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by
Mike McNally

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April 20, 2012 - 10:06 am

Bryan posted earlier on the hysterical reaction of Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher to Mitt Romney’s use of the slogan “Obama Isn’t Working” for one of his campaign websites. Christopher claims the words evoke racial stereotypes about “shiftless” black men.

As Bryan noted, only a race-obsessed liberal would look at the slogan and divine a meaning other than that which is clearly intended: that Obama’s policies aren’t working for America, and that large numbers of people are unemployed as a consequence.

But something Christopher failed to mention in his rant was that Romney was simply borrowing an entirely appropriate and highly effective message that helped former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 general election and throw out James Callaghan’s Labour government, which like the Obama administration had presided over rising unemployment.

The brilliantly simple slogan appeared on a poster devised by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which depicted a queue of people outside an unemployment benefits office (the Romney campaign has borrowed that picture too, but I’d suggest they update it with one that includes plenty of young people and minorities for maximum effect). The ad was voted poster of the century in 1999.

Christopher also didn’t mention that the Romney campaign explained the inspiration for ‘Obama Isn’t Working’ when it first rolled out the website last year. (He posted an update after the fact was brought to his attention, snarkily calling the Romney campaign’s explanation ‘elaborate’ when it was perfectly straightforward; it’s Christopher who’s being elaborate).

The fact that Romney openly acknowledged the provenance of the phrase stands in stark contrast to the behavior of Joe Biden. Biden, you may remember, ripped off whole chunks of a speech by Neil Kinnock, who as leader of the Labour party was Thatcher’s nemesis for a decade.

Kinnock lost elections to Thatcher in 1987 and 1992, and Biden’s plagiarism helped put paid to his presidential ambitions in 1987. The lesson would seem to be: if you’re going to borrow someone’s idea, make sure you borrow a winning one.

*I’d love to get into the semantics of the original Thatcher slogan, and discuss how the words ‘Labour’ and ‘Working’ were cleverly employed as homonyms. However, I fear Christopher would accuse me of homophobia.

Mike McNally is a journalist based in Bath, England. He posts at PJ Tatler and at his own blog Monkey Tennis, and tweets at @notoserfdom. When he's not writing about politics he writes about Photoshop.
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