Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Press Interview on ABC-TV Chicago Sotomayor and Burris is a civics and serious public relations (or public affairs) lesson on the nature of candidates for nomination of any government post. I won't agree with a colleague who lavishly praised the President as "trying to be the perfect President" with his appointment of Sotomayor (a professor should be less effusive), but I credit the President with a choice he wants and the experience that may make it hard to reject unless contradictions come to light. Like Robert Bork who was rejected by the Senate on Oct. 23, 1987 (he was one of 36 Supreme Court nominations rejected since 1789); Judge Sotomayor has a long, notable record of written work and opinions developed over many career years. The New Haven Firefighter case is only the most recent controversial case that could haunt her. Most policy decision makers including business leaders have acted, spoken or written something over a long career of decision-making that may seem inconsistent 20 years later. Bork, as a young assistant law professor, wrote about ideas and research that came back to haunt him many, many years later. The process if vetting a Supreme Court Justice for a lifetime appointment, like the process of granting tenure to a university professor, is arduous, detailed, biased and not always fair. Between May 2009 and August 2009, the process is a great civics lesson for visiting international students, for the proverbial 6th grader and for voting adults who need to be reminded that this appointment is not a tabloid topic in US magazine for a week.

Senator Burris (D. IL) is on the roasting spit again. While it is always difficult to fill in the words between the recorded "umms, ahs, you know, that thing, yes, OK, then" etc. the Senator's words over the phone with the former Governor's brother will be parsed carefully. Having edited a book on mergers and acquisitions for Prentice-Hall many years ago (1992). I know that it is very hard to make sense out of spoken speeches and panel comments. We don't speak in complete sentences or even speak with complete thoughts. Still, the Senator should find a meaningful project to keep him busy during this last year as a U.S. Senator and step aside for a open election of reform candidates. Burris is the old guard. He is "not as bad as some" but what kind of a recommendation is that for a U.S. Senator? Unlike the considered conclusion of Richard Edelman that dull may be a good trait for a CEO; the press, public, pundits and others run with sharp knives that must keep public figures sharp as well. I would proffer that most CEOs of public companies are "public figures" too like Judge Sotomayor and Senator Burris. The CEO's may not like the comparison, but their desire to be green, to be diverse, use public funds, to be trusted all demand a public persona and actions.

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