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Is it okay to copy a good idea?

Posted by: Diane Brady on March 27, 2008

I just got an e-mail from Hillary Clinton’s press office, alleging that Barack Obama copied her “second stimulus” package. He, too, called for a $30 billion package AFTER she did. As Clinton policy director Neera Tanden complained: “If Senator Obama has to copy policy ideas when he’s a candidate on the campaign trail, how is he going to solve people’s problems if he’s president? When it comes to fixing the economy, we need leadership, not followership.”

It reminded me of a moment in the 1998 movie, Primary Colors, where the Jack Stanton character (John Travolta in a terrific impersonation of Bill Clinton) talks about refusing to walk away from a good idea just because he didn’t think of it first. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is campaigning at least in part on the legacy of her husband’s ideas and policies during the 1990s.

Let’s take the two candidates at face value and assume for the moment that a $30 billion package is a good idea. If so, is it critical to figure out who came up with the number first? I’m not sure. While companies value originality in their leaders, they should place judgment as a higher priority. If $30 billion is what’s needed, then both leaders should be out there to explain why.

At this juncture in the delegate race, I understand why this is the stuff of press releases. From a business point of view, I just don’t find myself agreeing with the outrage expressed on the Clinton side. What do you think?

Reader Comments


March 27, 2008 3:42 PM

When it comes to political races, logic went out the window a long time ago. Akin to basketball, Clinton is down to the last minute of the game and is fouling the other team in hopes of getting the ball and making three pointers.

Garland Walton

March 27, 2008 5:10 PM

I work for a Stamford CT human services nonprofit supporting our region's most vulnerable children and their families."Stealing from the best" is one of our favorite taglines--we adopt ideas that are working elsewhere without shame. When it comes to helping people, it only matters what you get done, not whose idea it was. I think that concept translates into public service too.

Garland Walton
Domus |

Wally Bock

March 28, 2008 6:02 PM

Politics doesn't just make strange bedfellows. It also makes insane behavior normal. Where else but during an election campaign would you find a person angry that their good idea was picked up by someone else? Personally, if it's a good idea for the country, I don't care who thought of it first.

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