Does it really matter if McCain uses Wikipedia?

When news broke this week that part of John McCain’s speech on Russian-Georgian relationships was similar to passages found on the Web-based Wikipedia, you can imagine bloggers and other press would jump on it.

But how big of deal is it, really?

Before the conflict most Americans had never heard of Georgia or if they had, they couldn’t point to it on a map, so is it really a problem that McCain, a four-term U.S. Senator, needed his staff to Google the country for some background. 

John McCain speaks in Denver at a town hall forum in July. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

Newsweek’s Andrew Romano said the gaffe should be overlooked as most every politician at every level has staff doing research on topics and even countries before making important speeches. In light of the Wikipedia incident, Romano said McCain’s only concern should be making sure his speechwriters use more official sources in the future rather than a Web-based encyclopedia that relies on anonymous users to fill its pages.

But other columnists, including Joe Conason, who writes for The New York Observer, have not been so nice to McCain, the former POW who has made his purported expertise in foreign policy the cornerstone of his campaign.

In a piece blasting McCain for the plagiarism episode, Conason said more should be expected from McCain simply because he has made foreign policy such a centerpiece.

The political fallout and impact of the Russian-Georgian conflict on America’s presidential contest has yet to be totally seen. But it’s fair to say McCain, and his speechwriters, won’t be using Wikipedia in the near future.

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