should ignore Joe Biden and his ideology from now on out?

    1. Sure, Dave, elide the national humiliation Biden suffered, the utter derailing of his then-rising 1988 campaign, and the decade he spent rebuilding his reputation (which, you may recall, even today basically amounts to “well-meaning bloke not taken too seriously”, contrary to your assertion that he is taken very seriously). Also, feel free to ignore that Biden slipped in his delivery and failed to properly acknowledge the source of a story he told – a source he’d previously acknowledged correctly many times, and a slip he made perhaps once, perhaps twice.

      Once you’ve achieved all those mental gymnastics, the consequence-free cribbing of an utterly ludicrous choice of source material by Paul becomes exactly the same as what Biden did, and the consequences he suffered.

      1. Your first point is right. But your second point isn’t. Political speeches are written out. If Biden (or his team) wanted to credit Kinnock, they would have put it in the text. They didn’t, which means it was probably deliberate.

        1. I don’t know what was in the distributed text. I rather doubt you do, either; nor do I know whether his stump speech was distributed to reporters.

          Your theory would appear to be that after using the story repeatedly and with proper credit he decided to deliberately cut that part and steal it, even though the details didn’t fit his life. This seems unlikely.

          1. So you admit to making up your story that the attribution was removed from the prepared text, then?

    2. Also note the nature of Biden’s “plagiarism.” Part of his stock speech was a quotation from an English Labour politician pointing out that thet Englishman was the first in his family to attend university and asking, “Do you think all my ancestors were thick?” Once, as part of a typical 15-hour campaign day, Biden managed to use the line but failed to mention the Englishman, making it seem as if the story was about himself. But of course that would have been absurd, since Biden’s father was a college grad. That was a blunder, not an attempt to pawn off someone else’s words as his own.

      I’m no great Biden fan. But it’s precisely the contrast between the enormous amount of crap Biden took for a mere gaffee and the way Paul is likely to skate on this one that prompted my original remark.

      1. I do not want to see the uncredited quote from Wikipedia become a standard for discrediting candidates for office. Someone I like may do something similar before the next general election. I think we should give Rand Paul a break on this if we want similar breaks extended to politicians we support on other grounds. Using a sci-fi movie as a reference point for policymaking is the killer here, and I am OK with applying the same standard to progressive political leaders.

        No sense in mincing quotes into fragments small enough to be considered as plagiarized simply because of their having been used somewhere in the past. Otherwise, “this” (Gandhi) “could become” (Walter Benjamin) “quite absurd” (David Lloyd George), “and that” (Charles Dickens) “should not happen” (Tolstoy).

        1. I agree with Ed. I think this is a firing offense for the speechwriter, but doesn’t say that much about the speechmaker other than the quality of his hiring. I further think that what Biden did several decades ago is even less problematic than Paul for the reasons stated above (and I’m speaking as someone who wasn’t too impressed with Biden before he became Veep, although he’s mostly done better since).

          If this were in the Paul version Dreams of My Father, then it would be different.

          Disclaimer: I’m a local official who sometimes gets handed things to read aloud at events, like welcoming people to a construction groundbreaking. I don’t check every word for originality.

          1. I think what Biden did was serious plagiarism, and so was what Paul did.

            The real point here is the standard against plagiarism is stupid. It’s something journalists worry about, because they can’t stand the idea of anyone not giving them credit for whatever minor, stupid piece of information they uncover. And it’s something academics worry about, because if you allowed it, it would destroy the standard of original research necessary for an advanced degree or tenure.

            But it’s not something the rest of us should care about at all. And you can quote me on this, without attribution.

      2. I think Neil Kinnock, the former Labour Party leader that Biden quoted from, was not English, but Welsh.

        1. True. But most Americans will happily call a Scot or a Welshman English, rather than British. And as Kinnock was the leader of the national Labour party, his specifically Welsh identity will have been easier to overlook.

  2. Maddow elides over the Wikipedia juxtaposition “liberal eugenics” that stops Rand’s lift from being completely verbatim (At 3 minute mark exactly).
    Wikipedia is now showing it as simply “eugenics”.
    As it should read; Gattaca didn’t have any liberal/conservative posturing at all.
    The person/computer local responsible should have their Wiki editing privileges stepped on.

    From the Wiki history tab:

    (cur | prev) 02:54, 29 October 2013‎ 69.243.100.222 (talk)‎ . . (25,388 bytes) (-8)‎ . . (Changed wording “liberal eugenics” to “eugenics” to accurately reflect the movie plot.)

