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The making of a public man.

The Making of a Public Man.

The Making of a Public Man. Sol M. Linowitz. Little, Brown, $19.95. Sol Linowitz is a lawyer with a good resume. In his spare time, he's worked for five U.S. presidents, in jobs ranging from associate general counsel in the Office of Price Administration to, more recently, President Carter's special representative to the Panama Canal Treaty and Middle East peace negotiations. He helped build a small company in the unknown field of electrography into the international corporation, Xerox.

Unfortunately, having an impressive resume doesn't mean you can tell an interesting story. It is unclear why Linowitz wrote this book, for most of the important events he describes have been covered more interestingly elsewhere. Only in a desultory and limited way does Linowitz discuss the attitudes, values, and experiences that motivated him to devote so much time to public service. For example, while proclaiming a deep involvement in Judaism, he doesn't reveal in any detail the effect of his faith on his life.

What is interesting about the book, and about the author's life, is the manner in which experience in government and business complement each other. During his wartime stint in the Office of Price Administration, Linowitz hammered out rent control policies and renegotiated contracts with government suppliers. He used this government experience when he moved over to Xerox, where he negotiated the intricate licensing of xerography patents. In turn, as the key actor in setting up Xerox International, Linowitz's globe-trotting proved valuable for his role as ambassador-at-large for Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter.

Negotiation is what Linowitz does best, showing skill and discretion when bargaining with tough statesmen such as Menachem Begin of Israel and Omar Torrijos of Panama. The best chapters of the book, in fact, are the ones covering the negotiation and ratification of the Panama Canal treaties and his meetings with Begin and Sadat. In the chapter on the Panama Canal treaties, Linowitz gives an insider's description of the frustrating negotiating strategy of the Panamanian representatives--rude and discouraging one day, open and conciliatory the next. The process was further complicated, says Linowitz, by the fragile machismo of General Torrijos who, if not for soothing phone calls from President Carter during Senate debate on the treaties, might have tabled the entire agreement because of the harsh criticism directed at him and his regime.

For all his participation in "the passion and action of his time,' Linowitz fails to explain what draws a person into public life. What special skills does it require? Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that one who has been relentlessly successful in both the private and public sectors may be more a man of action than reflection.
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Copyright 1986, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:McMahan, Vance
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1986
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