How much reality is there in modern politics? Yes, the narratives rolled out are almost routinely false, at least in part, but what about the personalities presented to us as movers and shakers? How real are they? We’ve all seen David Cameron cringingly forgetting which soccer team he allegedly supports, and it’s pretty easy to figure out this is not because of “brain fade” but because Cameron’s love for Aston Villa/West Ham is just a creation of his PR team. We’ve all seen the video about Obama and the water bottles.
As it’s edited here the performance looks completely scripted. But then again people must faint at rallies pretty regularly, and maybe it’s not that surprising someone like Obama develops a habitual way of handling it. There is also footage of Bill Clinton handling fainters here and here, as well as Sanders and Trump doing the same, which both look reasonably real. Then again when Hillary Clinton has a go it looks, well, like this…
As many of you may know, back in 2003, while the US and UK were striving to whip up international support for an illegal war on Iraq based on what turned out to be fabricated evidence, an odd thing seems to have happened. On March 18 of that year the PM of Australia, John Howard, gave a speech to parliament that strongly supported action against Iraq. Two days later, on March 20, Stephen Harper, then Leader of the Conservative opposition in Canada, gave exactly the same speech to his own parliament. Not roughly the same, or just hitting the same talking points – we are talking about huge passages of identical prose. Word for word.
Some years later, after this video surfaced on Youtube, a staffer for Harper, Owen Lippert, fell on his sword and admitted “plagiarising” Howard’s speech for Harper’s use. “Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech,” he is quoted as saying.
Neither my superiors in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition nor the leader of the Opposition was aware that I had done so.
Of course that could be exactly what happened, but it’s not an isolated example. Here’s Obama again in 2008 reading from the same script Deval Patrick had used two years earlier:
In the 1980s Joe Biden reproduced all the allegedly biographical talking points recently hit by Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, who at that time was busy trying to turn Labour away from socialism and into a copy of the Democratic Party.
The explanation offered for this later was that Biden “admired” Kinnock (and (presumably) expressed this admiration by duplicating portions of his autobiography). This begs the question of course – did any of Biden’s ancestors really work in a coal mine? Come to that – did any of Neil Kinnock’s? Joe and Neil both seem equally sincere, but at least one of them is just using a cue sheet of cool talking points gleaned from somewhere else. We have to accept the possibility they both are.