When a presidential candidate's wife, known for stumbling though broken English, gets on stage and plagiarizes a speech, the most important thing to say about her plagiarism is that it probably isn't her plagiarism. In fact, she probably wasn't aware that the speech she had given had already been given. Her job, if she really was more than slightly involved in it, was to simply approve what was written, and then read it to the public.
Trump's campaign refused to admit this. Hostile pundits on both sides, assuming this was only another instance of his unwillingness to apologize, went after Melania as though she was not only too dumb to deliver a good speech, but that she was too proud to deny it was stolen. She stood her ground and took a beating.
I believe the real reason Trump and Melania never personally admitted to the plagiarism is because no politician feels comfortable blaming his speech-writer. And beneath all the reluctance to just come out and say it is a fear of accidentally coming out of the closet. An admission that your speech writer plagiarized is not an admission that your speech writer plagiarized. It's an admission that you are not who you represent yourself to be. It's a confession that all the things you said, the things you took credit for, the image you'd so finely polished, was not actually your image; and the thoughts you won the public with were not even your thoughts. At the bottom of it, the terror of telling the truth insists something much deeper than plagiarism -- and especially in a campaign which prides itself on speaking from the gut*. It's the end of the American charade, the belief that our Presidents and their wives are actually interesting and inspiring, and the beginning of the realization that everything we know about politics is probably a well-packaged lie.
It's been said that Ronald Reagan was probably the last of our actual leaders; and I think anyone who has heard the speeches he personally wrote and delivered before he became the president, will admit that when we voted for Ronald Reagan, we got what we deserved. But now we are not only getting something much different. Now we're not exactly sure what we're getting. The hordes of publicists and speech writers, existing for the sole purpose of manipulating the public and trying to get us to ignore who our leaders really are, feed us line after corny line of manufactured, poll-calculated rhetoric, hoping to make us fall in love with a figment of a person; while our leaders, barely keeping from stumbling over themselves, and perhaps not even aware of the geniuses whose descendants they claim to champion, make decisions we expected them to understand, but which they are apparently incapable of properly and inspiringly explaining.
There is something to be argued for this state of affairs. Why, we might ask, should our leaders spend their time on rhetoric and speeches, when they could be worried about running the country? It's true that the best man for the job may not always be the most charming man for the job; and we might even argue that the specialization of rhetoric permits us to pick better administrators. We might even say that it matters less whether a man wrote anything than whether he agrees with it. But this is to argue backwardly. The reason men are inspiring is only because of their vision. We choose men to lead us because we think they can take us wherever we want them to go -- and a true leader will always make us want to go somewhere we may not have thought of without him. The choosing of men without speeches doesn't mean that we'll fill up their speeches with masses of extraneous words. It means we'll be filling our leaders with extraneous souls. Our speech-writing isn't even so crass as to be plagiarism. It's an admission that Americans are not only uninterested in honesty, but that they aren't even interested in being led by great people.
*The popularity of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, quite possibly the two most genuinely stupid** people to ever be anywhere near the presidential office, may be explained less by an American fear of greatness, and more by an American fear of fakeness. But even more comical than our preference of dumbness to dishonesty is our unreasonable preference for outsiders over insiders. We believe, somehow, that the solution to American stagnation is to pick someone who's a stranger to the system. What we've forgotten is that every purchased politician, everyone who ever broke a promise to us, everyone we've ever blamed for being an insider, was originally an outsider.
**UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 5th, 2020: I now no longer believe Donald Trump is stupid. His actions are speaking louder than his words. He brought our attention to our main enemy -- China. He finds ways around bureaucracy that require knowledge of policy and quick on-the-fly thinking. In nearly every respect he's proved himself full of common sense, and good old-fashioned American patriotism. He's stood by us during the pandemic, and refused to shut the red states down. I hated the man and now I love him. I leave the old derogatory comments in to show how I've grown -- and how much Trump has grown on me.