    1. The “liberal” in “liberal eugenics” is like in “classical liberalism.” Liberal eugenics vs. authoritarian/fascist eugenics. Not particularly relevant to the Maddow story. Gattaca does depict liberal eugenics; if I remember correctly in the movie future genetic discrimination is actually technically illegal.

      1. You’re right. Hawke’s character mentions in voice-over that it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of genetics, but nobody takes the law seriously anymore, and illegal genetic discrimination is rampant at all levels.

        Technically, nobody stops you from having a child the normal way, either. But your kid is most likely screwed and doomed to a life of menial labor if you do that.

        1. Technically nobody stops you from being a good parent and making sure your kid goes to school. But your kid is most likely screwed if you don’t do that.

          For Paul to use Gattaca as a reason to ban abortion is inane.

  3. It bugs me that she gets the movie wrong. Part of the point is that it’s not the government running the system, it’s society. There’s even a throwaway line about genetic discrimination being illegal, but the ban is unenforceable and people do it anyway.

    1. I was at one of the free test screenings, at MIT (as I recall; it may have been in Boston with tickets handed out at MIT). The audience was wildly enthusiastic (though even as I acknowledge the obvious symbolism I’m still irritated by the absurd importance placed on the complete absence of typos), but probably wasn’t representative of the nation.

  4. If you watch the whole clip, Rand Paul says explicitly that he’s talking about Gattaca. So describing that as plagiarism is pretty weird. You can say that he’s plagiarizing Wikipedia, but that doesn’t sound as bad. What would you think about a politician quoting from the Encyclopedia Brittanica?

    1. “Here’s what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about this: “qwertyuiop…” ”
      OK.
      “qwertyuiop ….”
      Not OK; unattributed direct quotation from a printed source, aka plagiarism.
      “poiuytrewq ….”
      OK, because paraphrase.

      1. “poiuytrewq …” would still be plagiarism in an academic paper. James is right that unattributed paraphrase is seen as okay in less formal settings. I don’t see this as nothingburger, but it’s more incompetence/firing offense for a speechwriter than a moral flaw for Paul.

        1. I could have got the information in “poiuytrewq …” from other sources, so you can’t identify one from internal evidence. For Paul, it could have been this cinema site. The academic paper may include unique information, such as an experimental result: the authors have a narrow moral right here to be identified.
          As a general rule, sourcing paraphrase is impracticable. Imagine what blog posts or comments would look like if we had to document every unoriginal assertion. “1+1=2. Source: Russell & Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, Vol 1 page .. “)

  5. To be clear, the really serious, troubling offense here is that Rand Paul thinks that the movie Gattaca has a lot of real-world policy relevance. The fact that somebody got lazy and lifted the lines from Wikipedia is mostly just embarrassing.

    1. Paul is quite correct. Quoting from Wikipedia without crediting it is nothing of importance. Someone (I am too lazy to find out who and give proper credit where it is due) invented the word “nothingburger,” which fits this situation nicely. Thinking that science fiction movies are a basis for policymaking, on the other hand, is a disqualifier for high office, unless the movies are clearly treated as metaphor and not as fact.

      For example, there is no problem with using “Groundhog Day” as a metaphor for much of what happens in politics. That movie was as impossible in real life as any science fiction movie ever made. Its truth is on a different level. Rand Paul is treating “Gattaca” as if the same thing was happening on the same level of reality in today’s society. That is what makes his ideology a joke.

      1. It’s like the quote widely attributed to Dan Quayle, “We should develop anti-satellite weapons because we could not have prevailed without them in ‘Red Storm Rising’.”

      2. Without having looked it up, I think nothingburger was coined by Helen Gurley Brown. (And appropriated, without attribution, by Anne Gorsuch Burford, IIRC.)

    2. Hey, give a guy a break – if you’re a libertarian, that IS about as close as you can get to real-world policy relevance!

      1. Murphy Brown is a good example; I had forgotten Dan Quayle almost completely. “Groundhog Day” expresses a deep truth: we are all caught up in repeating the same day in the same way, until something (like love) awakens our consciousness and we begin to move out of the eternal recurrence of our habitual patterns. Applying it as a diagnosis of the economic and social problems of rural Pennsylvania would be the analog of what Rand Paul did with Gattaca.

