RNC 2016: Melania’s Michelle moment caps off mediocre Monday

Melania Trump speaks during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday. (Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

Melania Trump speaks during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday. (Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

CLEVELAND — When I was in college, a friend of mine had a fraternity brother they nicknamed Can’t Get Right because, well, he couldn’t. I’m starting to think he works for the Trump campaign.

On an opening night at the Republican National Convention that had a few mostly short high points — as well as some low points that were long and in technical violation of the Geneva Conventions — one of the widely acclaimed performances came from Melania Trump. The would-be first lady has been a mostly quiet presence on the campaign trail, but she was given one of the best speaking slots Monday night. And her speech wasn’t just good for someone speaking in her second language; it was better than most people could deliver in those circumstances in their native tongue.

Or so we thought.

Before I even made it back to my hotel, reports were emerging that two paragraphs of her speech were almost word-for-word identical to a section of a speech by — wait for it — Michelle Obama. Here’s the comparison. First, from Mrs. Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

“And 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 and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

“And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

And now, from Mrs. Trump’s speech Monday:

“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life.

“That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

I guess her defense will be that, unlike Mrs. Obama, she didn’t claim her husband also shared those values?

In the grand scheme of things, having some campaign aide (that’s almost certainly who’s responsible) cut and paste and barely edit a couple of paragraphs of a speech isn’t the end of the world — even if, as one Georgia delegate joked, they could have at least stolen from Nancy Reagan instead of a Democrat. Heck, the list of reasons to be wary of a Trump presidency gets extremely long before one arrives at “wife’s convention speech includes plagiarism.”

But that’s kind of the point: The list of examples of amateurism and wrong-headedness and fact deficiency and so on isn’t supposed to be so long for the campaign of a man who could actually become president of the United States. Setting aside things like philosophy and temperament, there’s a certain degree of professionalism we’re accustomed to seeing pretty consistently from the presidential campaigns of major-party nominees. We’re still not seeing it from Trump.

RNC Empty Seats

The delegates from Pennsylvania and Ohio (and elsewhere) were mostly gone well before the program officially ended. (AJC Photo / Kyle Wingfield)

It doesn’t help his case that the apparent plagiarism was only one such unprofessional moment from Monday. There was the choice to put actor Scott Baio, whose only relevance to the 2016 campaign was that he was last seen on TV back when Trump thought America was still great, in the program during the early prime-time when the crowd was still fresh and energetic — and to consign up-and-coming Republican Sen. Joni Ernst to after 11 p.m., when the convention hall had long since been emptying out. There was the choice to put the emotional speech from Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, on at the same time as Trump was phoning in an interview with Bill O’Reilly — meaning the many Republicans watching Fox News’ coverage of the convention missed her remarks live. There was the decision to let retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who somehow was on Trump’s VP short list — drone on and on in a nearly 25-minute speech that followed Mrs. Trump’s appearance and killed off for good the excitement that had built in the building all evening. And all that was on top of the decision earlier in the day to steam-roll an attempt by some delegates to force a roll-call vote on the convention rules.

The high points of the evening — ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s inspired remarks, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s full-throated endorsement of Trump and rousing denunciation of Hillary Clinton — will be largely consigned to footnotes. They probably won’t garner the TV attention on Tuesday morning’s news shows that they otherwise would have. Heck, they were already being forgotten by the delegates with whom I spoke after the news about Mrs. Trump’s borrowed remarks came out.

It all amounted to, as former Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said just about Trump’s O’Reilly appearance stepping on his own convention, campaign malpractice. In other words, they can’t get right.

***

Read all of the AJC’s coverage from Cleveland here.

Reader Comments 0

303 comments
Vicki Steffey
Vicki Steffey

Who cares. Every former first Lady has said about the same thing. Who ever helped her write her speak should of notice the wording. What's up with the critics, they don't have anything better to do? This is stupid.

Julie Kay O'Day
Julie Kay O'Day

Who cares? Neither Melania, nor the She Devil, wrote it.

Mary Lee
Mary Lee

So what!!!! Great speech! God bless

Mel Dundon
Mel Dundon

I think it's about time to unfollow the liberal AJC.

Aiden Taylor
Aiden Taylor

Good God get over this already, there are way bigger issues to be worried about!

Tracy Kadungure
Tracy Kadungure

There you have it in polished English without any accent and in Slovinien accent with baited breath

Fred Harwell
Fred Harwell

Big freaking deal...most all First Ladies have said the same things...give this crap a break

Nina Shimonsky
Nina Shimonsky

The genius who wrote the speech should come forward....!

June Webster Coates
June Webster Coates

Not worth the attention this is getting. Who sits around checking to see if speeches are "borrowed" anyway?

Devoshia Jones
Devoshia Jones

It's so hard for our black people and she's copies all of the First Lady speech she's got money go back to school Mrs Trump

Joan West
Joan West

We don't care! She is totally opposite Michelle and has never put down America and Americans like saying " for the first time in my life I am proud to be a American." Michelle said those words when Obama was elected. Love Trump and all the Trump family. They love America and are not trying to bankrupt it by giving everything to illegals

Brian Kliemt
Brian Kliemt

If I had pulled this back in English class, I'd be in trouble real quick.

