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Jewish World Review May 2, 2000 /27 Nissan, 5760

Evan Gahr

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The Tin Man's Doctor


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHO SAYS you can't find a doctor when you need one?

Sure, most prominent physicians probably enjoyed a lazy holiday weekend, unavailable to almost everyone. But Irwin Redlener, MD, didn't shirk the call of duty.

The distinguished pediatrician was quite accessible when journalists -- and ultimately the Clinton administration -- urgently needed an "expert" to justify the government's virtual kidnapping of Elian Gonzales.

Just hours after the Feds snatched Elian at gunpoint from the home of his Miami relatives April 22, Dr. Redlener told the Washington Post online that Elian was quite the lucky fellow. Redlener, who has advised the Justice Department on Elian, even lamented that Attorney General Janet Reno didn't nab the boy sooner. "From an emotional point of view, he is now where he should be [with his father]."

His comments for a Washington Post web story posted early Saturday afternoon were echoed in other media outlets the next day.

But Redlener is hardly the dispassionate scientist Janet Reno & Co. like to pretend he is. His ties to both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to light last week (thanks in part to TAS online). Moreover, it turns out that Redlener and a disciple he recruited to "help" Elian are quite cozy with Al Gore. Both endorsed Gore last month, to the campaign's utter delight.

The little-noticed Gore-Redlener link invites some important questions. Does it render the Vice President's delicate effort to distance himself from the Clinton administration on Elian -- including the INS raid -- even more problematic? Is Gore bothered by Redlener's suggestion that Janet Reno's machinations this weekend were a profile in courage? If yes, will Gore disassociate himself from Redlener (as he presumably would a physician who opposes abortion rights or shills for Big Bad Tobacco)? Or does Gore still welcome Redlener's support?

Just last month, the Gore campaign touted Redlener among the "Leading Health Care Professionals from Across New York" who had endorsed Gore for President. In a March 6 Gore campaign press release, Redlener said Gore has the "experience and leadership" needed to meet the "health care challenges for the future." Sharon Lerner's March 7 Village Voice story even described Redlener as Gore's "national health advisor."

None of this got much attention. But earlier this month, Redlener burst on the scene. He helped assemble a team of shrinks to advise the INS on Elian. They were supposed to help the INS facilitate Elian's removal from his Miami relatives.

Redlener picked two psychiatrists plus Montefiore Hospital psychologist Lourdes Rigual-Lynch, a colleague who joined his March 6 Gore endorsement. The Puerto Rican-born Rigual-Lynch interviewed Elian's uncle on April 10.

But the spotlight quickly turned to Redlener. In a heavily publicized April 17 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno and INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, Redlener offered a bleak diagnosis. "Elian Gonzalez is now in a state of imminent danger to his physical and emotional well-being in a [Miami] home that I consider to be psychologically abusive."

Of course, the possibility that Elian suffered psychological trauma from the subsequent INS raid didn't seem to worry Redlener. He praised the Attorney General's bold move to reunite Elian with his Communist father

"Janet Reno, in my book, gets high grades for managing an extraordinarily difficult situation that had an almost incalculable impact from the point of view of the emotional state of this family, of the community, and the impact on international relations and politics. This was about as complex a set of issues as we can imagine in our society at this time."

Thus spoke Marcus Welby? Not exactly. Redlener has trolled the precincts of the far-left since at least the early 1980s. Long associated with Physicians for Social Responsibility, he currently serves on their "board of sponsors."

Today, Physicians for Social Responsibility rails against the epidemic of "gun violence" (as if the guns go off all by themselves). In the early 1980s, Physicians for Social Responsibility agitated for a nuclear freeze and often seemed to consider the United States rather odious. Sure enough, when residents of the upstate, New York city of Rome shrugged off the placement of cruise missiles at a nearby military base in 1982, Redlener saw an obvious parallel.

The Rome residents, who had long considered nuclear weapons at the base necessary for the country's defense, were reminiscent of "the people who lived in the villages around the concentration camps in World War II." They "committed themselves to denying the existence of those camps or what happened inside them but there comes a time when we must take a look at the big picture and say 'no.'"

More recently, Redlener, served as chairman of the National Health Leadership Council for Clinton/Gore '92. He lamented that "physicians find ourselves surrounded in an ocean of paperwork, bureaucracy and intrusion into how health care is practiced."

Those words seem a bit curious because the good doctor soon emerged as a leading supporter of the Clinton health care plan, which of course would have created a mound of paperwork, bureaucracy, and government intrusion into how health care is practiced. In 1993, Redlener served as a vice chairman of the White House health care task force.

He has since squabbled with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and played footsie with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Quite media savvy, Redlener is one of liberal New York Times columnist Bob Herbert's favorite "experts."

Interestingly, Redlener apparently has a penchant for the kind of high tech-driven "social progress" (imagine "Animal Farm" with every cage wired for the internet) that resonates with Gore.

Last year, the New York Daily News reported that Gore joined groundbreaking ceremonies for Redlener's Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center. Gore said the Bronx hospital, with its promise of web-linked computers in patient rooms and roof-top observatory, foretold a 21st Century in which "every child can chase the stars and feel loved and connected to chase after his or her dreams."

Every child?

Dream on, Elian.



JWR contributor Evan Gahr is a former New York Post press critic. Send your comments by clicking here.


Up

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© 2000, Evan Gahr This piece is adapted from one that appeared on The American Spectator Online.