Hillary Clinton’s new favorite line might be borrowed from O’Malley

At Tuesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton came prepared to answer questions about a seeming contradiction that she had talked herself into. Having declared that she takes “a back seat to no one” regarding her progressive principles, only to later “plead guilty” to being a moderate, Anderson Cooper asked her to explain. And she did:

As Clinton said, when Cooper asked her to pick between the progressive and moderate labels, “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.”

In the context of a Democratic primary debate, this is a great line, as it allows her to technically answer the question without using the word “moderate.” What’s more, it underscores what is perhaps the strongest case she has for the nomination: However much progressives might like Bernie Sanders, the guy stands no chance of passing any legislation with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and less than sixty Democrats in the Senate. So you can vote for Bernie, punch Washington in the mouth and achieve nothing, or you can vote for Hillary and have a slightly smaller slice of progressive cake, but at least you’ll actually get to eat it too.

(Not for nothing, those same political fundamentals apply to Clinton, who said at the end of the debate that her greatest enemy during her presidency would be the Republicans, signaling a more confrontational presidency than what we saw in Obama’s first term.)

But as The Nation’s John Nichols pointed out on Twitter today, Clinton and her team may not have come up with the line themselves. As early as June, Martin O’Malley was saying something awfully similar:

The lede from that Quad-City Times article reads: “Selling himself as a progressive who gets things done, Martin O’Malley engaged in classic Iowa retail politics Thursday afternoon at a Mount Vernon house party.” A search for “progressive who likes to get things done” for the year preceding that article turns up no other uses of the term, suggesting O’Malley’s usage is the original. And while Clinton may feel the description applies to her, as well, one would think there are at least two ways to articulate it.

Given that it’s just one sentence, it’s certainly plausible that she came up with the line independently — intra-party talking points are often word-for-word identical — but the similarity is at least worth pointing out.

This is especially the case given that this isn’t the first time this cycle that Clinton has co-opted rhetoric from other prominent Democrats. Around the time she officially launched her campaign, she started sounding an awful lot like Elizabeth Warren, turning Warren’s “the game is rigged” into her now-familiar “the deck is stacked” when talking about the need to change how our political and economic systems are structured in relation to the middle class. Warren, for her part, wasn’t bothered by Clinton’s rhetorical similarity, but she isn’t running for president. O’Malley is. If he was running to win, rather than to secure a spot in Clinton’s administration, I’d imagine he’d be making a slightly bigger issue out of this.

During the 2008 primary, Hillary Clinton went after Barack Obama for delivering a passage in a speech that sounded awfully similar to one that Deval Patrick had delivered in 2006, saying it was “not change you can believe in; it’s change you can Xerox.” And she wasn’t wrong! Plagiarism is bad! And while what Clinton’s done here isn’t blind copy/pasting, but is rather a sentence here and a phrase there, it still seems a twinge unoriginal. It shows that she’s responding to her party, not leading it.

Which is problematic if you’re running to be your party’s standard-bearer.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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20 Responses to “Hillary Clinton’s new favorite line might be borrowed from O’Malley”

  1. mf_roe says:

    She knew hubby was a philandering prick before it was common knowledge.

  2. taxicolor says:

    He is awfully cute though. As to Clinton, she is not a progressive and never has been. She is a right of center opportunist if she is anything at all.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    The ideas of ‘progressives’ and other liberals don’t cut it. That’s not just because of their individual political faults, which would disqualify them in acy case, but because they’re Democrats.

    Democrats are the party that pushes fracking and offshore drilling. So do Republicans.

    Democrats are the party that promotes more and more wars of aggression from Libya to Afghanistan and the use of drones, artillery and airstrikes as terrorism strategies to suppress indigenous rebellions. The was true in Vietnam and in dozens of other US wars before and after Iraq and Vietnam, the most recent American genocides. So do Republicans.

    Democrats are the party that, beginning with Carter, joined with Republicans in exporting jobs, busting unions and driving down the wages of working people.

    Democrats are the party that absolutely refuses to pass anti-discrimination legislation for the LGBT communities when it has even a slim chance of being enacted. Instead they and the Republicans ganged up on us with DADT and DOMA. It took almost two decades of determined fighting to force the Supremes to knock down federal and state DOMAs and there was never any chance that would happen in Congress.