DrBill Nichols
DrBill Nichols

Just a bit of something to consider about speeches Copied and pasted from another discussion. The accusation is that Melania Trump “plagiarized” a speech made by Michelle Obama in 2008. Well I’m sorry liberals, she did not. Here are the comments from Michelle Obama in 2008: And 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 and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them. Melania Trump's Speech From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond, that you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to or son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them. Did Melania use a few sentences that were similar to Michelle Obama’s speech? Sure, but that is common. ALL First Lady speeches resonate the same universal concepts. The fact is, you can go back and look at Laura Bush’s speech, Nancy Reagan, and even Hillary when she was first lady and find the same type of comments. In a speech Hillary Clinton gave in 2014 for the New American foundation. Hillary spoke of the same values saying, ” my mother and father gave us a middle-class life with opportunities she never could have imagined for herself but which she always believed could be possible for her children. And that was a great gift that I will be forever grateful for, and then Bill and I of course worked hard to pass on those values to our daughter.” (In other words, passing on values to the next generation, like Michelle Obama said in 2008.) Laura Bush said in her 2004 RNC speech, “If you’re determined and you want to work hard, you can do anything you want to. That’s the beautiful thing about America.” (The same concept of Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008.) Even Ann Romney’s speech hit the same notes in 2012 “Mitt will be the first to tell you that he is the most fortunate man in the world. He had two loving parents who gave him strong values and taught him the value of work.” Hillary is actually the biggest offender when it comes to plagiarism, she plagiarized Bernie Sanders so often that the hashtag #StealTheBern was born. Obama plagiarized Bush nearly word for word in 2014, but the liberal media didn’t seem to have a problem with that. Every 4 years, a first lady, or potential first lady, stands on stage at their convention and talks about the same subjects: upbringing, values and family. In fact, 90% of what we hear this week will probably be rehashed and resaid at the DNC. They’ll just spin it around to be all about race, class warfare, illegal immigrants and insulting police, of course. Source: DC Gazette

Anita Sweetnam
Anita Sweetnam

Who cares "GOD BLESS AMERICA" is what I heard and now have the utmost respect for her as the next 1st lady.

Bob Notheis
Bob Notheis

SO WHAT!!!! Next thing your going to tell me is that hillary didn't lie....

Chris Fell
Chris Fell

So ,, back in 2007 Obama used Gov Deval Patrick speech Word for Word that's ok ????? Don't throw rocks at glass houses

Amy Arrington DeLoach
Amy Arrington DeLoach

I'm a little tired of everyone saying she was innocent and taken advantage of by Trump's team. She's a grown woman. Supposedly, she is smart because she speaks 5 languages. What has this country come to when some are so spellbound by her supermodel beauty, yet give her a pass on obvious plagiarism.

Barbara Decker
Barbara Decker

Neither of them wrote their Own Speech. Other people take care of that. How many ways can you say the same thing? How many other speeches sound the same?

Alison Scott
Alison Scott

But Melania Spoke it much better from the heart as someone who means it and loves America, and is proud to be an American !

playtoe
playtoe

This article reads like a group of elementary kids talking in a schoolyard. It is meaningless.

Juanita Ruffin
Juanita Ruffin

All you ignorant Trump lovers racists will take even an uneducated call girl and an idiotic buffoon to be your first family.You all need to look in your redneck mirrors in your trailer park homes and get a life.You are all uneducated morons who do not know when you are better off.

Darrell Lee
Darrell Lee

Big deal they all do it at some point. Obama has done it as well never called him out!

Jan Newberry
Jan Newberry

All this ta do about nothing. Suck it up haters. Speech writers right the speeches. It worked for the present president.

Garrick Boo White
Garrick Boo White

It's not a problem until , they blame everything on Obama and takes his wife words. As if they are nothing, until they need something intelligent to say, killing myself laughing....

Patricia Pote
Patricia Pote

It was more than two section of Michelle Obama speech.

Jeancena B Pearry
Jeancena B Pearry

She should've quoted Michelle,Teddy or whomever needs to be quoted...we have more important things to worry about but this is so entertaining, Plagiarism is good except when you get caught...We have to give her some credit though, she speaks at least 5 languages...Alright let's get back to serious stuff,...

Mick Palmer
Mick Palmer

Playing with Y'all...if you back slap and they don't bite, tis called Open Season. Your kids will see through!

Chris Lacy
Chris Lacy

As if either lady wrote their speech. Get a life people.

Robyn Adams Caseria
Robyn Adams Caseria

Dumbama doesn't own the words in the dictionary. The things that want to express through words can only be said so many ways. Get over it!!!!!!!!!!!!

quickdigits
quickdigits

The RNC failed to recognize the Number One Threat in the USA is Not ISIS, it's the Black Lives Matter and other similar liberal groups. It's Not ISIS that makes people afraid to go out at night! It's Fear that some black thug is right around the corner, ready to either grab, steal from, rape or kill you....and this is a real threat in any neighborhood. Therefore, the RNC needs to place their attention on our #1 Terrorists right here in our cities.

332-206
332-206

And people wonder how the Republican Party could select a racist as its nominee...

Nancy Henry Pitts
Nancy Henry Pitts

It must be a slow day at your newspaper if that's all you can write about. Pathetic.

Wannie McCarley
Wannie McCarley

I really don't know what the problem is. Who among us has not used a few words spoken by someone else before. If that's the worst thing that happens, forget about it !!

Josh Nichols
Josh Nichols

Who cares she's not running for president you media idiots need to cover the real story and quit sucking up to the dems

Mary Barczak
Mary Barczak

So why isn't Michele flattered that Melania found her words worthy of repetition?

Forrest Kim Clinard
Forrest Kim Clinard

How many paragraphs were in the speech? Way more than two I'm betting.