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Jewish World Review May 11, 2000 / 6 Iyar, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Elian savors Washington nightlife --
THIS STORY BEGAN as tragedy -- a small child, motherless, adrift on the high seas in an inner tube. But it is now approaching farce.

It seems that Elian Gonzalez and his father were the guests at a posh Georgetown party last Saturday night. The host was Smith Bagley, an heir to the R. J. Reynolds tobacco fortune and a friend of both President Clinton and Vice President Gore.

For several days before the big event, neighbors knew something was afoot. "No Parking" signs suddenly dotted the entire block. Some assumed that Clinton would be coming to dinner again. (It has caused great agitation in Washington that wherever this President goes -- because he often makes decisions at the last minute -- cars are towed from legal spots, streets are closed and no explanations or refunds are ever provided to the outraged citizens.)

At about 9:40 p.m., according to The Washington Post, Elian and Juan Miguel Gonzalez emerged from the Bagley home and were escorted to a waiting van. With an escort of D.C. police officers and U.S. Park Rangers, the two were whisked away.

Why were the Gonzalezes being feted by big game hunter Democrats? Wouldn't the Gonzalezes be more inclined to sample a Cuban restaurant in Adams Morgan or catch a new movie in upper Northwest? The Post didn't offer an explanation, merely speculation that the family may have been growing restless out at comfortable, secluded Wye Plantation.

Sure, the nation approves of the administration's handling of the Elian case. They are content to have federal marshals break down the doors of law-abiding citizens, trash the home and threaten them with violence or death merely because the government has grown weary of negotiations. But the passivity of the public does not excuse the remarkable docility of the press in the face of this extra-legal behavior on the part of the Clinton administration. Ever since Elian was taken, the press has been content to be spoon-fed pictures of a happy child -- though no independent journalist has been permitted within 50 yards of the boy since his capture.

Why has the press shown so little interest in Greg Craig's role? Who exactly is paying him?

Senator Bob Smith, R.,-N.H., attempted to gain entry to Andrews Air Force Base and was turned away. And Elian's Miami relatives have repeatedly begged to visit the child at Wye and have been denied entry. Yet emissaries from Cuba -- teachers, "psychologists," school chums and "diplomats" troop in and out at their leisure. The press does not ask by whose authority they themselves are being kept out. Nor do they question the State Department's rationale for granting visas to these Elian minders from Cuba.

The press hasn't bothered to follow up on the extraordinary story of the protesters who picketed the Cuban Interests Section residence in Washington, D.C. They carried signs expressing the hope that Elian would remain here and denouncing Castro. After a few minutes, several Cuban "diplomats" came out of the house and began pummeling the protesters. Castro's men grabbed the signs the protesters had brought and used them as clubs. After drawing some blood, they withdrew into the house. The State Department is conducting an investigation -- but don't hold your breath. This administration doesn't do justice.

Polls suggest that many Americans exalt the private over the public sphere, and accordingly cheered the reunification of father and son. What few seem to understand is that the very nature of totalitarian regimes like Cuba's is to deny the private sphere completely. Whenever it chooses, the government of Cuba can remove Elian from his family. And when he gets just a little bit older, the list of offenses that will land him in Castro's gulag is inexhaustible. Until recently, merely showing homosexual tendencies was a crime in Cuba, resulting in exile at homosexual concentration camps.

Today the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on whether Elian should be able to assert an asylum claim for himself. While it's true that 6-year-olds cannot ordinarily be trusted to make life-altering decisions, this is a special case. First because the law says "any alien" may claim asylum -- it doesn't specify age. But second, to send Elian home without a hearing will be to reward bullying, lawlessness, and treachery -- in Havana and Washington.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate