Did Melania go rogue?

It appears official, and I can see how this could be the source of rumors that it has put the marriage in hot-water jeopardy.  She's reportedly upset, he's angry, and no fingers can be pointed within the campaign.

I feel sorry for Melania, as she has always been in an uncomfortable position.  It is being reported that Melania Trump circumvented her husband's campaign speechwriters when preparing the text that dominated a days news cycle.  Here is what the N.Y. Times reported. 

It was Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, who commissioned the speech from Mr. Scully and Mr. McConnell — and praised their draft. But Ms. Trump decided to revise it, and at one point she turned to a trusted hand: Meredith McIver, a New York City-based former ballet dancer and English major who has worked on some of Mr. Trump’s books, including “Think Like a Billionaire.”

It was not clear how much of a hand Ms. McIver had in the final product, and she did not respond to an email on Tuesday.

Research for the speech, it seems, drew them to the previous convention speeches delivered by candidates’ spouses.

The Trump campaign declined to say who or how many senior campaign officials read or reviewed the speech. But when Ms. Trump and her staff had finished revising the speech, virtually all that remained from the original was an introduction and a passage that included the phrase “a national campaign like no other.”

The above matches what Paul Manafort has said in more candid moments Tuesday to other news agencies about the text being Melania's and not the campaign's.  It also explains why no one will be fired from the campaign.  This error happened within the Trump household, not the campaign. 

There were other flaws in the speech that made it seem amateurish.  Instead of sprinkling the address with smart anecdotes about life with her husband to show what he is really like, the speech merely strung together lot of adjectives to describe him.  Thus, while it was effective in making Melania sympathetic to a wider audience, it was likely to be less effective in changing perceptions of her husband.  This was in contrast with the more personal speech of Tiffany Trump on Tuesday night, which did follow the traditional convention speech template of using anecdotes to humanize her father.

Then there was the unfortunate use of a cliché phrase that seemed drawn from one of the most insipid hits of the 1980s, Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."  That oldie was revived a few years back as part of an internet prank called rickrolling, a provocatively worded clickbait phrase that links to a YouTube video to plant the earbug song in an unsuspecting reader's head.  Tuesday afternoon, the internet was abuzz with the question: did Melania Trump rickroll America? 

Apparently not, but Merideth McIver apparently did the wife of her one time collaborator no favor.  According to publisher Simon & Schuster, McIver was the ghostwriter for three of Donald Trump's books on how to get rich published between 2004 to 2009.  Amazon.com also shows McIver as the ghostwriter on two more Trump books published during that period by Wiley, as well as an audiobook collaboration with other businessmen released by Simon & Schuster.  All of McIver's published books appear to have been for Donald Trump.  

Here is what an experienced, political speechwriter had to say about what professionals do to avoid such embarrassment. [Link to software provider added.]

“It’s like some guy trying to paddle across a river in a rowboat who shoots a hole in his boat,” said Stuart Stevens, who wrote speeches for Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, throughout the 2012 campaign.

In interviews, alarmed Republican speechwriters outlined the layers of formal scrutiny, apparently disregarded by the Trump campaign, traditionally applied to almost every draft of a major convention address. They described word-by-word fact-checking by a dedicated team of experts and computer software designed to catch plagiarism. Several online programs, like DupliChecker, are available at no cost.

“It’s pretty standard,” Mr. Stevens said of the software, which detects overlap in word choice and sentence structure. “We used it.”

An urgent priority: avoiding the slightest hint of oratorical theft.

While the list of similar acts of political plagiarism is long and bipartisan, three factors made this error particularly memorable.  One, it was the first exposure many Americans had to the somewhat reticent Melania Trump.  Within a couple of hours of the speech, the story changed forever from how Melania Trump's more humble demeanor and her delivery style were in positive contrast to that of the foreign-born and arrogant Teresa Heinz Kerry in 2004 to ridicule over the plagiarism.  Two, the passages involved the themes of honesty and integrity, which made the error both more newsworthy and less sympathetic.  And three, the text was lifted from the speech of an African-American Democrat rather than from a speech of the spouse of a Republican nominee.  Thus, it needlessly infuriated and energized some Democrats.

This was an entirely unforced error that has to have the Trump campaign professionals pulling their hair out, as it was readily preventable.