Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 1, 2000 /26 Nissan, 5760

Nat Hentoff

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


In Clinton and Castro's
best interests -- WHY WAS THE GOVERNMENT in such a rush to send a SWAT team to drag a 6-year-old Cuban boy out of the house of his relatives? Miami lawyer Aaron Podhurst, a 30-year friend of Janet Reno, was mediating between her and Elian's lawyers moments before INS agents, with their submachine guns, broke in the door.

"I'm gravely disappointed," he told the Wall Street Journal, "that the government had to use force when I think we could have worked things out." In the Miami Herald, Podhurst described himself as having been "devastated" at this breach of trust.

The first reason for Janet Reno's brutal application of her version of the rule of law was explained by Richard Nuccio on the Fox television network the day of the raid. A former point man on Cuban affairs at the State Department, he was Clinton's adviser on dealing with Castro.

Nuccio pointed out, as have others, that at first the INS decided that Elian's case should go to a state family court in Florida. But the State Department summarily reversed that ruling, ordering the INS to hold the boy.

The Clinton administration, as Nuccio notes, was reacting to a threatening speech in Havana by Ricardo Alarcon, head of the Cuban National Assembly. Alarcon, who is close to Castro, said that if the boy were not returned to Cuba, there would again be massive boatlifts from Cuba to America.

Clinton well remembers the 1980 Mariel boatlift, which brought 125,266 Cubans to the United States. Some of them were among the most remorseless criminals our law-enforcement officers have ever had to deal with. Among them were Cubans held in an Arkansas detention center who rioted, thereby helping to give Clinton his only defeat in a gubernatorial election.

The president has not forgotten that rare rejection by the electorate. More to the immediate point, he fears that more waves of Cuban immigrants this summer might affect the November elections, thereby reducing his chances of bolstering his legacy by transferring the presidency to Al Gore, and perhaps having the Democratic Party take Congress.

Another reason for the SWAT team to terrorize Elian and the family, kick an NBC cameraman in the stomach, and snatch the boy from the fisherman who rescued him from the sea has to do with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That court had announced a hearing on the boy's claim of asylum -- filed by his great-uncle and also signed by him -- to be held May 11, only 19 days after the April 22 raid. What was the administration afraid of?

On April 19, when setting the date for the hearing, the court said that the application for asylum "presented a substantial case on the merits."

The day after the boy was snatched on April 22, the Justice Department rushed custody papers to Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, which he signed. It is the desire and hope of the Clinton administration that the Appeals Court moot the asylum case, dismissing it. Then Elian can be whisked back to Cuba so that his "re-education" can begin.

On April 18, The New York Times reported that Elian's father's family has been moved to a state-owned house that will also function as a school for Elian and "12 classmates, relatives, doctors and psychologists."

The boy, said a Cuban psychologist, needs time to "readjust." One book that Elian will certainly not be permitted to read, as he grows up a child of the state, is George Orwell's "1984."

Meanwhile, after being returned to his father by Janet Reno, Bill Clinton and the INS -- a move described by Fidel Castro on Cuban television as "doing the right thing" -- he will have been given preliminary re-education by his father and attendant Cuban officials. Clinton also said that Reno had done "the right thing."

By the time the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holds the hearing, his father can tell the court that Elian has renounced his personally signed application for asylum.

A footnote to the Clinton-Reno interpretation of the rule of law was the attempt by Elian's father's attorney, Gregory Craig -- formerly on Clinton's impeachment team -- to get the heads of all the news networks to censor photographs of the raid. He sent that letter two days before the taking of the boy. Craig said that releasing the pictures would be "exploitative" of the child.

Craig's scorning of the First Amendment was intended to make a cover-up of the raid easier. Like Clinton, Reno and Castro, Craig, of course, had the best interests of the child at heart.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/24/00: Elian's human rights
04/17/00: Crime's down, but arrests keep rising
04/10/00: Teacher brings Constitution to life
04/03/00: The Americans who keep disappearing
03/27/00: The censoring of feminist history
03/20/00: Should there be a chaplain in Congress?
03/13/00: Big labor, big China, spinning Gore
03/03/00: The ACLU violates its principles --- yet again!
02/28/00: Still two nations?
02/11/00: You bet we should disbar Bubba
01/31/00: Where was Jesse?
01/24/00: Is suing church for sexual harassment an entanglement?
01/18/00: Will Miranda make it?
01/11/00: ACLU: Guilty until presumed innocent?
01/03/00: Liberty lion should be Man of Century
12/28/99: Drug tests that tear families apart
12/20/99: Get ready for decisive ruling on school vouchers for religious schools
12/13/99: Guess who is taking the lead in anti-slavery movement? Hint: It ain't Rev. Jesse
12/06/99: When we refuse to buy the 'otherly-challenged' excuse
11/29/99: Expelling 'Huck Finn'
11/22/99: Pleading the First
11/16/99: Goal of diversity needs rethinking?
11/08/99: Prosecution in darkness
11/02/99: The accuracy that's owed to readers
10/26/99: Disappeared Americans
10/18/99: The blue wall of silence
10/11/99: Bill Bradley's speech tax
10/04/99: 'Technicalities' that keep us free
09/27/99: Our 'Americanism'-ignorant generation
09/20/99: ACLU better clean up its act
09/13/99: A professor of infanticide at Princeton
09/07/99: The Big Apple's Rotten Policing
08/23/99: Lawyerly ethics
08/16/99: To Get a Supreme Court Seat
08/02/99: What are the poor people doing tonight?
07/26/99: Lady Hillary and the press

© 2000, NEA