Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Should Jay Say?

As the fast-moving story about the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich soaks up the news coverage for the day, politicians everywhere have got to be shaking their heads -- and then quickly considering how to react.
It's no surprise that politicians outside Illinois aren't jumping in front of a microphone or shooting out a press release to have their say. To be fair, the President-elect just made his first public comments. So you can't blame anyone for not reacting immediately.
For our incoming Governor, the question then becomes, could this be a moment of assertiveness, clarity and leadership. Democratic lawmakers have already announced they want to pursue aggressive ethics reform legislation. Is this a moment that Gov.-elect Nixon should capitalize on?
One smart politico e-mailed me to say that Nixon should turn this bordering state embarrassment into an advantage. Public officials, after all, do have a responsibility to step up and call out when their colleagues break their position of trust. Blagojevich is part of the reason people have become more jaded about public service and government.
This politico, who asked not to be named, said he would give Nixon this advice: "Nixon should say this conduct is unacceptable, reassure people that this conduct will never happen in his administration and demand a resignation. Doing so would allow him to shine. If I were advising him I would use this as an opportunity to propose ethics reform and make sure Missourians know that he is a different type of politician. It shows leadership to criticize someone from the same party."
So while no one will blame Nixon if he stays as far away from this as possible, there may be an opportunity for him to show his political independence and a bit of chutzpah weeks before he takes office.
Call it taking lemons and making lemonade.

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