Joe Biden: Plagiarist – Politicians are generally afforded a degree of latitude with respect to the truth.
Embellishment and hyperbole and misdirection are widely accepted as permissible tools in a politician’s rhetorical kit.
Yet today, in light of Representative George Santos having apparently constructed an entire identity on a framework of bald-faced lies, the honesty-standard of our politicians is being reexamined.
For example, George Santos claimed to have degrees from Baruch College and New York University. He had neither.
So, reporters went and investigated the academic backgrounds of every other member of Congress in the hopes of finding other discrepancies (the reporters found just two: one congresswoman listed the wrong years for her college attendance, and one congressman incorrectly called his master’s in management science a master’s in business administration).
The point is, George Santos has people asking: who else is bs’ing us?
And George Santos has us remembering who bullsh**ted us in the past.
President Joe Biden, for example.
Remembering Joe Biden and that plagiarism scandal
I don’t want to draw any sort of false equivalency between Joe Biden and George Santos, as many partisan hacks may find tempting.
George Santos is a special creature, what some have called a “pathological liar.” He appears to be unabashedly and comprehensively full of sh**.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, got caught plagiarizing a few times. As a writer, I don’t want to downplay plagiarism – it’s a sleazebag move.
But plagiarism is not in the same realm of deception as The Talented Mr. Ripley bit that Santos tried to pull off.
Anyways, Biden’s 1987 presidential bid derailed amidst a plagiarism scandal. The scandal began when Joe Biden was accused, accurately, of plagiarizing portions of a speech from a British Labour Party politician. The accusations led to the surfacing of other examples, where Biden used material from other politicians without giving them credit.
“I made some mistakes,” Joe Biden said as he ended his 1988 candidacy. “But now, the exaggerated shadow of those mistakes has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy and the essence of Joe Biden.”
Biden was hit with plagiarism charges again three decades later during his 2020 campaign. The Biden campaign acknowledged that it had “lifted phrases, without attribution, from various nonprofit publications in its climate and education plans.”
“Staff working on drafts of the policy paper inadvertently left some citations out of the final document, and Vice President Biden was unaware of it,” Biden’s spokeswoman said at the time. “As soon as staff were made aware of the error, they fixed it.”
It’s a plausible explanation. Most campaigns could have made a similar mistake without generating headlines, but Biden was a repeat offender and former vice president, subject to intense scrutiny.
In the immediate future, the press may more vigilantly vet the words and writings of aspiring and elected politicians – that will likely be The Santos Effect – and maybe it’s overdue. Politics would be well served by an injection of honesty and humility. The inflated numbers and half-truths and misdirection and fish stories get old, don’t they?
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.