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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2000 /28 Shevat, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Cold war reminder --
WHATEVER ELSE may come of the Elian Gonzalez case, it has served as a timely reminder of realities that many have been at pains to obscure.

One of the more maddening developments of the last decade has been the effort, by liberals, to rewrite recent history. Everyone, we are now told, was a cold warrior. Democrats and Republicans, right and left, understood the profound moral difference between the United States and the U.S.S.R.

This is such a distortion of reality that it leaves fair-minded observers gaping in disbelief. Though he is now quoted with approval for labeling the Soviet Union an "evil empire," Ronald Reagan was reviled for that language at the time. He was accused of naivete, simple-mindedness, Manichean delusions and worse by the leading opinion shapers of the day. Yet within months of the fall of the Soviet Union,, many of those who had detested the Cold War and its advocates suddenly began to claim that they had been in the fight all along.

That's why it is instructive to watch the conduct of the liberals and the left today in the Elian Gonzalez controversy. In virtually the only public dispute between the United States and a communist regime since 1989, the American left has been only too eager to leap to the aid of Fidel Castro.

The National Council of Churches, deflated since the Sandinistas lost a free election in Nicaragua a decade ago, rushed into action on Castro's behalf. First, the NCC sent a delegation to Cuba to visit Elian's father and declared that the boy should be returned. Next, it offered a private plane to Elian's grandmothers when Castro decided that sending them to the United States would be a good public-relations stunt.

Leftist members of Congress were not content merely to meet with Elian's grandmothers when the ladies came to Capitol Hill. Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D.-Calif., and Maxine Waters, D.-Calif., held hands with the grandmothers and denounced the Cuban-American community of South Florida. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, the two Democratic senators from California, also expressed their moist and passionate desire to see father and son reunited.

The two grandmothers also met with all 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. That the grandmothers' schedule was being controlled by Havana's diplomatic mission did not faze them.

Nor did the news that Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin had changed her mind.

O'Laughlin, a longtime friend of Janet Reno, had offered her home as a neutral site for a meeting between the grandmothers and Elian. After seeing the grandmothers at close quarters, O'Laughlin concluded, according to Cokie Roberts, that they seemed terrified of Castro and were coerced into mouthing the party line.

(Other survivors of Elian's capsized boat report that Elian's father had planned to join the others in the United States.)

O'Laughlin also felt that Elian has formed a close bond with his Miami cousin Marisleysis, who had become a "surrogate mother." To be sent back to Cuba now, O'Laughlin believes, would be for Elian "another death."

For this bit of independent thinking, O'Laughlin was denounced by Waters, who sneered, "Never in my wildest imagination would I think that a nun who was supposed to be a neutral party would undermine that neutrality."

It is not just the more left-leaning members of Congress who have been ready to relegate Elian to a life without the simplest freedoms. The president himself, when asked about the boy's future, allowed as how Elian would enjoy greater "economic opportunity" here, but nevertheless, he ought to be returned to Cuba. Is that the only advantage Bill Clinton can see to a life in the United States versus communist Cuba?

True to form, the press has derided the exile Cuban community in Florida as a bunch of febrile anti-communists living in a time warp. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, liberals' true feelings about anti-communists have been on display. They are "relics," "extremists" and "hard-liners" whose hatred for Castro has obscured their judgment. At no time has Castro's protracted hatred for us, his history of terrorizing his people into submission or his utter contempt for truth entered into their analysis of the case.

It's just like the old days.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate