Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – What has emerged is that there are instances where he has quoted effusively or excessively from prior written works. He’s done so in his speeches and he’s done so in his written works. Quoting from prior written works is fine. I do it all the time. You have to go through the process of footnoting or denoting sources. It’s almost impossible to do this in a speech, unless you’re going to publish the written version of the speech. Even there the footnotes that should have appeared are not appearing. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: The controversy over whether or not Senator Rand Paul is a plagiarist is growing, although I think it is a controversy without an actual scandal. Like many of these, it will turn out to be a scandal just because we have media that does what media does today. Here are the nuts and bolts of it. You’re a United States senator and you want to elevate your stature, number one, as a candidate, and number two, a candidate for the future and as a political pop culture icon. One of the things you can do is run for high office. One of the other things you can do is pen some books. You can run around the country and give a lot of speeches at some cool places and some places where maybe people wouldn’t think you’d show up, but you do and deliver the good word. You just rinse and repeat. He’s written a couple of books now, penned a couple op-eds in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other major newspapers and magazines. He’s spoken and continues to speak all around the country. He appears on various and numerous radio shows like this one and television shows all across the amber waves of fuel.
As he is racking up this significant record, a paper trail as they call it, something strange has happened on the way to the GOP nomination in 2016. Apparently Senator Paul is jobbing out or outsourcing some of the work that he is doing as a writer. That would include some of the work that is being done as a speech writer. In the process of this, he apparently has employed what I would call some intellectually lazy people. I’m under no delusion that Senator Paul actually writes most of this stuff because there just aren’t enough hours in the day for him to write all these speeches and books, plus show up at the Senate and give two-hour-long speeches against this bill, plus read all those bills, plus be a dad, plus run his ophthalmology clinic. So yeah, someone is doing an awful lot of the heavy lifting here for the paper trail that is Senator Paul. I imagine that he ultimately has to sign off on it yea or nay, maybe you can change that, can you give me a quote about this? I’m not saying he doesn’t have any input or that he’s not writing some of them, but there are just a certain amount of hours in the day. To say that he would be an overachiever if he were doing all this work, I think, would be an understatement. Would you agree with that synopsis, Mr. Gruss?
AG: Every top politician has at least one speech writer, so I would assume Senator Paul does as well, and has a lot of help crafting a lot of the speeches he gives.
Mike: We know that he had help writing his book, because Jack Hunter, who used to guest host on this show and was a frequent guest, was palling around with Senator Paul for the summer that was 2010. That was The Tea Party Goes to Washington book. We know he has writers at his table. What has emerged is that there are instances where he has quoted effusively or excessively from prior written works. He’s done so in his speeches and he’s done so in his written works. Quoting from prior written works is fine. I do it all the time. You have to go through the process of footnoting or denoting sources. It’s almost impossible to do this in a speech, unless you’re going to publish the written version of the speech. Even there the footnotes that should have appeared are not appearing. The acknowledgements, even though they are contained in the body, because he does acknowledge — in the Gattaca speech, for example, he does acknowledge he’s getting some of what he’s about to say from the movie Gattaca. He doesn’t say that he’s getting it from a particular writer at Wikipedia writing about Gattaca, but he is acknowledging the source
What has happened here, folks, and I talked about this on yesterday’s program, is that the conservative movement, and I suspect that the progressive effort — it’s not a movement any longer because it has arrived — or undertaking is also similarly intellectually lazy. It’s intellectually lazy inasmuch as you don’t have time to go run around and do proper scholarship on these things. After all, who’s going to check it and who would know whether or not you did proper scholarship? Here’s an even better line: Who would care? Who would care? We’re more worried about what the definition of twerking is than we are whether or not there are some footnotes at the bottom of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, aren’t most of us?
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Yesterday when I was talking about the laziness, the intellectual laziness of the conservative movement, I think that is spread across the political spectrum, but it is certainly in the conservative movement. It is certainly a part of what it is that becomes the public record or the paper trail of all too many people that are all too famous and all too popular. Most of them are all too famous or all too popular by virtue of the fact that they are good at being the spokesman for the group. The group generates the material that is then put into the name of the spokesman, in this case the United States senator. The senator is the spokesman. You just kind of wink and nod and go: Yeah, Rand wrote that, knowing there’s no way humans can crank out this much material under their own name. It’s a physical impossibility.
Something strange has happened, though. Those who normally have no time whatsoever for investigative journalism of any sort have now all of a sudden found time to perform, for the first time in their lives, investigative journalism. They have gone back and they’re combing through all of Rand Paul’s speeches, all of his books, and all of his written editorials, everything they can find that has been posted publicly that they can get their hands on to check and see whether or not passages from those speeches were taken from other sources.
