Thursday, January 27, 2011

Washington Goes Literary

Authorship is the issue as the President is accused of State of the Union plagiarism, a McCain aide is unmasked for writing an anonymous novel about 2012, and Republican economists boycott a news conference on publication of their own 576-page volume about the financial meltdown.

“Some on Wall Street and Washington with a stake in the status quo," the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, declares, "may be tempted to wipe from memory this crisis or to suggest again that no one could have seen or prevented it.”

Four GOP members of the panel are doing just that, planning their own press conference to argue that the collapse was "multi-causal."

In a political climate where ideas and actions are at a premium, words are taking center stage. In a SOTU address notable for a lack of memorable phrases, Republicans are nonetheless trying to make the loopy case that some Obama phrases sounded "vaguely familiar."

In this climate, the President will have to take precautions against lifting language. For example, in a post-speech e-mail to supporters, he claims, "We do big things." Shouldn't he have credited Theodore Roosevelt's "Walk softly and carry a big stick"?

Outside of politics, where people still sell words on paper, a McCain speechwriter named Mark Salter is revealed as author of the anonymous "O," a poorly reviewed novel about the 2012 presidential election, with aspirations to duplicate the success of Joe Klein's "Primary Colors."

On the "Today" show, the publisher dropped hints that it may have been written by Stephen Colbert. Under the circumstances, the Comedy Central star should be suing for defamation of character.

Words are getting more fungible all the time.

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