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It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all

I must admit that numbers, math, algebra and statistics have always been my Achilles’ heel. And McGill University physics professor’s stats confound me.

The Online Digg (via Huffington Post) headline reads: “Physicist: there’s A 1-In-87 Billion Chance Melania Trump Didn’t Plagiarize.”  It appears that the good physics professor, a numbers-wizard from McGill University identified as Bob Rutledge, “has the stats to back that intuition up.”  Further, “the chances That Trump’s arrangement of the allegedly plagiarized phrases was a random occurrence are roughly 1-in-87 billion [thus making] the fourteen phrases that Melania Trump has in common with Michelle Obama  14*13*12*11*10*9*8*7*6 *5*4*3*2*1 [for]a grand total of about 87 billion different permutations for those 14 distinct phrases.”

I am even more confounded by these baffling numbers and the extricated syllogism.

While Professor Rutledge lives in Montreal, Canada, another Rutledge, a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas, made her debut on prime time TV both, during a morning CNN interview, and at the Cleveland-held Republican National Convention.

On July 19, 2016,  Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was one of several evening speakers paraded to criticize Hillary Clinton, an evening during which Hillary was Lucifered, Jailed, Striped, Benghazied, Iraqed, Libyaded, Syriaded, Basemented, Servered, and a whole lot more.  And, for the record, this is not, repeat, not an endorsement of Hillary.  And somewhere in between the aforementioned are some truths that are truths, knowns that are unknown, and unknowns that are known.

Oops, these phrases should have been huddled in quotation marks!

Leslie Rutledge walked up to the podium, placed her hands on the podium, attempted to engage a somewhat indifferent audience and, in a very distinct Southern accent, drawled out a multi-syllabled “Good ‘Evenin’.”  I was surprised that Rutledge didn’t end her greetin’ with the traditional southern  “Y’all,” and for a brief moment it appeared as though she was about to lose the crowd.

Without even as much as a breath between “Evenin’” and the next word, Rutledge dove into her fiery speech. “Sometimes,” she initiated,   “Hillary Clinton [I noted a diminution of the last vowel sound]  speaks with a New York accent. But, Y’all, [I knew this Y’all would show up] this is what a real Arkansas woman sounds like.  Hillary may not know where she’s from, but Arkansans know exactly who she is. Arkansans know who I am, raised on a cow farm, married to a row-crop farmer… .”  The by-now-fired-up crowd cheered as Leslie, blazing southern drawl in rhythmic cadence, continued: “I am a Christian, pro-life, gun carrying conservative woman.  … Hillary says that when they left the White House, they were poor [Leslie, poor and pour are different pronunciations], and, while they’ve made millions, she’s still [pour] in all the ways that really count. [Pour] in judgement, [pour] policies and [pour] decisions. Hillary is a lawyer, but she acts like the law doesn’t apply to her.” And, to get downright folksy, Rutledge added, “As my daddy likes to say, Hillary will lie even when the truth serves her better.” To resonate with her female audience, she informed them that she knows “What it’s like to break the glass “ceilin’.”

Unfortunately Ms. Rutledge, an English major, is incapable of comprehending what constitutes plagiarism.

On the morning of July 19, 2016, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appeared on a CNN talk show and, “according to multiple listeners decried those who say Mrs. Trump was a plagiarist. She just relied on some common words and phrases, said Rutledge, echoing the talking points of Trump’s campaign manager.” (Arkansas Blog 7/19/2016)

In yet another plagiarized convention statement by another Arkansas politician, Max Brantley, Arkansas Times editor, observed that “Chuck Todd of NBC note[d] that Sen. Tom Cotton’s refrain of ‘help is on the way’ was the same battle cry used by John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I happen to recall, too, that it was the tearful refrain of a Louisiana public official in a recorded telephone conversation with his mother in a nursing home imperiled by rising water during Hurricane Katrina. Help never came.”

Now that we’re told that the speech writer confessed her transgression and submitted her resignation, Donald Trump’s refusal to accept her resignation will not only sugar coat the entire debacle, but it will also somewhat rehabilitate and ameliorate the callously indifferent “you’re fired” image.

I feel sorry for Melania and all politicians’ spouses and children; spouses and children are under constant microscopic scrutiny, and in Melania’s case, I am left with the impression that Donald Trump has used his knock-em-dead curvaceously gorgeous wife as a political prop. Melania impresses me as a woman infinitely more intelligent and cosmopolitan than the role cast for her in this, the season of conventions, hateful diatribes, character assassination, xenophobia,  wall-to-wall election coverage, and incessant gotchya rhetoric and politics.

The Republican National Convention is over and the Democratic National Convention is just around the corner. Could we please get these circuses behind us, quickly?

My former colleague and one of the best friends  I’ve been fortunate to have had for the past 43 years sent me a poem about the Leslie Rutledge’s plagiarism denial, and,  by extension,  all the deniers who  sprouted  in that brief 24 hour interlude called the news cycle. Johnny Wink has granted me permission to include this fine impromptu creation of his under the titleDisbelief.

Disbelief

Before my eyes on the tv screen

A half an hour ago

A state’s attorney general

Most thoroughly did blow

 

My mind with her assertion that

Some sentences, devised

For Mrs. Trump’s convention speech

Had not been plagiarized.

 

It was as if the lady’d said

That she could hardly see

How anyone  believed that bed

Starts with the letter b!

 

The state this lady represents,

Alas, is Arkansas.

Her fellow panelists could not

Refrain from a guffaw.

 

I’ve got three words for Leslie R.,

Three words that I am sure

She learned in law school long ago:

Res ipsa loquitur.

 

More articles by:

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com

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