In light of the recent news about a White House staffer caught copying the Dartmouth Review and other news sources for columns he wrote for his hometown paper in Indiana, I think it's time to reconsider... what's so bad about plagiarizing? And I've just discovered, is the initial article that was discovered to be "plagiarized" really one that was plargiarized itself?
Here was Tim Goeglein - this minor figure in the Bush Administration who was clearly still trying to impress his parents' friends, his high school bullies and quite likely the girl who dumped him at senior prom. Once a month, he got his name in the second-rate newspaper in a two-paper small town with his one-line bio stating that he was a success in life: "Fort Wayne native Timothy S. Goeglein is a special assistant to President Bush in the White House." But with a last name that homophonically cries out for someone to search his musings on Google, sure enough, former Fort Wayne News-Sentinel columnist Nancy Nall took 60 seconds to figure out that Goeglein had copped a decade-old piece in the Dartmouth Review for one of his columns.
So? How many people in Fort Wayne read the Dartmouth Review? This is the well-respected conservative student paper of Dartmouth College - a minor Ivy League school at best, but to be sure, one that even Tim did not attend. No, true to his conservative Christian roots, Tim attended the salt-of-the-earth Indiana University. He went on to work for Gary Bauer during the 2000 election, before becoming an acolyte of Karl Rove in the Bush White House.
I don't know Tim well - our paths have crossed during a few campaigns and conferences over the years - but he always struck me as a genuine, earnest guy. A true believer, for whom it didn't seem out of place that he wound up as President Bush's liaison to Christian conservatives.
The real question is not why Tim cribbed a little on his columns. He's a busy guy. Between Bush trying to burnish his legacy by giving away birth control to Africans, and with John McCain winning the Republican nomination largely out of spite, the White House liaison to the religious right has a LOT on his plate. No, the question is why the pointy-headed cynical Dartmouth crowd is heaving such a hue and cry over this homage from Tim? If they were genuine in their conservative ideals - like Tim is - they would care about promulgating the ideology, not preserving their egos.
Because really, that's all plagiarizing is: Helping disseminate the ideas of another. Goeglein is accused of lifting a line from Dartmouth's Jeffrey Hart, when he wrote in 1998: "A notable Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth, Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey often expressed the matter succinctly, 'The goal of education,' he would say, 'is to form the Citizen. And the Citizen is a person who, if need be, can re-found his civilization.'"
Wait a minute, Tim still attributes the quote to Rosenstock-Huessy. (of course, Nancy Nall points out in Slate, both Goeglein and Hart completely misspell his name: it's really Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy). It's Hart who's the one who's egotistically cribbing the intellectual property of a hundred-year old professor. And what's the lesson of this aged scholar? That a person should "re-found his civilization." And, that is exactly what Goeglein did: He found an old Dartmouth Review story and then "re-found" it for a new audience in Indiana. I, for one, think that's exactly what the old professor would have wanted.
Indeed, this whole controversy is indicative of the very faultline that is trembling the base of the Reagan Revolution. The cynical East Coast conservatives, who've reluctantly cast their lot with McCain and give lip-service to the "conservative" ideology, versus the true-red Huckabeeans who would rather lose in November, than win with anything less than ten Antonin Scalia's on the Surpreme Court.
In this context, I don't see Tim as a plagiarist, but rather as a holdover from the Rovian days of the White House who is being purged for the final cleansing year of George W. If Karl Rove was still in the White House, Tim Goeglein would have been promoted, not fired.