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  5. Don Chandler says:

    Huckabee is an attention nut. On indentured servitude, the pope visited a prison in Philadelphia. He was given a chair. The chair was impressive. I was wondering if the correctional facility the pope visited was privatized or public: Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. I think it might be a bit of both public and private funding but couldn’t find a definitive link. Anyways, clearly public prisons aren’t working and privatized prisons are a very scary concept that might lead the way to a kind of unsavory ‘Huckabee’ indentureship. But it could also be a way of training young people that have gone ‘wrong’. I have very little faith in Huckster. Not much in the Pope either. But I like the idea of constructive rehabilitation of prisoners:


  6. BeccaM says:

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the Crazy Chasm, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee comes out as objectively pro-slavery as punishment for crimes as minor as theft.


    Host Jan Mickelson began by bemoaning that the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives.” In order to fight back, he argued, conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold,”
    Mickelson explained. “If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”

    Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a “pagan invention,” are inferior to slavery: “We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt.”

    “Wouldn’t that be a better choice?” the host asked.

    “Well, it really would be,” Huckabee replied without missing a beat. “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.”

  7. FLL says:

    Anyway you slice it, there is no substitute for taking the House Speaker’s gavel away from the Republicans. If the House is controlled by the Democrats and the Senate is about split, you can still get important legislation through. DADT repeal got through with the support of 5 Republican senators, and of course the Democratic-controlled House. But the Senate works differently. U.S. senators have always had more latitude to vote their conscience. House members, in contrast, are kept in line by party leadership to a much greater extent than senators. So if the House remains in Republican hands, legislation is blocked even with a Democrat in the White House and a Senate that is willing to be productive. The key strategy is for Democrats to win the state legislatures and governorships by 2020 so that all those gerrymandered House districts can be redrawn in a sane manner.

  8. dave3137 says:

    “So you can vote for Bernie, punch Washington in the mouth and achieve nothing, or you can vote for Hillary and have a slightly smaller slice of progressive cake, but at least you’ll actually get to eat it too.

    “(Not for nothing, those same political fundamentals apply to Clinton, who said at the end of the debate that her greatest enemy during her presidency would be the Republicans, signaling a more confrontational presidency than what we saw in Obama’s first term.)”

    So you can vote for Hillary, get a MUCH smaller piece of the progressive cake, and she will just wave her magical “confrontational” wand, and the Republican opposition that would have defeated Sanders will just bow in admiration and vote her way. Right. Either that, or she caves, because the Republicans are so amenable to compromise. Right. I have little against Hillary, but this is crappy analysis.

  9. BeccaM says:

    I care about results, not slogans or credit for whomever may have come up with them.

  10. Knottwhole says:

    Some help please.
    Does she have an original thought about anything?

  11. nicho says:

    She reminds me more of Siri than Ronny Raygun to tell you the truth. Although I think Siri is slightly more spontaneous.

  12. mf_roe says:

    She’ll explain when she is done, trust her, no really, trust her.

  13. mf_roe says:

    She IS a lawyer, you say what your theory of the case requires you to say.

  14. mf_roe says:

    Bloomberg had a good piece on how AC lowered the quality of the “debate” with his attempts to start a repug style food fight among the dems.

  15. mf_roe says:

    Clinton is pretty skilled at appropriation of the labels and tag lines of her opponents and re-tasking them to describe her ideas and plans. If her schemes are rejected it conveniently tarnishes the original idea as well as her version. Her use of labels allows her to claim membership in the little people club at the same time she is touting her skills at the highest levels of government and business. She is a chameleon, blending into whatever environment she finds herself. Flexibility and adaptability are good traits, but so are being steadfast and predictable.

  16. 2karmanot says:

    Anderson Cooper is another white, elitist gay man and a’h*le. End of story.

  17. arcadesproject says:

    So OK, does anyone want to unpack the expression, Get Things Done? Will any ‘things’ do? Including regressive, cruel and stupid things?

  18. Indigo says:

    I feel confident that she knows what she’s saying. As to the originality or intuitive understanding, she doesn’t strike me as the one-liner type. Regardless, she’s no Ronnie Raygun. Of course the writers script her, so what? Only the Pope goes off script these days.

  19. nicho says:

    Let’s be fair. She has no idea what she’s saying. Like Ronnie Raygun, she’s just delivering “quips” and one-liners that her pollsters, focus groupers, and assorted handlers are writing down for her. It’s not like she actually went out and did any research.

  20. Indigo says:

    Well of course she’s responding to the party’s wishes. She’s a Democrat!

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