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We live in an age of blow-dried, face lifted, hair transplanted and botoxed politicians, who poll their way to their opinions and whose fingers are in the wind when not up some other places I can’t mention in a family column. Well, on Sept. 10, Florida Democrats are going to be able to choose their party’s candidate for governor. And that person will face First Sibling Jeb Bush in the general election in November.
One of these Democratic choices is former United States Attorney General Janet Reno. She is an American original, the type of politician this country hasn’t seen for a very long time: absolutely incorruptible, deeply principled and with ruggedly independent judgment. Anyone who doubts this should take one look at her enemies.
How many politicians would ever put principle over self-interest in confronting Florida’s large and influential Cuban-American community over the return of Elian? One doesn’t have to agree with her conclusions to admire her courage in enforcing common-sense child custody law under the most trying circumstances. (Some of my right-wing readers may want to consider how things look when the shoe is on the other foot, as it currently is for those children of American mothers currently being held in Saudi Arabia.)
Florida has one of the most liberal right-to-carry firearms laws in the United States. Janet Reno however, will not pander to the gun-control lobby. She is unabashedly in favor of gun control because she believes that it’s right, not because it will attract blood votes and blood money. Again, one doesn’t have to agree with every detail of her position to admire her courage.
Even after the disastrous episode at Waco, Janet Reno did not run away or resort to the usual evasions of politicians to duck responsibility. She stood up, appeared before Congress and took responsibility. How easy it would have been to slough the blame onto the shoulders of the incompetent bureaucrats who ran the siege. But that’s not Janet Reno’s style. She knows where the buck stops. Or, as a friend of mine in the Navy once put it, “When you’re in command, command.”
There’s also a lot to be learned about Reno by looking at her friends. She’s been endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, (Florida’s second largest union with 110,000 members state wide). Moreover, Reno’s also been endorsed by the United Auto Workers which has 27,000 active and retired Florida members. Also standing tall with Janet is the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades with nearly 25,000 active and retired members in Florida. The real point is that many working-class Americans have concluded that Janet Reno merits the corner office in Tallahassee.
Not wishing to disappoint my right-wing friends, I must also note that Reno has been endorsed by the women they love to hate: the National Women’s Political Caucus, Florida Chapter as well as Emily’s List. Even the president has endorsed Janet Reno – no, not George W. Bush, but Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlett on the TV show “West Wing.” Other celebrity endorsements include John Goodman and Elton John.
Admittedly, celebrity endorsements are just so much fluff. But what really charges Reno is issues. She lists education as her first priority, and well she should. Under the non-leadership of the First Sibling, Florida has a dismal 56 percent high-school graduation rate. No surprise, perhaps, given the fact that Brother Bush has cut some $600 million from the education budget. And continuing in the best tradition of Bill Clinton, Reno has made health care another top priority. This is especially important in a state where the elderly comprise a large percent of the population.
The American writer Ambrose Bierce once said that, “Applause is the echo of a platitude.” Reno doesn’t always get applause. But then she’s not one for mere platitudes.