Melania, Michelle and “Source” Criticism

Story after story today has been about the source of Melania Trump’s speech. You can see a good graphic of it here.

As someone who got his academic chops doing source and redaction criticism on the Gospels, I conclude that Melania’s speech owes its origins to Michelle’s speech. Or, more nuanced, Melania’s speechwriter’s source is Michelle’s speechwriter or Michelle’s speechwriter’s source(s)!

Perhaps there is some Q-First-Lady-speeches source lurking in the background upon which both depended!

Not likely, so this is clear: when 23 consecutive words, when a subject flow from parents to children, and when some particular words — like “achievement” — are in both, then the source critic concludes they are dependent.

It is impossible for this many words, in this order, and with that vocabulary to have been done accidentally, coincidentally, or without knowing that one was using the words of another. Impossible.

Unfortunately, Trump’s team is in denial, and the only ones who believe them are those in their ideological circle of “concede nothing to the opposition.” Very bad move.

I have some observations:

  1. Had Melania Trump acknowledged Michelle Obama in her speech and drawn a connection between herself and the First Lady it would have been a rhetorical coup. She, or her speechwriters, chose not to do that. Big mistake.
  2. The only honorable move has been turned away: tell the truth, acknowledge dependency, and admit the truth. They have refused this honorable option.
  3. This won’t go away, nor will it be forgotten.
  4. What kind of president plagiarizes and then, in the face of the evidence, denies the evidence? This is a moral lapse on the part of the Trump team.
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