From NYT on February 18, 2008: "CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama adapted one of his signature arguments — that his oratory amounts to more than inspiring words — from speeches given by Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts during his 2006 campaign.
At a Democratic Party dinner Saturday in Wisconsin, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, responded to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who has criticized him for delivering smooth speeches but says they do not amount to solutions to the nation’s problems, by ticking through a string of historic references.
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” Mr. Obama said, to applause. “ ‘I have a dream’ — just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words? Just speeches?”
Mr. Patrick employed similar language during his 2006 governor’s race when his Republican rival, Kerry Healey, criticized him as offering lofty rhetoric over specifics. Mr. Patrick has endorsed Mr. Obama, and the two men are close friends.
“ ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words? Just words?” Mr. Patrick said one month before his election. “ ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words? ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words? ‘I have a dream’ — just words?”
In a telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Patrick said that he and Mr. Obama first talked about the attacks from their respective rivals last summer, when Mrs. Clinton was raising questions about Mr. Obama’s experience, and that they discussed them again last week.
Both men had anticipated that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical strength would provide a point of criticism. Mr. Patrick said he told Mr. Obama that he should respond to the criticism, and he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters.
Mr. Patrick said he did not believe Mr. Obama should give him credit.
“Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,” said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned The New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. “It’s a transcendent argument.”
David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama who also advised Mr. Patrick, said Sunday that Mr. Obama adapted the words from Mr. Patrick. Mr. Axelrod said that he did not write the words for either candidate.
“They often riff off one another. They share a world view,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Both of them are effective speakers whose words tend to get requoted and arguments tend to be embraced widely.”
The similarities from a passage of Mr. Obama’s speech on Saturday and in remarks that Mr. Patrick delivered on Oct. 15, 2006, were highlighted by a rival campaign that did not want to be identified. Clips of both speeches are archived on the Web site YouTube.com.
In their fight for the Democratic nomination, Mrs. Clinton has sought to turn one of Mr. Obama’s attributes — his oratory — against him by warning voters that his elevated language does not necessarily mean that he will deliver on his promises. “Speeches don’t put food on the table,” she told voters last week in Ohio, arguing that she offers solutions, not just rhetoric.
As Mr. Obama responded last week, his voice rose several decibels.
“It’s true that speeches don’t solve all problems,” he said. “But what is also true if we cannot inspire the country to believe again, it doesn’t matter how many policies and plans we have.”