Feb. 19, 2008 — -- The man credited with writing Sen. Barack Obama's "power of words" speech today called the plagiarism accusation "not fair" and said it was an attempt to "belittle his ability to motivate people."
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told "Good Morning America" that Sen. Hillary Clinton was wrong to accuse Obama of poaching his lines.
"It's an elaborate charge and an extravagant one," Patrick said.
The accusation has dominated the debate as Obama and Clinton battle for votes in today's Wisconsin primary.
The Clinton campaign has specifically cited a phrase pulled from one of Patrick's gubernatorial campaign speeches, which champions the power of words.
In 2006 Patrick gave a speech quoting famous phrases: "'We have nothing to fear, but fear itself,' … just words. 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' Just words. … 'I have a dream' … just words,'" he said, switching effortlessly from FDR to JFK to MLK.
On Saturday in Wisconsin, Obama said, "Don't tell me words don't matter. … '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."
Obama also campaigned in 2004 on the slogan, "Yes we can," which Patrick did in 2006.
Clinton responded Monday by saying, "If your whole candidacy is about words, they should be your words."
Patrick called the comment "not fair" and said, "It's not just about words, it's about great ideas. … These are iconic phrases."
Patrick says an allegation such as plagiarism is too much. "It's not like he's writing a law review article or a book. He should have credited me two words," the governor said.
Patrick and Obama have longstanding ties and similarities. Like Obama, Patrick faced a tough race against a woman, is a fellow Harvard grad and the two are old friends. They even share political adviser David Axelrod.
"I've known Barack 15 years. We've talked a good deal. I fully expected he would sustain a charge at some point, trying to belittle his ability to motivate people. I got the same attack," Patrick said.
Obama has conceded that he should have credited Patrick. "I was on the stump. He [Deval] suggested we use these lines. I thought they were good lines. I'm sure I should have. Didn't this time."
In 1988 Sen. Joseph Biden was driven out of the Democratic nomination race after he used parts of a speech from British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock, without crediting him.
Patrick said, "This isn't that," referring to what occurred with Biden. "He could have cited me in Wisconsin and everyone would have said 'who is that?'… Nobody's policies end up on the side of monuments or great buildings in Washington. I think it's a great power."