Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) greatest strengths as a politician, outside of his personal appearance, are his likability and authenticity. The former took a hit last week with a cheap shot at his leading Democratic challenger. The latter took a hit yesterday.

In an online message to students, the Republican senator reflected on his upbringing and shared memories of the lessons he learned from his family. “I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference,” Brown said. “From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe.”

The problem is, all of this was lifted verbatim from a speech Elizabeth Dole delivered nearly a decade ago. (thanks to C.H. for the tip)

In a message to students, the Massachusetts senator uses the exact words as remarks delivered by the former North Carolina senator at her campaign kickoff in 2002. […]

Aside from the omission of an opening line — “I am Mary and John Hanford’s daughter” — in Dole’s speech, the Bay State Republican’s language is the same throughout.

The senator’s staff pulled the message yesterday and said the plagiarism was the result of “staff level oversight.” That’s a plausible enough explanation — had Brown personally delivered a speech with Dole’s words, this would be far more problematic.

But with Elizabeth Warren hot on the senator’s heels, Brown looking like a jerk last week, and the senator rejecting a popular jobs bill this week, a plagiarism controversy probably isn’t what the Republican lawmaker wanted to deal with right now.

Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge 21st Century, which uncovered the story, said, “This kind of plagiarism makes me wonder how many things about Scott Brown are really genuine…. The fact that he can’t come up with a personal values statement of his own, that he has to steal someone else’s, I think is very instructive of what kind of politician he is.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.