Melania Trump’s Plagiarism: Par for the Trump Course

Melania Trump, wife of Donald Trump, addressing the 2016 Republican National Convention, at which delegates of the United States Republican Party chose the party's nominees for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States in the 2016 national election, held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Featuring: Melania Trump Where: Cleveland, Ohio, United States When: 17 Jul 2016 Credit: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/ *****Not available for publication in Germany, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia*****

Make America academically honest again.

WELL, NO ONE’S SHOT EACH OTHER YET, but the Republican National Convention has already taken aim at Hillary Clinton, but in a pretty circuitous way. Apparently, Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech is all Hillary’s fault.

Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had this to say when asked to explain what happened with Melania’s speech: “When Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person.” Listen, I’m not the biggest Hillary fan in the world, but Hillary Clinton is not trying to take down Melania Trump. This is not about Hillary Clinton. This is about the Trump campaign — and by extension the Republican Party at large —  and their hypocrisy, lack of integrity, and their no-longer-shocking willingness to lie whenever it suits them and their purposes.

What Trump’s campaign fails to recognize, or more likely, acknowledge is the small-town element of the D.C scene, which is ironic considering the similarities between the politics of entertainment and the politics of, well, politics. You see, the woman who used to write Hillary Clinton’s speeches in the 2008 election, including her very elegant “bow out” speech, was the same person hired to write speeches for Michelle Obama when she became First Lady. The business of writing and what you can write runs through all elements of writing as a trade. If there’s a woman who can write strong yet warm speeches for the most powerful woman in our country, hoping to be her speechwriter as the first female President, then she’s not just working on Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign, but she’s being hired for the next gig, too. Her name is Sarah Hurwitz, and she’s been involved in crafting nearly every public address the First Lady has given during the past 7 years. While reporter Jarrett Hill was the first person to break the news that the speeches were eerily similar, you can bet that Burlitz, other prominent presidential speechwriters like Jon Favreau, and basically anybody affiliated with the Democratic Party with a decent memory and a critical ear were calling BS when Melania Trump was up there talking embarrassing herself.

The irony of this scandal is so deep and layered, it is almost exhausting. The guy who calls everyone a phony and a fake is also a phony and a fake — or at least married to one? Shocker. I grew up in New Jersey and my best friend’s mom always had this motto that I loved because there was this certain amount of heightened mafiosa element to it: “If you can’t convince ‘em, confuse ‘em.” I guess she learned that from Trump? Although I’d believe it more if he stole the phrase from her.

What’s even more delicious about this situation is that Trump’s entire campaign has revolved around xenophobic us-versus-them rhetoric designed to pit “Americans” against “thieving immigrants.” Melania Trump is an immigrant, having been born in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) and immigrating to the US in 1996. Who did she steal from? Michelle Obama, a natural-born citizen of the United States, and the wife of the Democratic President. A man Trump has criticized vocally and relentlessly for being “too lax” on immigration policies. If Melania’s not on the first plane of immigrants that Trump has promised to ship out of the country if he wins the presidency, there’s going to be hell to pay.

Eye-rolls and schadenfreude aside, Melania Trump’s foul is a reminder of what a step back the Trump campaign is and has been for our country and its women. I grew up in school fearing the consequences of plagiarism and valuing the protection of one’s own ideas. As a professional writer, I am reminded of that regularly. There’s certainly the element of give-and-take where I’m happy to see my dialogue and ideas show up in scripts I’ve been involved with, but what Melania Trump did is not nearly the same. What are young children in school’s supposed to learn from this moment? Especially since there seem to be no consequences, considering that Trump’s campaign’s next move was not a humble apology but throwing the blame onto Hillary Clinton as his candidacy marches on. Trump is like a school child who did something wrong and blames the person walking by: “She did it!” No one, Hillary Clinton included, put a gun to Melania Trump’s head — or the head of Meredith McIver, the speechwriter taking blame for the blunder — and made her write those words and then say them. Actually, that sounds far more like something Trump or one of his followers would do instead.

The irony of all ironies in all of this is that the only person who really takes down any woman who poses a threat to Trump is Trump himself, and the proof is in the pudding. Most of his judging on The Apprentice would come down to quick quips from Trump, disparaging female contestants based on their looks and how quickly they would give blowjobs. Not much has changed now that he’s running for President either— remember all the misogynistic stuff he said and Tweeted about FOX anchor Megyn Kelly? And yet, months later, here we are, and it’s only getting worse. I guess it is a lot like being on the school playground, though: the bullies go after the people they are most threatened by. For Trump and his entire campaign, it’s strong women.

Maybe Paul Manafort is scrambling to keep his job, so he’s trying to create a distraction by easily blaming the opponent. Pitting women against each other in that way, leaving them both in the pot to boil, is just so dangerous, yet dangerous is exactly what is exciting our country at the moment, sadly. The “disenfranchised white male” demographic has a lot to gain from women being pushed down and out of the way, and as long as Trump is perpetuating that, the RNC and this election as a whole is a match striking gasoline.