As this article and this issue of Chronicles go to press, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering whether Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno is, by her character, fit to serve this nation as Attorney General.
My own opinion is, no. In the 1988 Dade County, Florida, general election, I was Attorney General-Designate Janet Reno’s Republican opponent. I ran against her and lost by a two to one margin—the most respectable margin any of her opponents has ever garnered—knowing I could not win in a town whose sole newspaper, the Miami Herald, has turned her over the past 15 years into an icon of political correctness.
I ran against Reno because of our wildly divergent views on the aims of the criminal justice system. That is why the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed me, even knowing full well I could not win. The rank-and-file officers whom the FOP represents had grown to hate Reno because of her long-held animus toward police and legitimate law enforcement efforts, and they were desperate to express that hatred. Here’s an example of the hard lesson Dade police officers had already learned in the streets and in Reno’s courtrooms. In the only debate of our campaigns against one another, televised from the studio of WLRN-TV in Miami, each of us was asked our highest priority as Dade State Attorney. I said; “To put away as many criminals for as long as possible.” Reno said: “My highest priority has always been not to convict criminals but rather to protect their rights.” Straight out of the ACLU policy manual, as is her penchant to prosecute law officers for “excessive use of force” when no credible evidence of same exists.
The demoralizing effect Attorney General Reno will have upon the federal law enforcement community will be devastating; just ask any South Florida law officer. But it is Reno’s character and not her policies that will be the focus of debate during her nomination hearings. The “advise and consent” clause conferring confirmation power for Cabinet and other offices upon the Senate has, for better or worse, devolved to make “character” the only ostensible legitimate area of inquiry. The “Borking” of Clarence Thomas was done for policy reasons, but it had to proceed under the guise of “character” inquiry.
What, then, are my and others’ concerns about Reno’s character? First, there is the question of her “sexual orientation.” In our campaign, Reno categorically denied, without refuting the evidence, that she is a “closeted lesbian.” NOW President and outed-but-formerly-closeted-lesbian Patricia Ireland is one who pushed Clinton to nominate Reno and said, “We need this kind of woman at Justice.” Reno, when asked after her post-nomination triumphal return to Miami by the assembled media at the Miami Airport what her sexual orientation was, said: “Mr. Thompson is preoccupied with mv sexual orientation. I am an old maid who has a strong affection for men.” Not exactly a categorical denial anymore. The Miami Herald transmogrified that weak-kneed rebuff into a stronger statement: ” . . . who has a strong attraction to men.” Even the Herald knew the “affection for” phrase constituted a winking admission, so it misreported what Reno said to the cameras into the “attraction” quotation, which is what ran in nearly every American newspaper the next day.
Days later Queer Nation weighed in with an “outing” outside the Justice Department in which their spokesperson stated that “many homosexuals in Miami have contacted us and told us that Reno’s lesbianism is common knowledge among the gay community.” NOW’s Patricia Ireland interestingly weighed in, after the “outing,” with an interesting statement: “Ms. Reno should not be judged on the basis of her sexual orientation.”
Are Reno’s sexual proclivities, per se, the core issue? Not these days, at least not to me. The issue has always been Reno’s blackmailability because of her closeted proclivities. Blackmail occurs between the ears of the blackmail target. Reno cannot now come out of the closet if she wanted to, because it would end her public career. She would have to admit she lied for 20 years.
The liberals have very recently made the point exquisitely in the wake of Anthony Summers’ book, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, about J. Edgar Hoover’s closeted homosexuality and the blackmail danger it posed to this law enforcement officer’s judgment and integrity. No such even-handed analysis has been brought to bear upon Reno’s sexual proclivities by anyone in the confirmation process or the media, even though I and others have conveyed evidence to the attorney hired by Clinton, liberal Maryland attorney Lanny Davis, to cheek out Reno’s background prior to her nomination. Indeed, Communications Director George Stephanopolous responded to an inquiry in the White House briefing room da}s before Reno was nominated about whether the “sexual orientation” of the Attorney General was relevant. He said that it was not.
If you don’t buy my analysis of what may be a problem here, how about Reno’s immediate predecessor and boss, Dade County State Attorney Richard Gerstein, a life-long Democrat, who died in 1992 and whose front-page obituary in the Miami Herald contained the following admonition of Gerstein: “No [closeted] homosexual can be a prosecutor because it gives every defendant the blackmail option.” Gerstein did not know of the Trojan Horse within his office.
Upon Reno’s nomination, I and others gave the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI evidence not only of Reno’s closeted lesbianism, but also of her alleged: a) use of “escort service” girls for sex. One such call girl, whose name is “Crystal,” has reputedly told the publisher of a certain “escort” magazine that she has received money for sex from Reno at Reno’s home; b) apprehension by a Broward County police officer in a shopping-mall parking lot in the backseat of a car with a disrobed girl, as related by a homosexual Ft. Lauderdale talk-show host; c) long-standing relationship with a South Florida television news anchorwoman.
Could Reno really be blackmailed? In 1987, I persuaded her to open an investigation of some local pornographers. She acknowledged in the September 24, 1987, edition of the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that she opened the investigation per my request. The pornographer then announced publicly that if Reno pursued him, he would make the case that she is a lesbian. The investigation was dropped, no explanations given. I was successful thereafter in the federal venue in determining that these pornographers were indeed engaged in criminal activity, as I had alleged to Reno.
