Dylan Byers, "Bush speechwriter: Obama plagiarized Bush", Politico 1/29/2014:
President George W. Bush's former speech writer said that President Barack Obama plagiarized his former boss in Tuesday's State of the Union address.
Speaking to Fox News's Megyn Kelly, Marc Thiessen, the lead writer on Bush's 2007 State of the Union address, said he found Obama's speech Tuesday night "eerily familiar."
"Barack Obama has gone from blaming George W. Bush to plagiarizing George W. Bush," Thiessen said.
Thiessen then read phrases from the 2007 speech which focused on the theme "hope and opportunity."
"It was eerily familiar. There were lines like 'Our job is to help Americans build a future of hope and opportunity, a future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy, a future of hope and opportunity requires that all citizens have affordable and available healthcare, extending opportunity and hope depends on a stable supply of energy,' all of that came from the 2007 State of the Union from George W. Bush," Thiessen said.
Perhaps "eerily careless with the facts" would be an appropriate description of Thiessen's claim. Byers somewhat debunks the plagiarism idea:
A quick text compare shows that no lines were directly lifted from Bush's 2007 speech in the one Obama gave on Tuesday. There are some minor similarities between the two: Obama use a version of the word "opportunity" more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times. Both speeches also ended with a moving story about a wounded veteran.
And he quotes Thiessen as ambigously backpedaling on the whole thing:
Asked if he was actually accusing the president of plagiarism, Thiessen replied, "Seriously? Get some sleep".
Which I guess might be translated as "Give me a break, dude, it was Fox."
But having had an adequate amount of sleep, I'll invest the two minutes required to show how bad a job Thiessen did of concocting his attack.
One way to look for "plagiarism" of "eerily familar" phrases would be to look for overlap in three-word-sequences ("trigrams"). So I calculated that overlap between Obama's 2014 SOTU speech and all the SOTU speeches from 1950 to 2013, counted as the number of distinct trigram types that each pair has in common, and also as the total number of repetitions of those shared trigrams. Here's the graph, with a vertical dotted line to show the 2007 speech that is supposed to be so "eerily familar":
Ignoring Obama's own previous SOTU speeches, the greatest amount of trigram overlap is with Ronald Reagan's 1981 speech – and there are 15 other post-1981 SOTU speeches that have more trigram overlap with SOTU 2014 than SOTU 2007 does, including George W. Bush's 2008 speech. (The whole table of trigram overlaps is here.)
What about the count of "opportunity" that Byers grants to Thiessen ("Obama use a version of the word 'opportunity' more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times")? There have been 12 SOTU messages with 8 or more uses of the word "opportunity". In chronological order:
1907 8 (Theodore Roosevelt)
1908 8 (Theodore Roosevelt)
1909 16 (Woodrow Wilson)
1946 12 (Harry Truman)
1950 8 (Harry Truman)
1956 8 (Dwight Eisenhower)
1995 9 (William Clinton)
1998 10 (William Clinton)
1999 9 (William Clinton)
2000 13 (William Clinton)
2007 8 (George W. Bush)
2014 12 (Barack Obama)
Maybe we should look into whether in 2007, Mr. Thiessen was actually plagiarizing Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Bill Clinton. Or we could just go back to sleep.
But really, Fox News needs a better quality of confabulation. This is pitiful.