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

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports


Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one -- THE SAGA OF ELIAN is a surreal combination of a Woody Allen movie and the Dukes of Hazard. The fisherman in the closet during the raid pretty much sums up the eeriness of Elian. It began last November with "You've just survived floating in from Cuba. What next?" Disney World! We saw daily photos of a boy whose pre-Miami life consisted of toll-booth-size houses and pencils with erasers as toys. U.S. relatives doused him with his own battery-charged car and everything Pokemon. We saw Elian's first day of school, Elian in the backyard, Elian walking and then, finally, in the infamous tape that looked like Little Ricky with an attitude, Elian talking.

There were the Grannies Gonzalez who came to see Elian, really see him. One granny unzipped Master Elian's pants to check growth. When one of the good sisters presiding over this West Virginia-like encounter called the granny on the bizarre behavior (i.e. nursery school teachers are doing hard time for less), the granny assured that it was Cuban custom. Offended Cubans everywhere revolted leaving the grannies with only Michael Jackson's support.

Confusion has been an ongoing theme. There was the local judge who ruled in favor of Elian, only to reveal that she had a bit of a conflict because of donations from the Gonzalez family. INS and the Feds bumbled around the courts with Janet Reno eventually joining the fray to halt treacherous disregard of the rule of law by a six-year-old illegal immigrant and his relatives.

If Madame Reno is truly concerned about illegal immigrants and is hell bent on shipping a few back, she might want to trek out Arizona way. We're loaded with them, and there's nary a storm trooper in sight. In fact, a city here was sued for violations of the civil rights of illegal immigrants, the police were doing round-ups by asking Hispanics for ID. Such a race-targeted approach was ruled unconstitutional. Truly, we do not have a huge Swiss illegal immigration problem or we'd round up all the folks in leider hosen to check for green cards. How can Ms. Rule-of-Law Reno can target one Cuban immigrant, with a bazooka, no less?

If Madame Reno wishes to invade homes where occupants defy the law, she might want to arrange a pre-dawn raid on the White House. Instead of an AP photographer, a Playboyspecialist would be in order and there will not be fishermen in those closets.

Ms. Reno cares about the rule of law when, consistent with the ongoing political expediency strategy of this administration, the rule of law gets the desired result. When the Elian saga began, the White House position was more power to the little bounder. Now, they're ready to FedEx him to Castro, sending in Mr. Clinton's creepy personal troubleshooter, Greg Craig to help.

You can never find a liberal when you need one. Mrs. Hillary Rodham Yankee Clinton has weighed in on the Elian case with, "Everyone needs to take a deep breath." This from the woman whose 1973 law review epistle touted giving children constitutional rights to overcome the "pretense" that "families are private, nonpolitical units whose interests subsume children."

Children are autonomous beings until you run for the Senate and need votes.

Her husband, who has done everything from dropping bombs on aspirin factories to supporting partial-birth abortions "for the children," has suspiciously little to say and continues to hide behind the skirts of Ms. Reno, a woman with a something less than exemplary record on handling children in legal tussles. When Ms. Reno intervenes on their behalf, only one in 25 children survive.

Where are the liberals who insisted upon Fourth Amendment exclusionary rules? They stand mute as this executive branch approved its own search and seizure despite a federal appellate court ruling that further proceedings to determine the child's rights were in order.

Elian presents but one question for resolution: Do human rights trump family rights? In many ways, Elian's mother had answered that question. She removed her child from his country and father for freedom's sake. The laws on asylum are not age-specific, they allow anyone to defect. A court must determine whether Elian is capable of making that decision. Those who now house him fear he might be for he is being indoctrinated in a ritzy setting by Cuban classmates and under secretaries. Cuba must be tempting -- there little Elian can be free from invasions by jack-booted thugs, complete with gas masks.

Liberals are always out and about busily warning about the evil conservatives taking away rights. When will the Fourth Amendment discussions ensue? Are they so preoccupied that they cannot comment on the executive branch's defiance of the judicial branch? Is armed entry of private homes during negotiations troublesome to them? They carped about Iran Contra and the ethics of weapons for hostages for nearly a decade. Now they trade a small boy to Castro, Mr. Bay of Pigs who reigns over a totalitarian regime with the lowest standard of living in the Western hemisphere, complete with prison terms for holding public meetings and government- encouraged child prostitution for tourists.

Where's a liberal when you need one? Conservatives stand alone defending human rights. The next time liberals take to the streets to protest sweatshops, animal testing or any superficial Starbucks issue, "Remember Elian!" should be conservatives' battle cry of hypocrisy.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings