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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Ask not, what a politician might do to language

Reader Mary Bronson called a bit fed up with the complaints about Sen. Barack Obama allegedly plagiarizing parts of another politician's speech as he defended himself against charges from Hillary Clinton's campaign that he was -- to borrow a phrase -- all talk.

In his defense of "just words," Obama cited some famous words uttered by past politicians. The essence of that defense: some words, like "ask what you can do for your country" and "nothing to fear but fear itself" aren't just words, they have the power to inspire.

The Clinton campaign said he was borrowing without proper attribution a similar defense made by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in a previous campaign.

Bronson said she's about had it with the suggestion that what Obama did is something unusual. Politicians borrow each other's ideas all the time, the 88-year-old Spokane resident said.

When she first heard John Kennedy's "ask not" line, she had a feeling that it wasn't original. She did some research at the urging of a Whitworth College professor she knew, and found out JFK wasn't the first to push the concept.

Check it out, she said. Spin Control did, and Bronson is right. Kennedy was at least the fourth to use a version of that admonition. And one of his predecessor was -- ohmygawd -- a Republican president. And we don't mean Lincoln.

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.