The charismatic, brilliant, inspiring black politician came to the stage to address the latest attack from his white female opponent.
"Her dismissive point, and I hear it a lot from her staff, is all I have to offer is words," he said. "Just words.
"’We holds these truths to be self-evident,’" he continued as the crowd began to cheer and applaud, "’that all men are created equal’ — just words. Just words."
The applause increased.
"’We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’" the pol said. "Just words. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words,’" he said, switching effortlessly from our Founding Fathers to FDR to JFK.
And then, the piece de resistance: "’I have a dream’ — just words," he said.
Barack Obama rebutting Hillary Clinton circa 2008?
Nope. Deval Patrick, ultimately successful Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, responding to then-Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in October 2006.
Of course, if you mistook the speech for one from Obama, you can be forgiven — just this weekend Obama said something quite similar.
"Don’t tell me words don’t matter," Obama said to Wisconsin Democrats. "’I have a dream’ — just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ – just words. Just speeches."
Since last year, observers have been noting that rhetorical similarities between the two candidates with vaguely similar biographies and campaign pitches — who also share political guru David Axelrod.
"It’s a handoff," Axelrod explains in an email. "They’re friends and allies. They share a view of politics and often riff off of each other."
Some, including the New York Observer noted that Obama’s recent adoption of the "Yes, we can," slogan echoed Patrick’s use of it.
And Axelrod says"Yes we can" was Obama’s campaign slogan in 2004. (So Obama echoed Patrick who echoed Obama.)
Of course, all of it is an English pinch of the slogan Si Se Puede from the United Farm Workers from 1972!
Common language and themes are not unheard of in politics, though it can also be controversial. A Boston Globe story from almost a year ago looks at the sharing that has gone on between Obama and Patrick, who are friends. What do you think?
UPDATE: The Obama campaign has issued a statement from Gov. Patrick: “Sen. Obama and I are long-time friends and allies. We often share ideas about politics, policy and language. The argument in question, on the value of words in the public square, is one about which he and I have spoken frequently before. Given the recent attacks from Sen. Clinton, I applaud him responding in just the way he did.”
It does seem to me that this issue may also be one between Obama and his supporters, not just Obama and Patrick. Thousands, if not millions, of Americans are inspired by Obama’s words. They do not think they are "just words." But many of them also likely think they are at least somewhat original.