Third Time Charmed?

February 12, 1993

President Clinton said yesterday that Janet Reno was on his attorney general list from the start. Listening to him describe her attributes it was difficult to understand why she was passed over for Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood. Far more than either of them, she has had the kind of experience the head of the Department of Justice needs.

To begin with, she is a prosecutor. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Ms. Baird during her confirmation hearings, this crime-ridden, crime-obsessed country wants the Justice Department to lead the fight on crime. Not only is Ms. Reno a prosecutor, she is one who has been in the trenches of the sort of crime that is most threatening to America -- urban violence and drug trafficking. Miami's vice is that it is the nation's major cocaine-import center, with all the street crime that this generates.

Ms. Reno has been involved in that fight for 15 years. She was appointed to the job originally, but has been elected and re-elected. She has had some severe criticism, from both the black and Cuban-American communities, both of which have found themselves in incendiary conflict at times, but she has overcome that with personal campaigning and a solid record of integrity and lack of bias. Even her critics will believe her (P statement yesterday that she plans to put civil-rights law enforcement back where it was before the Reagan-Bush era.

She is also believable when she talks about her commitment to using the law to help children. In addition to fighting street criminals, she has been a high-profile prosecutor of deadbeat dads. In fact, there is a popular rap song entitled "Janet Reno," extolling her child support efforts.

Being the first woman attorney general carries with it a burden. Ms. Reno is at least partly prepared for that. She was the first woman state attorney in Florida. She has proven in her years in the job to be a good enough politician not only to win elections but also to win support from governors and state legislators of both parties. She will need that same talent in Washington: Much of her time -- way too much -- will be spent on Capitol Hill.

An attorney general is also an administrative officer. To go from Dade County state attorney to this office is quite a leap. But not too great a leap. Ms. Reno has been overseeing a staff and budget far in excess of anything that either Ms. Baird at Aetna Life & Casualty or Judge Wood managed. Dade's is one of the largest such government law offices in the nation. The county's population is nearly half again greater than Manhattan's. The staff Ms. Reno has been in charge of is more than double the size of the state's attorney's offices in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

We hope no surprises derail this nomination, for her sake, the president's, the Justice Department's and, most of all, the nation's. At this early stage, it appears as though Mr. Clinton's third try may turn out to be charmed.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.