A Decade’s Difference

A rhetorical return to the days before 9/11 changed everything.

There's an interesting twist to this year's presidential campaign: A former federal employee is running for president. But for a long time, most people were unaware of that fact because the candidate, Michele Bachmann, didn't exactly trumpet her experience.

Bachmann's official bio says she "spent five years as a federal tax litigation attorney, working on hundreds of civil and criminal cases. That experience solidified her strong support for efforts to simplify the tax code and reduce tax burdens on family and small business budgets." What the bio doesn't say explicitly was that Bachmann's tax work was at the Internal Revenue Service. After getting a master's of law in taxation in 1988, Bachmann spent four years as a lawyer at the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in St. Paul, Minn.

After Bachmann's government service began drawing attention, she put her own spin on it. "I went to work in that system because the first rule of war is: Know your enemy," she said at an August campaign appearance in South Carolina. "So I went to the inside to learn how they work because I want to defeat them."

In a way, Bachmann's rhetoric is a measure of how much things have changed in the 10 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the initial aftermath of the attacks, public support for government shot up dramatically. Flags flew everywhere. Large-scale operations like airport security were federalized. Everyone knew who the "enemy" was, and it wasn't a government agency.

But as Charlie Clark notes in this month's cover story, in the following years, the structure and operations of the federal government changed dramatically-in fits and starts, with mixed success. As a result, the political climate changed, too, and in time, it again became acceptable to identify government as the problem rather than the solution.

Speaking of changes, this issue marks a shift for Government Executive. It will be the last to feature the current design of the magazine, which dates from 2004. We figured it was time for an upgrade to our look that reflects our renewed commitment to serving federal leaders. The new design will debut with next month's issue.

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