"Locked in The Cabinet": A Review

AllPolitics Interview: Robert Reich

Reich On: Check out what he has to say about Clinton, Gore, Greenspan, Gingrich ... and hear Reich in his own words, courtesy of Random House AudioBooks.

Alexis Herman: Reich's successor -- if the Senate ever agrees

Cabinet Shuffle: Secretary of Labor

Related Stories:

CNNfn: Reich Enjoying Freedom (4/21/97); TIME: Reich's Kiss-And-Shrug (4/7/97); Reich: Poor Need Help Despite Strong Economy (11/11/96); Clinton Signs 90-Cent Increase In Minium Wage (8/20/96).

Related Sites:

Random House: "Locked in the Cabinet"

Little Big Man: Check out Salon article on "The Downsizing of Robert Reich."

Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich to Become University Professor at Brandeis -- Brandeis University Press Release (1/21/97)

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The AllPolitics Interview: Robert Reich

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 25) -- Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is busy these days promoting his book "Locked in the Cabinet." He took time today for a telephone interview with AllPolitics' Craig Staats:

Q. Because he doesn't have to run again, President Clinton may be freer to pursue some of the initiatives that you advocated. Do you still think you made the right decision to leave the administration?

A. I made absolutely the right decision. I have two teenage boys at home who won't be home very much longer. And I'll be damned if I'm going to lose that precious time with them.

Q. Do you see any merit in that argument, that maybe Clinton would be freer to pursue a more leftward agenda in a second term?

A. If by leftward, you mean an agenda dedicated to helping working people get better jobs and better wages, then perhaps there's a bit more freedom, simply because those interest groups intent on cutting payrolls have less clout.

Q. In your four years, what was your biggest success as Labor secretary?

A. I would say four accomplishments stand out in my mind, only because they represented hard-won victories.

The increase in the minimum wage, for example; the as yet unfinished but certainly successful fight against sweatshops; a new law requiring companies to fully fund their pension promises; and the school-to-work apprenticeship program, now enrolling over a million young people.

We accomplished other things, of course, but to my mind, those four will make a difference to a lot of peoples' lives.

Q. What was your biggest disappointment?

A. We never had enough money for an adequate job training system. And I'm not an advocate of simple government-run job training. We had sought vouchers enabling laid-off workers to get the training they needed on terms they needed it. Almost got there, but didn't quite ...

Q. Since "Locked in the Cabinet" has come out, have you gotten any reaction from either Alan Greenspan or Dick Morris?

A. Not yet.

Q. Do you think you will hear anything from them?

A. This is not a mean-spirited work, nor is it a kiss-and-tell book. I don't say anything embarrassing about anyone. There's no reason for anyone to be upset. I like Alan Greenspan, although I disagree with some of his policies. And apart from my imaginary dialogue with him, I say nothing possibly offensive. I also expect he has a good sense of humor, so I don't think that he will object.

As to Dick Morris, I go to some length to distinguish my feelings about him as a person and his craft. I don't know very much about him as a person. I don't know him well. But I detest everything he represents about American politics.

Q. That packaging and promoting aspect, of testing ideas and seeing if they play?

A. That's right. It's selling presidents as if they were bars of soap.

Q. I'm curious about the long conversations in the book. How did you go back and recreate them?

A. I kept a journal during my years. Late at night, some pieces of dialogue were so interesting that I jotted them down. Sometimes I recreated parts of them from memory.

Q. You're one of the first of the Clinton White House people to bring forth a diary ... Are you happy with "Locked in the Cabinet"?

A. It's extremely candid. It's me. It's what I experienced, the humor, the frustration and sadness, the irony and hilarity of it all.

I hope readers see the three-dimensionality of life at the top of our government. I hope the book humanizes these people, including the former secretary of Labor, and thereby makes government less mysterious, somewhat more accessible, more understandable. There's a lot in the book that attempts to explain government and its subtle codes and norms.

Q. Our associate producer Sue Hoye found one error in your book. In your July 31, 1996 diary entry, you say the minimum-wage signing has come and gone, but actually Clinton didn't sign it until about a month later, on Aug. 20. Do you think you rushed into print too quickly?

A. It's true to my diary entries, my journal entries. It may have been that the minimum wage passed both houses, and there was some ceremony at that date ... The formal signing might have come later. The journal simply reflected what I experienced.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about Bill Clinton's place in history ... How do you think he will be thought of by historians?

A. Hopefully he will be remembered as the nation's great conciliator, our preacher-in-chief, the man who improved race relations and began to overcome the great gaps in income and wealth haunting the nation in the last decade of the 20th century. That's my hope, and I expect it's his hope as well.


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