Well, Tim Goeglein, Special Assistant to the President, must have done something right. He survived seven years in a stressful job where the average length of stay is a year and a half. And his boss was Karl Rove who, we are told, can be a little demanding as in “perfectionist.” So, I for one, say give the fellow a break.
Last week he resigned from senior staff at the White House amid charges of plagiarism. This is not to belittle the scandal but lets face it folks, he didn’t do it for money or glory or political bias, it wasn’t to help him at the White House, they didn’t even know he was doing it, he just wanted to write some good articles for a small hometown newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he got carried away. And he did resign.
Now, liberals are hysterically calling for blood, saying that his resignation was a slap on the wrist. Well, what do they want?
Most faithful readers of my blogs know very well, I have been on the receiving end of plagiarism. I’ve had ministers, politicians, journalists routinely steal my stuff. Sometimes it is entire pages, sometimes paragraphs and sometimes specific lines which appear in one of my speeches and are used the next week by a thief on national television. In 1984 I referred to myself as a “bleeding heart conservative.” A national politician sitting next to me said he loved the line and wanted me to explain. The next week I saw him on national television, saying the same things.
The really important thieves do so with the air of privileged nobility. “Gee, that’s good, I’ll take that.” No one ever even thought about attribution for my philosophy of “compassionate conservatism” and were a little embarrassed when many publications slowly began to surface with copyrights, showing dates that preceded by decades their supposed authorship. And I never complained and felt dutifully shameful and sorry about those earlier copyrights when campaign staff called to berate me for my gall at having expounded on an idea before its time. If they had only told me they were wanting to one day use it I would have been more careful. Indeed, I explained in my trembling defense, that I didn’t intentionally have the speeches or books copyrighted at all, that was the work of publishers and producers who were equally, blissfully ignorant that it should be off limits, awaiting some future virgin birth.
But now we live in the age of the internet. And such thievery will be harder although not impossible. If the media likes a plagiarist they can still give he or she a pass, as in our beloved Saint Barack Obama. And if they are assigned to a candidate they will surely do all they can to protect their access, even if it means helping to keep the said candidate afloat.
Still, even before the Internet, bouts of plagiarism have been rampant and for selfish reasons. Joe Biden’s experience is instructive. He wanted to be president and thought that a British politician named Neil Kinnock had some good stuff. He also liked Bobby Kennedy’s speeches. Did he have to resign the Senate? Nope. And I like Joe Biden. I am glad we didn’t have to lose him.
There was Doris Kerns Goodwin and her books about the Kennedys. In 2002 she had to resign from the Pulitzer Board amid charges of plagiarism. But her career has only soared with stellar work. She appeared on Meet the Press two Sundays ago. She certainly didn’t let it keep her down. And I hope this won’t keep Goeglein down either.
Steven Ambrose had his history book factory shut down when charges of plagiarism were raised. But thank God for his books, even if some of the lines were not properly in quotes.
Almost all the big stories on plagiarism involve big money or status or power. This current story is about a White House staffer, nostalgic about his hometown, passing on the things that provoked and amused him. Was it wrong to use other writer’s material? Sure. Was it evil? Harmful to anyone? A big deal? On a par with Joe Biden or Steven Ambrose? Not really. Give the guy a break and thank him for serving his government for all those years at such low pay. And Tim, wherever you are? Don’t stay down too long. Have the resilience of a Doris Kerns Goodwin. Get back up. And write.