Janet Reno on Principles & Values
Former Attorney General; Democratic Challenger FL Governor
On January 16, Attorney General Reno wrote a letter to the three-judge oversight panel recommending that Starr be allowed to expand his investigations to the Lewinsky matter and possible obstruction of justice. We later learned that Reno's recommendation was based on incomplete and false information provided to her by the OIC.
Reno stood firm at a hurriedly called news conference after the vote. She said she was still reviewing the memos, both concluding that the law requires her to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor. She had refused in the past to take such a step, but she said she is considering it again with “an open mind.” Reno said last week that she wanted three more weeks to study the matter, but there were reports last night that she is working on a 30-day deadline, set by law. Whatever the decision, Reno said, “I stand for a very important principle: Prosecutions in America must be free of political influence.”
Really, there’s no easy way to describe a woman who is devoid of affect, who throws out a negative force field as she sits. It’s brilliant. You can see how she rope-a-dopes Congress. She is not glib. She doesn’t feel the need to help, conversationally. She deflates her own accomplishments at the same time as she’s deflating conversation. She reveals that she buys her blue dresses from a catalogue - the attorney general, a catalogue shopper-but won’t say which one. Wouldn’t want publicity. As for the rustic, up-from-the-Everglades myth, she thought it was a “hoot,” she says.
They had read all her clippings, reviewed her tax returns, and questioned he extensively about the fact that she was still single at age 50. She smiled and said, "No one ever passed my mother's potato test."
"Can you explain?" they asked.
"My mother said, 'Janet, you'll know you're in love when your heart goes potato, potato, potato.' I just haven't found a man who makes my heart feel that way yet."
The vetting committee's worry was that she was "too clean." She had no debt, bought cars at sticker price so the dealer wouldn't be doing her a favor, and still lived in her family home. Her conviction rate as a prosecutor was normal, she had run for office several times and been elected by the multiethnic Miami citizenry.
Reno entered the fray when a White House lawyer seemed to sidestep Reno by going directly to the FBI to request an investigation of the travel office. Congressional Republicans accused the White House of a blatant attempt to politicize the FBI. This was hardly another Watergate, although improper use of the FBI was a serious matter.
Reno repeatedly denied a feud with the White House. After the initial brouhaha, both the White House and Reno were forced to admit to overreaction. Reno was embarrassed, too, when it turned out that she had, in fact, been informed by the FBI that it was responding to a White House call.
The mea culpas came too late for deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. On July 20, Foster committed suicide.
[After the Waco attack], Reno’s popularity skyrocketed. Reno hit a peak after her interview with Tabitha Soren on MTV. When Soren asked Reno about her post-Waco surge in the polls, Reno replied somberly, “The tragedy of Waco will live with me for the rest of my life. And it hurts me that people should judge popularity on that.”
Soren asked, “Do you understand why you were a hero on that awful day?” Reno answered, “I think people desperately want people to take responsibility, and I don’t think any of us understood how much the American people want that to happen.”
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