Finding the humor in Melania's plagiarism blunder
Perhaps the best thing about Melania's instance of borrowed words was the avalanche of hilarious, quick-witted reactions that followed
In between harsh rhetorical broadsides against President Obama and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, at Monday night's Republican National Convention, Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump, stepped in with a refreshingly positive speech about herself and her husband. It was a good speech, introduced rockstar-style by Donald Trump himself, a clear highlight of the evening matched only perhaps by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's impassioned attack on Clinton and President Obama.
But Melania Trump's speech, which she claimed to have written most of, quickly went from asset to liability, when people started noticing curious similarities between her language and the speech Michelle Obama gave in 2008 while introducing her husband, soon-to-be-President Obama.
The apparent plagiarism doesn't sound much better in stereo:
Melania's speech quickly became the news of the night, and not in a way that reflects very positively on Donald Trump's campaign:
The cryptic response from the Trump campaign only added fuel to the already raging dumpster fire.
Plagiarism is a serious accusation, and it can severely cripple political aspirations — just ask Joe Biden. This may not be the first time Melania Trump borrowed heavily from a black woman, either. But Melania isn't a politician. So what are we to do with this pretty egregious, high-profile example of cut-and-paste speechwriting?
Some observers, like The New Republic's Brian Beutler, argue that we shouldn't just laugh off the wife of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee lifting whole lines from the speech of the wife of the president said nominee routinely criticizes as incompetent and worse.
The apparent plagiarism — which Beutler says he suspects Melania was not aware of — amplifies the charge that Trump is "sloppy, erratic, in so many ways the opposite of the virtues he claims to embody," he says, but is also "a depiction of a campaign that nurtures white grievance and resentment trying to profit off the work of a black woman, from an African-American family that Trump and his supporters regularly belittle." The Week's Marc Ambinder hits a similar theme.
All of this may be true, but the idea of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michelle Obama also has a decidedly humorous element to it. Twitter on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was a virtual comedy club, with pundits of all stripes trying out their comedy chops:
But perhaps the funniest reaction is an apparently sincere appreciation of Melania's speech from a Trump supporter with the Twitter name Inductivist:
Of course, laughter and outrage are two sides of the same coin, with laughter the more attractive one. There's room for both responses. And Mrs. Trump does have her defenders, including former spelling-based game show host Chuck Woolery:
"Deference," Chuck? Sometimes the jokes really do write themselves.