Locked in the Cabinet

Locked in the Cabinet

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by Robert B. Reich

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Locked in the Cabinet is a close-up view of the way things work, and often don't work, at the highest levels of government--and a uniquely personal account by the man whose ideas inspired and animated much of the Clinton campaign of 1992 and who became the cabinet officer in charge of helping ordinary Americans get better jobs. Robert B. Reich, writer, teacher, social…  See more details below


Locked in the Cabinet is a close-up view of the way things work, and often don't work, at the highest levels of government--and a uniquely personal account by the man whose ideas inspired and animated much of the Clinton campaign of 1992 and who became the cabinet officer in charge of helping ordinary Americans get better jobs. Robert B. Reich, writer, teacher, social critic--and a friend of the Clintons since they were all in their twenties--came to be known as the "conscience  of the Clinton administration and one of the most successful Labor Secretaries in history. Here is his sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant chronicle of trying to put ideas and ideals into practice.

With wit, passion, and dead-aim honesty, Reich writes of those in Washington who possess hard heads and soft hearts, and those with exactly the opposite attributes. He introduces us to the career bureaucrats who make Washington run and the politicians who, on occasion, make it stop; to business tycoons and labor leaders who clash by day and party together by night; to a president who wants to change America and his opponents (on both the left and the right) who want to keep it as it is or return it to where it used to be. Reich guides us to the pinnacles of power and pretension, as bills are passed or stalled, reputations built or destroyed, secrets leaked, numbers fudged, egos bruised, news stories spun, hypocrisies exposed, and good intentions occasionally derailed. And to the places across America where those who are the objects of this drama are simply trying to get by--assembly lines, sweatshops, union halls, the main streets of small towns and the tough streets of central cities.

Locked in the Cabinet is an intimate odyssey involving a memorable cast--a friend who is elected President of the United States, only to discover the limits of power; Alan Greenspan, who is the most powerful man in America; and Newt Gingrich, who tries to be. Plus a host of others: White House staffers and cabinet members who can't find "the loop ; political consultant Dick Morris, who becomes "the loop ; baseball players and owners who can't agree on how to divide up $2 billion a year; a union leader who accuses Reich of not knowing what a screwdriver looks like; a heretofore invisible civil servant deep in the Labor Department whose brainchild becomes the law of the land; and a wondrous collection of senators, foreign ministers, cabinet officers, and television celebrities. And it is also an odyssey for Reich's wife and two young sons, who learn to tolerate their own cabinet member but not to abide Washington.

Here is Reich--determined to work for a more just society, laboring in a capital obsessed with exorcising the deficit and keeping Wall Street happy--learning that Washington is not only altogether different from the world of ordinary citizens but ultimately, and more importantly, exactly like it: a world in which Murphy's Law reigns alongside the powerful and the privileged, but where hope amazingly persists. There are triumphs here to fill a lifetime, and frustrations to fill two more. Never has this world been revealed with such richness of evidence, humor, and warmhearted candor.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be in a powerful position in government, author Reich's memoirs of his stint as President Clinton's Labor Secretary (1992-96) is a good place to start. Known as the "conscience" of the Clinton administration, Reich reveals a life inside the loop that is a funny, enlightening personal account of his efforts to put his boomer ideals into practice. These journal entries deal with the relentless pressure from all sides about pending legislation, ridiculous interactions with elected officials and lobbyists, advice to the President on wage and labor issues, and interactions with such powerful officials as Alan Greenspan, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, his 20-year pal, Bill Clinton. Reich's experience as a writer (e.g., The Work of Nations, Vintage, 1992), not a laborer, posed peculiar difficulties in building relationships with labor leaders. From striking baseball players to union bosses to shameless politicians, Reich has had to deal with them all in his strong commitment to Clinton's goals while struggling to maintain family balance, classifying him as one of the more successful labor leaders in history. This is essential for larger public libraries in metropolitan areas with heavy interest in memoirs of insider politicos.Dale Farris, Groves, Tex.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Locked in the Cabinet 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a reader! I read everything! In fact, I read this book just because it was a Barnes and Noble bargain. I thought I was in for a dry, trite diatribe of political life during the Clinton years. Instead, I was hit with the funniest book I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I have never in all of my years laughed out loud in thunderous guffaws while reading. To be honest, I believed that it would take a brillant person to translate real comedy into the written word. Reich, in this repect and in many others, is brillant. Read this book if you'd like a great laugh. It's hilarious!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have the pleasure of working in the very system Robert Reich describes in his book, as an 'in the trenches' employment counselor. I have seen the very programs such as the 'one stop' go into effect, and have watched my clients benefit from skills gained made only possible through re-training dollars. I have also watched and experienced the political forces at work. Dollars come too late to help needy people, or with impossible rules and regulations bogging down good programs abilities to be effective. I have seen innovative programs fail because of 'the one rule applies to all' theory, such as the bat boy story. Mr. Reich's accounts of what happens in government and politics is an accurate account of what those of us who work in the system experience on a daily basis. We often see hope in the programs, but it is quickly lost underneath the hundreds of pages of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that come with it! Everyone should read this book! Especially the politicians!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Reich's diary of his four years. At times I was tickled by his sense of humor and at other times I was frustrated by his naiveness. I am not a proponent of anything he supports but it was fun and enlightening reading about his experience while getting exposure to what may go on (or doesn't) in Washington.