- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2000

The Washington Times editorial page is pleased to present below the first installment of a new weekly feature, "Nobles and knaves of the week." We hope that our readers will find the choices intriguing, interesting and provocative. Like many other items that appear on this page, we don't expect "Nobles and knaves" will ever be uncontroversial.

Readers who wish to comment on our choices, or propose candidates of their own, may contact Brendan Miniter. E-mail: miniter@twtmail.com.

* NOBLE: Throughout the entire fight for Elian Gonzalez's right to live in freedom, one person has quietly stood on the moral high ground: Elian, the six-year-old. For this, he is The Washington Times first noble of the week.

No doubt about it, Elian has the makings of a hero and it is his charm that propels him. Sometimes the most admirable traits about a person reveal themselves in an adverse situation. For Elian, it is his innocence, forthrightness (in his recent video statement) and lovable nature that has helped make it extremely difficult allowing him to be sent back to communism.

Elian is the one who sailed through the center of a Clinton administration scandal without being tarred. He is also the only one who has put a decent human face on a scandal during this administration. Indeed, it is because Elian is an objectively clean figure in a dirty fight that we now have a controversy and a debate on the living conditions in Cuba. Cubans have been fished from the sea before without such controversy consider that two other Cubans survived the voyage with Elian. They have quietly been admitted into this country.

Contrary to Elian himself, the details of the controversy swirling around this case are morally ambivalent. When Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, recently stuck his middle finger up at protesters he made his position morally weaker. Attorney Gregory Craig, who represents Elian's father, has meanwhile thrown dirt the other way. He accused Lazaro Gonzalez (the great uncle) of breaking the law and using Elian as a pawn. Cuba itself is an oppressive environment, ruled by the last communist dictator left in this hemisphere, Fidel Castro. Many of the protesters outside Elian's home in Miami are there precisely because they know the oppressiveness of the Castro regime.

Meanwhile, Elian has largely remained above the fray by staying quiet and innocent for the cameras. Nightly, scenes of the boy playing with his puppy are shown on the news, but no one questions him. Only recently has he spoken out on video, which revealed the six-year-old telling his father that he wishes to stay in the United States. It would certainly have been better had his relatives allowed the boy to remain above the fray. Ernest as the little boy appeared on the tape, six-year-olds can hardly be held responsible for knowing what their own best interest might be. However, does anyone doubt that had he asked Janet Reno to reunite him with his father this week, those words would have likely become a rallying cry for one side?

Elian is as lovable as the day he landed in an otherwise ugly incident.

* KNAVE: Denver School Board President Elaine Berman. The first anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School on April 20 is sure to bring a lot of emotion to the gun-control debate. In Denver, the public schools took students out of class and bused them to a political anti-gun rally. For that Denver school board President Elaine Berman is the knave of the week orwhatever the female equivalent may be. The anti-gun rally was sponsored by Colorado gun control group Safe Alternative to Firearms Epidemic and commanded a crowd of about 3,000 people a third of which were public school students. The students were bused in from Denver and Jefferson County public schools. President Clinton spoke at the event, and urged everyone there to push for a state ballot initiative to further regulate gun sales at gun shows. Speakers also took the opportunity to take pot-shots at the National Rifle Association, as reported in this paper.

Ms. Berman says the event was not a political rally, but rather a chance for students to meet the president. Students at the rally say otherwise. One sixth-grade class attended the rally after studying gun-control measures in school, as part of the Violence Prevention Project. "We're all for what Bill Clinton is saying," student Bryce Michaels told a reporter. "We're not just here to see the president we're here to support the initiative." Students should learn about the structure of our government in school. But students should not be forced into a political situation and neither should taxpayer's dollars be used to further a political cause. That stifles free speech and, more importantly, free thought.

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