Ladies and gentlemen, we do this all the time here on this very radio show, which is why you will always hear me, I try to be very, very consistent with this, you will always hear me say “quote, something, end quote” or “I am reading from this and you can find it here.” I other words, to list the sources as close to an audio footnote as I can give you. In our written works on the website, most of the articles that we post have footnotes in them now. If something is quoted, it is listed as being quoted. If it’s not listed directly in the text or in the footnotes at the bottom of the page, then it is listed somewhere in the conversation. There is an effort that is made to go through this process.
This is just another one of these things that it seems has become an anachronism, which is scholarship. You want to talk about the degradation of the culture and the anti-cult, I think this story about Senator Paul is just emblematic of that. It’s just representative of it. What is scholarship after all? Would you say that that’s something worthy of conservation, something worthy of being conserved? I would say that it is. It’s the scholar’s job to defend the past, to make sure that those writing about, commenting on, or using the past are using accurate material. If something new is discovered about the past, it’s the scholar’s job to ascertain whether or not it’s authentic, and if it is, to add it to the record so that others can use it in the future. It is a laborious process and it takes time. It takes time and effort, but it’s worthy to go through the effort.
As I told AG in show prep, just to use me as an example, when I do the television commentaries for the local ABC television station, at least two a week, in these 300- to 350-word little essays that I put together, if I quote something or have a source in there, I always footnote it and this is why. What’s happening to Senator Paul is why, because I don’t want some smarmy, snickety progressive from the local fish wrap newspaper writing letters to the general manager of the station I work at or the news editor saying, [mocking] “You got some guy on your staff out there saying these things and he keeps posting these editorials. He never cites his sources. Guess what? We found his sources and he’s a plagiarist.” My opinion of this is that doing the footnoting makes you sound or read smarter. It appears as though, and not just appears, you probably have done the due diligence. You’ve actually researched the subject. You know the subject matter yourself. You know from whence the source is. You footnote it. I’ll just read you what has been posted at The Drudge Report last night:
An entire section of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 2013 book Government Bullies was copied wholesale from a 2003 case study by the Heritage Foundation, BuzzFeed has learned. The copied section, 1,318 words, is by far the most significant instance reported so far of the Republican senator borrowing language from other published material.
Mike: Again, there’s no problem in borrowing the language as long as you denote it. I realize this is an attack on Senator Paul for who he is. For those of you that are angry right now, I do realize this, but folks, we’re supposed to be better than that. This is just not acceptable. If we can’t put forward an A team playing in an A-league game against progressives or Democrats or lefties or blue-staters or whatever you want to call them, then we don’t deserve to be on the field. Let them destroy or attempt to destroy history. Let them be the ones that are liberally ignorant of scholarship and what it’s supposed to entail. That’s not us. We’re not supposed to do these things. We’re supposed to be leading by example would be my point. [mocking] “There you go again attacking Senator Paul just because he’s not his dad.” That is not the point. Let me finish the story.
The new cut-and-paste job follows reports that Paul had plagiarized speeches either from Wikipedia or news reports.
Mike: Again, I wouldn’t use the term plagiarism because I don’t think he’s trying to pass this off as his own work. There are two parts — you cops and lawyers and judges out there, you know this — of any kind of an accusation of criminal wrongdoing. One of them is motivation. Is his motive to defraud or to get ahead by using the work of others? I don’t believe you’ll win the motive argument. Again, he may have been sloppy or lazy in the execution of that. That’s correctable. Like a bad football team, AG, that can’t execute the plays that have been drawn up on the chalkboard, we can fix this. You have to work on your execution, that’s all. To finish the story:
The book was published in August 2013 by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group. Paul included a link to the Heritage case study in the book’s footnotes, though he made no effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves, had been taken from Heritage.
Mike: Andrew, wouldn’t you say, though, that the publisher bears an equal burden here? They published this without checking it.
AG: It’s tough. As you were saying, this is a huge pet peeve issue for the media. This is like one of their — they hate plagiarists. If they’re going to find it on the right side of the political aisle, that gives them even more fuel to the fire. He can do better to prevent this from happening. It is not impossible for him to not have this be an issue. He shouldn’t have done this in the first place. I think his staff is really at fault here. There have been questions on his staff in the past.
Mike: Many questions.
AG: The question I would have is, in these speeches, what is the proper way — you can’t footnote a speech while you’re giving it. Does he prevent this from evening happening if when they post the video of the speeches online and the transcription of the speeches, which they’re now scrubbing from the website, which I think is a bad PR move. It’s complicit guilt. Do you then footnote the speech immediately? How would you, when giving a speech, best cite your work if you don’t want to be like: And, from the Wikipedia page describing the plot movie Gattaca is blank, blank, blank.
