Washington Journal

Changing of the guard at Department of Justice

By Jamal Hasan

JanetReno

Ms. Janet Reno, the outgoing Attorney General of the US will be leaving us very soon.

As the first female Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno would be remembered forever. Also she had the rare opportunitey to serve two terms. In fact, she ran the Justice Department for the longest time than any other attorney general in the 2oth century. Quite and impressive achievement for a small town attorney from Florida., a state that dominated the news in November and December this year.

From outside the Department of Justice compound she could be perceived by many as an iron lady because of her demeanor. However, the truth is other way around. Indeed she took many hard decisions where peoples’ lives  were on the line. Nonetheless, she is very easy going as far as human interaction is concerned.

Janet Reno was a great patron of all the Justice Department programs dealing with social, cultural and ethnic issues. She made it sure to attend formal ceremonies commemorating National African American History Month, the Asian/PacificAmerican Heritage Month and the World AIDS Day. She was readily available at the Korean War Memorial function as well.

This year’s two crucial events occured in a place where she groomed to be what she is today – the state of Florida. Rmember the Elian Gonzalez saga? It led her to a boxing ring where the uncertainty of the emotionally charged events could have thrown her into an abyss. Also, the last presidential fiasco pushed her into a touchy and sensitive balancing act. She survived them all against all the odds, not mention the Waco episode a few years ago.

As person responsible for a “thankless job”, she has no scarcity of hard critics and bitter political enemies. But even her worst enemy would recognize her ability to salvage a seemingly hopeless political chapter from total ruins.

“Thirteen Days”, a Hollywood blockbuster movie on the Cuban Missile Crisis theme contains a few shots of the Justice Department’s colossal building located in the heart of the US capital. Who could have predicted that someday this building could be the central part of a docudrama revolving around a solitary person from Florida who took tough decisions in critical periods with a broad smile on her face. Her absence would be sorely missed by everyone who works in this building.

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Jamal Hasan used to work at USDOJ where he met Ms. Janet Reno on several occasions. This essay was previously published in News from Bangladesh in December, 2000.

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