Plagiarism charges fly in Bush memoir controversy

Did George W. Bush lift passages from elsewhere in composing his memoir "Decision Points"?

Peter Kramer/AP
A Huffington Post blog charges that in his memoir "Decision Points" Bush "lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections."

Former president George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" is "a mash-up of worn-out anecdotes from previously published memoirs written by his subordinates," says Ryan Grim in a piece for the Huffington Post. It's hardly the first time that a politician-author has been accused of churning out a compendium of less-than-fresh material.

But these charges go a bit beyond the ordinary. Grim says that Bush "lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections," borrowing from "nonfiction books about his presidency or newspaper or magazine articles from the time." What it adds up to for Grim is an indictment of Bush's character: "He's too lazy to write his own memoir," Grim charges.

To substantiate his claims, Grim offers a list of Bush "borrowings" from sources such as journalist Bob Woodward's book "Bush at War," a piece by Ahmed Rashid in the The New York Review of Books, a Washington Post interview with John McCain, and the memoir "American Soldier" by Gen. Tommy Franks.

How significant are these borrowings? How you see the issue may depend on your view of Bush himself. While many in the press – in the US and beyond – seem to view the similarities between Bush's words and those of others as at least significant enough to report on, there are of course Bush supporters who insist that it is inevitable, and not even very surprising given the very public nature of the material, that Bush would – intentionally or unintentionally – repeat some of the stories also told by his advisers.

And then, just to remind all of us how prevalent charges of plagiarism are on all sides these days, conservative blogger and media star Dana Loesch points out that Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington has faced plagiarism charges of her own.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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