In his Owen words

Oh for goodness sake. I’d like to join the pileon over Stephen Harper’s alleged plagiarism, but really…

1. If Harper had knowingly plagiarized, in Parliament, a highly-publicized speech by a sitting Australian Prime Minister, delivered just 36 hours before, it wouldn’t call into question his judgment — it would call into question his sanity. It was crazy enough when Joe Biden did it, a hundred million years ago (I’m estimating). But this was in 2003, well into the age of the internet. Is it really to be imagined, knowing everything we know about Harper, that he would be so foolish as to think he would not get caught?

2. Since when does Harper need to steal anyone’s words, or thoughts? He’s famously opinionated, and notably articulate. I’ve read his stuff over the years – newspaper articles, magazine pieces, speeches. He has an unmistakeable voice, a clear writing style, analytical sharpness. If he hadn’t been a politician, he’d have been a fine pundit. So if he wrote the speech in question, it would be an odd departure, to say the least, for him to suddently start borrowing whole paragraphs from another person, even ignoring point 1.

3. But of course, he didn’t write the speech in question, if we believe the confession of poor Owen Lippert. Certainly, it is more persuasive to me to think that as the newly elected opposition leader, with a million other things on his plate, Harper would have started using a speechwriter, rather than write them himself. I saw Bob Rae on the CBC puffing himself up over this, as if that were the scandal. Sorry, Bob: I’m prepared to think better of politicians who write all their own speeches, but I can hardly think ill of those who don’t, since that’s almost every politician there is. 

4. So to believe this is a big deal, you have to ignore points 1, 2, and 3. That is, you have to think that Harper is insanely reckless, insecure enough about his own thoughts and expressions to steal someone else’s, yet not so insecure as to hire a speechwriter. And you have to think that Owen Lippert is lying, and that Harper is lying about Lippert.

Alternatively, you can believe that a harried speechwriter took a shortcut. In which case, how is that a reflection on Harper? 

Looking at the speech he delivered, I’m just upset at being reminded how far he’s fallen since then. The Harper of 2003 supported a just war, and Canadian participation in it, forthrightly and without apology or equivocation — even if it was somebody else’s words. I’ve no idea how the Harper of 2008 would respond.

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