What Happened to REGO?

August 30, 1996

What Happened to REGO?

As the Democratic convention wound to a close last night, President Clinton treated his audience of faithful followers to a laundry list of his first-term accomplishments, from the motor-voter bill to health insurance reform. One item, though was conspicuously missing from the list: the effort, much ballyhooed four years ago, to reinvent the federal government.

The Democratic Party's platform contains a section on reinventing government, but Clinton didn't utter the word "reinvention" in the course of his acceptance speech, which went on for more than an hour. The closest he came was his usual reference to the Administration's effort to cut federal jobs. "The federal workforce is the smallest it's been since John Kennedy," Clinton said. But he omitted even his standard stump-speech lines about overhauling the Federal Emergency Management Agency and doubling the Small Business Administration's loan volume while cutting its budget.

Vice President Gore, who has led the REGO movement as head of the National Performance Review, said little more about it in his speech the night before. His reference to "a smaller leaner, reinvented government working better and costing less" marked the only time he mentioned the effort that has consumed much of his time and attention since 1993.

There was a time, shortly after Clinton took office, when Administration officials were determined to milk the reinventing government issue for all it was worth. Gore took his REGO roadshow to "The Late Show with David Letterman" and Clinton touted his reforms on the White House lawn in front of truckloads of obsolete regulations.

But Clinton hinted last week, before he left for the convention, that reinventing government probably wouldn't take center stage in the campaign. "I never expected it to have any traction, I guess, politically," he said in an interview with The Washington Post, "and I don't think it has."

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