Reno is more than willing to punish those who threaten to open one of her closet doors. For example, shortly after I went public with my assertions and evidence of Reno’s lesbianism, the Florida Bar, on whose Board of Governors sit Reno’s campaign contributors, retained a Dr. Barry Crown to render an opinion that I was “mentally incapacitated” even though Dr. Crown had never met me. Dr. Crown is reported to receive massive expert witness fees from Reno’s office. That ploy by Reno’s supporters backfired, as a neutral psychiatrist and psychologist ultimately agreed to by the Bar certified me sane after a full battery of tests. I am now one of the few certified sane lawyers in Florida.
Reno and her friends tried to use the Bar again when I blew the whistle (in the pages of Chronicles) on the illegal distribution of pro-homosexual audio tapes to the children of the Dade County School System. I beat that scam also, and thanks to Reno’s unsuccessful Bar gambits, the Florida Bar’s insurance carrier just paid me $20,000 in damages for this frontal assault upon my First Amendment rights.
Another example of protective retribution by Reno is the ease of Jim Collier, who brought evidence on massive Dade County electronic vote fraud to Janet Reno, which evidence included bogus computer cards being prepunched and fed into the vote-counting machines. Collier took these fraudulently pre-punched ballots directly to Reno, but Reno, rather than investigating the fraud which would inconvenience a number of her political allies, had the public-spirited Mr. Collier arrested for grand theft of ballots even though Collier took the “stolen” ballots to Reno. Mr. Collier has told his tale to an interested investigator reporting to Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden and may indeed testify at the confirmation hearings.
Alex Cockburn wrote in the March 8, 1993, issue of the Nation that Reno is not beyond using unsavory methods to accomplish her goals. Mr. Cockburn doesn’t know the half of it when it comes to Reno’s desperate methods to protect herself and her carefully crafted closet of many doors. If she heads Justice, she will turn the Justice Department into the latest oxymoron.
At press time, homosexuality, even closeted homosexuality, appears to be a qualification rather than a detriment to Reno’s nomination, but there is one door yet opening in the Reno closet.
John Bliss, a Republican investigator on the Senate Judiciary Committee who reports to Colorado Senator Hank Brown, told me and another person on a conference call at six o’clock p.m. on February 18 that the Committee had preliminary evidence unexpectedly fall into its lap that Reno has been pulled over five times while “driving under the influence” in Dade County. The contact with the Republican investigators on the Judiciary Committee had been David Gibbons, Director of Federal Affairs at the National Rifle Association. Gibbons, according to Bliss, had been approached by a former Dade Assistant State Attorney, under Janet Reno, who had been told by five police officers about five separate drunk-driving incidents. Reno had not, the officers stated, been arrested, because of fear of reprisals by her, but electronic logging tapes memorializing the pull-overs might prove the apprehensions.
United States Senator Trent Lott’s office has memoranda relating to the drunk-driving information, as well as to the willingness of the five officers to come forward if Reno is asked in the confirmation hearings if she has ever been pulled over after drinking. One memo has been circulated to Republican senators and representatives, all of whom have remained silent. It states that the officers will come forward to prove a) she has been pulled over and b) she has committed perjury in swearing she was not. When are the Republicans going to come forward? Will the questions ever be asked?
Given the timidity among the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, the question is more likely to come from the other side of the aisle. The Republican senators, according to sources on the committee staff, are loathe to tangle in the wake of Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas with another female, this time a nominee, backed by the radical feminist lobby.
The Republican senators, according to John Bliss, would not even ask Democratic Chairman Joseph Biden for a subpoena to compel the NRA’s Dave Gibbons and now two other persons who know the former Reno assistant’s name to cough up that name, under threat of a contempt of Congress citation if they refused, which would compel the former Reno assistant to come forward. The former assistant has indicated that what she knows may cost her her job, and she is reluctant to come forward fully. A congressional subpoena upon those who have her name would force her to come forward. [Ed. note: Bliss denies possession of such information, but political activist Priscilla Gray says she discussed the D.U.I.’s in a conference call with Bliss.] The Republicans, however, are not pushing for the name. Why? The fear of being “Arlen Specter-ized” runs deep among the nervous GOP senators. As one former U.S. senator told me this week: “That cowardice is why we’re the minority party.”
No such cowardice is evident among the Democrats. Senator Joe Biden’s investigative staffers—Mark Schwartz and Mary DeOreo—interviewed me for more than an hour on February 23 much more professionally and thoroughly —and sympathetically—than did the Republicans. It may be that Senator Biden takes more seriously his “advise and consent” duties than do the Republicans, or maybe this confirmation battle is a trial contest with the White House as to who will really pick the next Supreme Court Justice: Hillary or Joe. Whatever the reason, the clear conclusion from talking to Biden’s people is that they wanted to know and do something appropriate with evidence of Reno’s character problems, especially the D.U.I. problems and cover-up thereof. The Republicans have only responded with fear.
Therefore, as this article goes to press, the Senate Judiciary Committee has compelling evidence that Reno has a potential closet full of personal problems from lesbianism to chronic alcohol abuse. Blackmail, the Judiciary Committee has been told, can be visited both upon her and by her. It is problematic as to whether the committee, on either side of the aisle, will use its considerable investigative powers, including the subpoena power, to ferret out the truth. America deserves to know what kind of Attorney General it is getting. The reader of this article will have the benefit of knowing if anything came of any of this—if Janet Reno’s confused personal life sullied and sank her nomination, and with it the dwindling perception that Bill Clinton knows how to govern. The perception of the Republicans, at least, is not dwindling. They are not even on the radar screen, so total has been their failure to discharge their “advise and consent” duo ties during the now extended confirmation process.
When Reno was nominated, CNN’s Bernard Shaw intoned: “Many Capitol Hill insiders say this nominee, after two false starts by Clinton, must be the Caesar’s wife of Attorney General nominees.” Reno is nobody’s wife. There may be reasons for that.
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