Tuesday, 8 November 2016


I've written an obituary of Janet Reno for the Guardian, you can link to it here; it will be in the paper paper soon. I wrote it quickly under deadline pressure (1,200 words in two hours) so it was trimmed considerably, for the most part additional details about the cases I discuss, or background information.
For example, her loss in the 1972 state house election was largely the result of Richard Nixon's landslide win at the top of the Republican ticket. Occasionally there are conclusions I drew that were left out: she might not have fallen victim to a 'glass ceiling' for women when she was turned down by Miami' top law firm, but I find it hard to believe that wasn't the case.

Obviously Whitewater or the Siege of Waco require a lot of explaining. I had already cut references to current events: Whitewater and the origins of the 'crooked Hillary' myth; Waco and the Cliven Bundy affair, in which heavily armed rebels become right wing heroes as they stand down the government.

Her loss in the 2002 gubernatorial primrary to Bill McBride I had explained in more detail as well. McBride was seen as a more liberal alternative, but the primary was marred by contested results that I thought provided an eerie echo of Jeb Bush's attempts to deliver Florida to his brother two years earlier.

In the end Reno is a fascinating character, and her parents are a big part of that: one gets the sense that she is an amalgam of both, with her mother's more practical down to earth nature winning out. Janet Reno seems to be someone with both compassion and a strong moral compass, but with a degree of inflexibility which oddly helped her survive the Clinton years, where many more malleable politicians failed.

I didn't use a quote which Reno often repeated, advice from a mentor in Florida politics, John Orr: "don't equivocate, don't pussyfoot, don't talk out of both sides of your mouth, and you'll wake up the next morning feeling pretty good about yourself."

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