- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Maybe it takes a village to raise a child in the Third World, but back here in the real world you can frighten a child half to death with only one ugly trooper and a machine gun.
If Hillary, who is a mother after all, had not been AWOL from her job as first lady she could have told her husband that big guns and little children can be a deadly mixture.
The charade at the White House, trying to absolve the president of responsibility for the assault on the house where Elian lay sleeping, doesn't fool anyone who pays attention.
Janet Reno makes a superficially believable scapegoat. She's not only experienced at harming children, but she's locked in a permanent embrace with the president, as with those tiny lovebugs splattering the windshields of cars all over Florida. He needs someone at Justice to stand between justice that's justice with a small "J" and the Oval Office. In return, the attorney general has the safest job in town until next Jan. 20. There's nothing that either of them could do rape, murder, mayhem, treason or even smoke a cigarette that would provoke the slightest judgment of the other.
But why would the president of the United States, even this president, stoop to being a surrogate for Fidel Castro?
"The Clinton haters," as the Clinton apologists derisively call the millions of Americans who can't forgive what the man from Hot Springs has done to the national institution they cherish above all others, may mark it down to just something a man with no character and no core would do to an innocent child.
"Look," they say. "Any man who would hold his wife up to pervasive humiliation, scarring his daughter for life with the recitation of the rape, ridicule and abuse of women left in his wake, wouldn't flinch at inflicting middle-of-the-night terror on a 6-year-old boy trying to recover from the ordeal at sea that claimed his mother before his very eyes."
Perhaps. Everything is politics for Bill Clinton, and he is still spooked by the prospect that Fidel could do it to him again. When Fidel emptied his prisons in 1979, sending thousands of drug dealers, rapists, murderers and petty thieves to America on the Mariel Boatlift, many of them were interned at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, in Arkansas, where Mr. Clinton was the governor. They eventually rioted, trashing the neighborhood, and public outrage cost Mr. Clinton a second term as governor. He thought it had ruined his career. He knows what a repeat of that would do to Al Gore. He is determined to do anything to appease Fidel now, and the maximum leader knows it.
When he told the attorney general to make Fidel happy, she saluted smartly. Since then the president and his tokens at the Justice Department, Miss Reno and Eric Holder, the deputy for carrying Miss Reno's purse, have been furiously demonizing the Cuban-Americans. It's a labor of love. Lawyers at Justice can't bear the idea that anyone, particularly the mouthy Cubans in Miami, would dare stand up to challenge the might of the United States.
Once the Cuban community of Miami was effectively demonized, the president was free to do anything he wanted, secure in the expectation that the American public, fed up with Spanish-speaking immigrants, would quietly acquiesce.
The president not only had the cover of the public-opinion polls indicating a majority in favor of returning Elian to his father even if it meant returning him to Cuba, he had the cover of the demands of black politicians to send the boy home. Reps. Maxine Waters of California is never happy about anything and Charles Rangel of New York keeps his lip at the ready. Fidel is the only Cuban they have a kind word for.
All the president has to worry about now are the Republicans. (No giggling, please.) Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott ordered Miss Reno to come in today to explain why her agents stormed Elian's house in Miami as if it were D-Day and they were trying to save Private Ryan.
"We don't want to politicize this… . We don't want to make public speeches," Mr. Lott's spokesman tells reporters. "We are there to ask tough bipartisan questions."
Well, we can hope so, but the track record of Republicans is not good. They bluster splendidly, but usually retreat when a Democrat says boo. This time, however, some Democrats are angry, and are honorable enough to say so even if they make Bill Clinton squirm.
So far there haven't been any heroes in this sordid drama, but the Republicans and Democrats demanding an accounting have an unusual opportunity to be heroic. They'll have to stand up like men. Maybe some of the women will show them how.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.



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