Locked in the Cabinet.

Author:Walsh, Maureen A.
Position:Review
 
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ROBERT B. REICH, Locked in the Cabinet (New York: Knopf, 1997), 338 pp., $25.00 cloth (ISBN 0-375-40064-8).

Robert Reich, secretary of labor during the first Clinton administration, tells the story of his travel from academic to top administrator of a Cabinet-level agency in an informative and humorous manner. The book is divided by year, beginning with the campaign of 1992 and ending with his resignation just prior to the 1996 presidential election. It provides readers with insight into both the inner workings of government and the toll that it can take on personal lives.

This memoir uses a diary format, which allows the author to present his beliefs, his attempts to make policy, and the underlying politics that plagued those attempts. Reich shares his frustrations with his lack of access to the "presidential ear," his plots to circumvent the White House chain of command, and the various devices he used to be "in the loop," often leaving him to button-hole whomever was in the parking lot. Throughout this book, Reich openly admits to his naivete in dealing with "Beltway" politics. He seemed genuinely disheartened to realize that although he was in charge, bureaucrats and spin doctors were the real decision makers as well as the ones relied on to implement any policies developed.

Reich is able to provide a real sense of life in the Clinton White House. The pressures and decision-making processes required by the Executive branch in its relationship with Congress, unions, and the people it is designed to serve are highlighted with frankness. Although Reich is a friend of Clinton's from his Oxford University days, he gives a seemingly honest appraisal of Clinton's positives and negatives without degenerating into a "tell all" account. He also alludes to a real difference in the 1992 campaign compared to the 1996 campaign. Readers even get a sense of reactions to the reemergence of Dick Morris and his style,...

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