  6. During his primary campaign of 2008, Barack Obama was accused of stealing a few lines from the speeches of Deval Patrick and the whole thing was all but forgotten a few weeks later, and didn’t seem to slow his campaign much. Almost any political speech borrows lines from other sources, mostly other political speeches, and it would slow down the flow of the speech to credit everybody.

    Few political speeches would pass the plagiarism test if we are applying the same standard as we would to a college term paper.

    Whether the movie GATTACA is relevant to what’s going on today is for the voters to decide.

  7. GATTACA’s not quite relevant yet, but it likely will be in the next ten years if we get better tests and better research determining which genetic sequences are linked to particular probabilities of negative traits expressed in human development (like versions of genes that indicate a very high probability that the possessor will get some form of cancer, like breast cancer). What’s interesting about the movie is that it wasn’t actual genetic engineering for the most part, so much as it was highly advanced genetic screening combined with IVF.

    1. Maybe, but for Paul to say that this supports a blanket prohibit on abortion is not just ludicrous but incredibly stupid.

  8. Well, at least Paul’s speeches have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and previously presented publicly, unlike that highly suspect “study” cited by those lying Oreo prohibitionists!

  9. Sorta goes along with calling yourself a “board-certified” physician when you created the “board” yourself.

    I am reminded of that other libertarian, the German peter thiel, who to prove college was a waste of time, gave certain individuals $100,000 to quit school and do start ups.
    I haven’t heard much how that has worked out. Perhaps he should have given away $500,000 stipends to prove his point.

  10. Some questions for rand paul:

    Shouldn’t Capitalism be free to manipulate genes in the marketplace?
    Shouldn’t businesses be free to hire genetically superior people?
    Shouldn’t parents be free to screen their children of genetic diseases using the marketplace gene tools provided by Capitalism?
    If you don’t favor these freedoms, what government regulations do you favor to control these situations?

    1. All four are good questions, especially the last one. Too bad koreyel was not there to ask him in a public forum.

    2. This is from Rand’s own website:

      I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being.

      I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.

      A little later:

      In January 2011, Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Life at Conception Act (S. 91), which I co-sponsored. This legislation would declare the right to life is vested in each human being beginning at the moment of fertilization. S. 91 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I am not a member, where it awaits further consideration.

      If he believes that the government has the duty to protect life, which begins at conception, then logically, he has to be against in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves growing embryos and killing most of them. That view is probably shared by most of the social conservatives at the gathering he was attending, and a popular view among the GOP base.

      1. IVF doesn’t necessarily require the destruction of zygotes – it only requires that when you do it conscientiously. Some jurisdictions mandate the implantation of all fertilized oocytes (there are excellent reasons not to do this), and others mandate that resulting embryos that aren’t implanted must be frozen forever (so technically not dead – some anti-abortion people even promote the idea of adopting those embryos!).

        In general, anti-abortion extremists (those that insist Life Begins At Conception) are ignorant, and not interested in ceasing to be so. Just be glad they don’t insist on protection for teratomas!

  11. For some reason I am reminded of the fellow who complained that he didn’t like Shakespeare because his work is full of cliches.

    (If I could remember where I first heard that one, I would attribute it, but I can’t remember.)

    1. He didn’t pay anything for it. The commons are free to appropriate and rape. Nothing has value until it’s property.

      1. Wrong Jim. It is clear that I can plagiarize all I want from Wikipedia and I’m not subject to a claim via a lawsuit. However, when I quote from Wikipedia and don’t attribute the quote, I’m engaging in plagiarism.

        By way of example, suppose I argue that avidity alone, of acquiring goods and possessions for ourselves and our nearest friends, is insatiable, perpetual, universal, and directly destructive of society. I cannot be sued by the late Mr. Hume, but it is plagiarism if I do not put the argument in quotes and give the gentleman his due.

  12. Paul tried to cover his tracks with his phoney-baloney “board certification” entity by claiming that it had a membership of over 200 physicians. Yet, as the records from the office of the Kentucky Secretary of State will attest, the entity had its charter revoked at about the time that Paul became a senator. If the entity were, in fact, a certification board with over 200 members, why did it fold when Paul withdrew from practice? After all, if it were a bona fide organization, presumably some of the other alleged physicians would move to keep it alive.

    The answer is, I suspect, simple: There were no other physicians involved and Paul was simply lying to make it appear that the entity was not what it really was–a sham.

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