Political Plagiarism

Merriam-Webster defines “plagiarism” as a transitive verb meaning “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own use (another’s production) without crediting the source.”  During my time as a professor at Miami University, I always made a distinction between “words” and “ideas”.  Two people, with similar observations and experiences, can independently come up with similar ideas.  I often joke with my wife, “They must have seen yesterday’s blog,” when a Post or Times editorial or op-ed makes the same point I covered before they did.  However, I know two people independently reaching the same conclusion is not a crime.

That is why I always focused on the second definition.  I expected any student who wrote about entrepreneurship as “creative destruction” to credit Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter with coining the phrase.  Knowledge is built on the shoulders of those who came before us.  We need not agree with everything they said or did, but we have a sole obligation to recognize their contribution.

We now have a new kind of plagiarism under the second definition, political plagiarism, which President Biden pointed out during his State of the Union Address.

And thanks — and thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 46,000 new projects have been announced all across your communities.

And, by the way, I noticed some of you who’ve strongly voted against it are there cheering on that money coming in. And I like it. I’m with you. I’m with you.

My congressman Aaron Bean must have been napping at this point because just four days later he issued a press release about a $147 million federal grant to Jacksonville which included the following.

I’m excited to have worked with Congressman Rutherford to help secure over $147 million in direct grant funding to support the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s master plan to transform 14 historic neighborhoods and downtown into the Emerald Trail.

Where did the money come from?  It was one of 143 projects funded through the Reconnecting Communities Program authorized as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.  Bean was not elected to Congress until November 2022, so we do not know how he would have voted on House Bill 3684.  But we do know how John Rutherford, our congressman before redistricting, voted.  He was one of the 201 (out of 203) House Republicans who voted “NAY.”

Now Bean could argue, “If I’d been there, I might have voted for the bill.”  But unlikely, since taking office, he has followed the GOP house leadership on virtually every bill and resolution. But that is speculation.  Therefore, if ever asked, he can honestly say, “I did not vote against HB 3684.”  You know, just like President Bone Spurs claimed he would have come to the rescue of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, “Even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room (a meeting at the White House) would have done the same.”

But honesty is not only about what we do.  It also takes into account what we do not do, which brings us back to definition #2 of plagiarism.  Let me repeat it.  “Use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  As we know, the Biden administration worked tirelessly with both Republicans as well as members of their own party to “produce” a filibuster-proof bill that would eventually pass 69-30 in the Senate.  [NOTE:  Florida’s two senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were among the 30 nays.]  What better example of two congressmen committing political plagiarism than Bean and Rutherford taking credit for something that would not have happened if they and their colleagues had their way.

If they do not want this to be an issue in the 2024 election, they can file a motion with Judge Aileen Cannon claiming Article I of the Constitution is too vague to allow citizens to chastise members of Congress for taking credit for things which they opposed.  I’m sure she would hold a hearing on their motion sometime in December.

For what it’s worth.