Man Without Qualities

Friday, September 13, 2002

Janet Reno Unbound

The State of Florida has turned down Janet Reno's request for a recount, despite reports of possibly extensive errors in the voting process.

If she has learned anything from her years in the Clinton administrations, she will now pull out all the stops and challenge the Democratic primary results in Florida courts and in the court of public opinion - and she will pay no heed whatsoever to any damage this might do to the Democratic Party. In fact, she should be especially willing to engage in activities that inflict the maximal damage on her own Party. Why? Because she, personally, has nothing to lose - and she can trade a credible threat to demolish the Democrats for some serious personal benefits.

Janet Reno was born on July 21, 1938. She is 64 years old. This is therefore her last opportunity for an elected office she might want to hold. But if she concedes, she has failed - and she's on her own. But if she challenges the results, she has some chance of upsetting her opponent's victory.

The Florida Supreme Court squarely demonstrated in the 2000 Presidential election mess that it cares not a bit about anybody's concept of Florida election law. That court is completely partisan and result-driven. If the individual justices who sit on that court personally voted for Janet Reno in the primary, they may find a way to appoint her the Democratic nominee if the case comes before that bench. Ms. Reno should keep in mind that the absence of judicial integrity of the Florida Supreme Court is a wildcard in any court challenge to the primary results, and potentially a major asset for her. Even if that court would not ultimately side with her, the court's history of political opportunism creates a serious uncertainty that she can exploit for her own ends. Where there is uncertainty there is opportunity.

She should challenge the results in court. Then, before the Florida Supreme court rules on the matter, she can strike a back-room deal with the Florida or national Democratic establishment to concede the primary in exchange for some serious personal benefits. Perhaps she can obtain an influential appointment in the Democratic Party from Terry McAuliffe, the head of the national Democratic Party and the Clintons' current spokesperson. Perhaps some Democratic-leaning investment bank will make her vice-chairman at a high salary despite her complete absence of qualifications for such a role - just as Al Gore accomplished. But she should let her imagination take her where it may. These are her salad days.

Ms. Reno should have learned from the Clintons the wisdom of trading on the Democratic Party's fortunes without remorse to advance her own. After all, Bill and Hillary Clinton liquidated the Party's decades-long dominance of Congress in 1994. In 1996 Mr. Clinton gained re-election by "triangulating" away from the Congressional Democratic Party. And, of course, Mr. Clinton's own oval office self-indulgences with his intern may very well have been the deciding factor in costing the Democratic Party the White House in 2000 - where Mr. Gore should have won in a walk on the basis of the long-term prosperity of the Clinton years.

Ms. Reno should follow suit and ignore the nay-sayers who counsel that she not challenge the legitimacy of her opponent's win. Instead, she should challenge that legitimacy in every available forum. She should pay no heed whatsoever to naive suggestions that she do what is "best for the Party". That Party long ago chose the Clinton way, and she is entitled to play by those rules. There is no reason she should play the chump just to serve the interests of Mr. McAuliffe (nee Clinton).

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