John Kerry is probably not a plagiarist but one of his (former?) staffers may be. The New York Sun is reporting that there are multiple plagiarized passages in John Kerry’s writings (tip Betsy’s Page). Most of what politicians write is ghost-written for them and sorting out authorship can be difficult–eg, claims that Ted Sorenson (who received direct royalties from Profiles in Courage) had ghost-written it for John Kennedy lacked proof. In this case, there is little reason to think that John Kerry himself is guilty of plagiarism. Further, politicians often borrow ideas and language from others without attribution, much as judges borrow from briefs without attribution and reporters borrow language from sources.
Example 1 from the New York Sun:
Kerry, the New War: “Russian mobsters have been arrested in Germany for extortion, car theft, counterfeiting, prostitution, selling drugs and illegal weapons, and smuggling everything from icons to uranium.”
Phil. Inquirer: “Suspected Russian mobsters have been arrested in Germany and charged with extortion, car thefts, counterfeiting, prostitution, gambling, and selling drugs and illegal weapons. They have been caught smuggling everything from religious icons to uranium.”
Kerry, The New War: “Recent reports indicate that uranium is being stored in the sort of lockers used by students in American high schools. In Murmansk, a Russian naval officer crawled though a hole in the fence surrounding a submarine fuel facility, broke into a locker, and hacked off a ten-pound hunk of enriched uranium, which he hid in his garage. He was caught only when he attempted to find a buyer.”
Maclean’s (magazine): “Uranium is kept in the sort of lockers found in North American high schools….A Russian naval officer in Murmansk who crawled through a hole in the fence surrounding a submarine fuel facility…entered a building that was unlocked, broke into a locker, hacked off a 10-lb. chunk of enriched uranium and hid it in his garage. He was looking for a buyer when he was caught.”
‘”Our Plan for America: Stronger at Home and Respected in the World,” [described by the New York Sun as] the official campaign book for Mr. Kerry and his running mate, Senator Edwards’: “In many states, individual farmers and ranchers lease their property to wind power companies and receive an annual payment for having wind turbines on their property. With the right leadership, this could become a ‘cash crop’ for many other farmers and ranchers from around the country and stabilize rural economies”
“Energy Department fact sheet”: “In many states, individual farmers and ranchers lease their property to wind power companies and receive an annual payment for having one or more wind turbines on their property. This could become a predictable ‘cash crop’ for many other farmers and ranchers across the country, and help to boost farm and ranching incomes and stabilize rural economies.”
What is it about the books of Presidential candidates? My favorite critique was the online quiz in which it’s hard to tell passages from the Unabomber’s Manifesto from Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance. If you haven’t taken the quiz, I’d recommend it. I got more than half of them wrong, misattributing Gore’s words to the Unabomber or vice versa. It’s only 12 questions so it is not time-consuming.