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Janet Reno, Attorney General during the Clinton Administration, has passed away at 78.
California Insurance Commissioner David Jones recalls Reno as “an extraordinary public servant” who was “incredibly accessible to the public.” According to Commissioner Jones, Janet Reno called attorneys “to make sure she was getting all the facts” and her guiding principle was to “do the right thing.” Her record suggests otherwise.
In April, 1993, Reno gave the go-ahead for the deployment of two Abrams M1A tanks, powerful weapons of war, against the compound of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. Seventy-six people perished in the ensuing inferno, including 23 children. As Anthony Gregory noted on the tenth anniversary, the raid “had government malice written all over it,” with tanks, artillery and CS gas pumped into the compound and the FBI firing machine guns at escapees. None of the arguments for the deadly raid stands up, and Reno maintained a pattern of militancy against civilians.
On Thanksgiving day, 1999, Florida fishermen found the five-year-old Elian Gonzalez clinging to an inner tube after his mother and 11 others had drowned in an attempt to escape Cuba. Attorney General Reno, supposedly an advocate of children, wanted to return the child to the Stalinist police state that thousands of Cubans had fled. She deployed INS agents in full military gear to seized the child at gunpoint from the home of a relative. For Deroy Murdock, the episode epitomized “a federal police state that has goose-stepped from Ruby Ridge to Waco and now to Little Havana.” Murdoch invoked liberal Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, who wrote: “Ms. Reno’s decision to take the law as well as the child into her own hands seems worse than a political blunder. Even if well intended, her decision strikes at the heart of constitutional government and shakes the safeguards of liberty.”
That’s how this “extraordinary public servant” should be remembered. When life and liberty was on the line, she disregarded the facts and did the wrong thing. Commissioner Jones claims Reno had “no regrets” in the Gonzalez case. He should know; as his official bio explains, Jones “served in the Clinton Administration for three years as Special Assistant and Counsel to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.”