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Melania plagiarism outrage will backfire

Melania Trump
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
Melania Trump

The Clinton campaign and its supporters are going to soon regret all of the phony outrage over Melania Trump's copying of 2-3 sentences last night from Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. You know that because politics fosters more plagiarism than a college creative writing class filled with members of the men's lacrosse team. And you know that before you even need to Google the phrase "Hillary Clinton and Plagiarism," you're going to find something. In fact, you're going to find something good.

Okay, I'll do it for you. Sure enough when I did that I found a few stories from a long time ago, five whole months to be exact. In February, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his supporters caught Clinton stealing the lines he had been using throughout his campaign. There were many lines to be exact, but the particular stanza was: "this country belongs to all of us, not just those at the top." And: "Wall Street can never be allowed to threaten Main Street again. No bank can be too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail."

Sanders was mostly good-natured about it when he went on a few news programs after Clinton started cribbing those lines and chuckled a bit as he shouted, "we're looking into the copyright issues because she's stealing our lines!" The Sanders campaign was a little less sanguine about the continued plagiarism when Clinton copied those lines again after her win in the Nevada primary in March. Many of his supporters remain livid. They even created a special Twitter hashtag #StealTheBern to register their scorn.

In 2007, Clinton was caught stealing lines from Bill Clinton's speeches, (yeah, the ones he gets paid so much to deliver), when she started talking about how the Republicans were creating "invisible Americans" ignored by the government. That story came to light at the same time then-candidate Barack Obama was caught lifting key sentences from speeches delivered by then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. And some people may remember how then-presidential candidate Joe Biden's blatant and frequent plagiarism not only forced him out of the 1988 race, but also got him in serious trouble as a law student years before that.

In politics, everyone plagiarizes. That does not excuse the Melania Trump speech gaffe. But it's also inexcusably foolish for any campaign to make an issue out of it when every campaign and candidate is almost always guilty of much more frequent and serious plagiarism. Now, Trump and his supporters have a golden opportunity to remind everyone of Clinton's "copying problem" and they can direct that right at the Sanders supporters they're trying to win over. None of that would be possible without the partisan and over-hyped uproar about a speech no one was prepared to remember or talk about anyway.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.