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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Leadership, not lawyer-ship

In deciding how to treat and try terrorists, Attorney General Eric Holder insisted on insulating his department from political considerations but was forced to retreat because of public outcry. What leadership lessons should he draw upon in trying to balance the sometimes-conflicting demands of legal legitimacy and political legitimacy?

One of the main lessons of leadership is that the person in charge must consider the constituency he serves. The attorney general of the United States is not just some lawyer in private practice. When he makes his decisions, no matter how big or small the matter, he has to balance legal legitimacy with political legitimacy. In that sense, I question the premise of the question, which assumes an either-or kind of conflict. I don't see it that way; I view it as a balance that must be maintained.

As attorney general, Eric Holder occupies a high public office. He serves both the Constitution of the United States and the American people. One doesn't supersede the other. He is accountable to both. So it doesn't make sense for him to pursue an issue strictly from the angle of legal legitimacy. The Constitution is indeed the pillar of our government and our society, but we must also bear in mind that it's a document of, by, and for the people.

Attorney General Holder has done some backtracking from his previous positions on how to treat and try terrorists, and I'm glad to see he's apparently giving it more thought. These events don't take place in a vacuum. He should have considered the political issue from the beginning. That's what a leader is supposed to do: consider all the potential ramifications of an action before he moves ahead.

By Yash Gupta

 |  February 16, 2010; 10:11 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Politics IS the 'right thing' | Next: Our wrong-headed politics

Comments

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Dean Gupta,

Where you hiding from 2001-2008? Bush and his DOJ were trashing the Constitution and thumbing their nose to the World Courts, while Legal Scholars like yourself, turned your heads, and looked the other way.

Now you've decided to grow a Mouth, and speak out against the Obama Department of Justice. Does the word HYPOCRITE, ring a bell?

Posted by: austininc4 | February 16, 2010 6:23 PM
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Dean Gupta,

Where you hiding from 2001-2008? Bush and his DOJ were trashing the Constitution and thumbing their nose to the World Courts, while Legal Scholars like yourself, turned your heads, and looked the other way.

Now you've decided to grow a Mouth, and speak out against the Obama Department of Justice. Does the word HYPOCRITE, ring a bell?

Posted by: austininc4 | February 16, 2010 6:22 PM
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This view albeit scholarly, makes no sense. It is dripping with a failed attempt at Political correctness for an assumed audience. The same audience that was silent while the Bush administration tried terrorist in New York civilian courts. So why would the attorney general not feel safe following the same course of action? Absolutely nothing has changed since the Bush Administration tried terrorist in Civilian court, Nothing! If we have to consider political ramifications for terrorist then we have lost the War. All Americans should want Justice to be swift and severe for those plotting against our Democracy and it's peoples. There was more outrage from outside of New York than within. The people most affected by 911 were for it. But who cares what they think. There are better ways to brown nose don't you think?

Posted by: minco_007 | February 16, 2010 2:36 PM
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