Mike: I don’t think that’s necessary. I think you give attribution. Again, this goes back to simple scholarship. We learned this in high school, right? You have primary sources, secondary sources, and tertiary sources. If the primary source for what it is you’re quoting — again, this requires due diligence. If the primary source is somebody that posted something on the Wikipedia page, it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain who posted what. Anyone can edit those pages. You would just say: I got it from Wikipedia. If you’re citing that as your source, then you cite that as your source. In the written version of the speech, you just footnote it.
AG: The speeches come off as him having seen Gattaca and this is his recollection of the plot. I think that’s not good.
Mike: Let me weigh in on this as someone that gives speeches. I don’t give as many as I’d like to because you people don’t invite me to give as many as I’d like to. I am available, though, tomorrow, and Thursday, and Friday. I’m even available this Saturday, just so you’ll know.
AG: Even during Bama v. LSU?
Mike: No, no, I’m not available from 7-10 Saturday night, sorry. As someone that gives speeches, what you want to do is bring in the flavor of someone else’s opinion to help justify and verify yours. That’s what you’re attempting to do. So we’ll quote from people, whether written work or from some kind of a performance they may have given, either audio or visual or both, that you can cite a source for or what have you. What you want to do to flesh your speech out is to use, again, the conservative stands on the shoulders of giants. It’s okay to use those giants. It’s okay to quote them. What you want to do is give affirmation that these are not my words, although I have read them and I agree.
I have to interject this. I would not be me if I did not interject the following into this. Let’s go back to yesterday’s argument and yesterday’s show, which will pass into the history books as not much ado about anything because who cares about silly things like scholarship and due diligence, Mike? We’re worried about Obamacare and you need to get back to bashing Obama. Exactly what I thought most of you would say. My opinion is that this is the most important stuff. Like I said, if you want to get on the field, and if you want to win games, and if you want to compete with people that want to win games in the despicable manner in which they want to win them, you better bring A team and you better bring A-team game.
One of the problems that we have today in this mass, 24-7, media-driven world that we live in, is the desire to put out and crank out quantity. We gotta have more and more. You gotta keep making it. You can’t ever rest on what it is you achieved in the past. If you don’t have a new Facebook post up, those likers will go somewhere else, buddy. What have you done for me lately, sang Janet Jackson. You haven’t done much. [mocking] “I could get Republican thoughts of the day somewhere else. I’m leaving and I’m not coming back. You haven’t posted in three hours.” We’re under constant pressure to deliver. What are we under pressure to deliver? I’d say in most instances drivel, absolute blithering, gibberish drivel that is inconsequential, is not thoroughly researched, and means nothing. This is a huge problem.
The other part of this that’s going to pain some of you to hear and me to say is that there are too many people that do what I do, that try to pass off the work of others under their own name. It is impossible, impossible to generate some of the amount of material that is ascribed to many people and to have them actually have produced it. I would say one of the things we should be doing — somebody was yelling at me last night on a Facebook post over this, quality over quantity.
If you are going to write a speech like the one Senator Paul wrote, or you’re going to pen an editorial for a major newspaper like he has penned in the past, it is probably best to start with what you know is your own personal opinion, write that out, and then if you seek verification or justification for what you’ve just written via another source, it’s okay to quote it. It must be quoted in context. In other words, if you just start Googling terms and [mocking ] “I found this sentence from James Madison so it must make it right.” Really? Did you read the 15 sentences before and after to make sure it was in the proper context?
Context matters. This is where we get into trouble here. We don’t bother to check out the context and ensure that what has been quoted or used has actually been taken in the proper context. Folks, this is difficult. This stuff is difficult, which is why it’s so difficult to crank a novel or book out. It takes some people years. Not everyone is a Stephen King or a Tom Clancy. Remember, they’re dealing in the realm of fiction, so they can make things up. The historian can’t do that. The person that’s trying to be a scholar and trying to be accurate must do the actual scholarship. This is a very fine line.
Let me close with this. Let me ask you a question and provide you an answer. Do you think that General Washington, that President Washington wrote most of his own speeches? One of the most famous ones is his farewell address. Did he or did he not write it? The answer to the question is: kinda. He wrote a letter to Hamilton and said: I want to do a farewell address. These are my ideas. What do you think and would you provide me a draft? Hamilton said: I don’t like this; I like this; you should say this. Yes, I will provide you with a draft. He sent it to Washington and Washington read it. Washington didn’t like some of it. Washington wrote him back and said: No, you have to change this. I want this in here; do this; change this. There was a correspondence back and forth. The final product was then taken by Washington, as I understand it, and then transcribed in his own hand. He knew the work. He could actually say it was his farewell address because he took what Hamilton had done for him — there was someone else involved. It might have been John Jay. He turned it into this own work, but it was a process whereby he was familiar with the material.
End Mike Church Show Transcript