- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

For several months now, Attorney General Janet Reno has insisted the actions of the Justice Department and the Clinton administration concerning Elian Gonzalez have been guided exclusively by an overriding concern for the young boy's "best interests." On Saturday, April 22, only hours before Easter, the federal government of the United States sought to uphold this guiding objective by pointing a loaded assault weapon at Elian Gonzalez's head.

The Clinton administration's treatment of Elian and his relatives in Miami suffers from a frightening "ends-justifies-the-means" quality that provides an easy justification for almost any action. From the very beginning, this misguided reasoning has resulted in decisions that, taken together, constitute an unthinkable assault on core principles of American justice and our collective sense of common decency.

Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the armed attack on the home of Lazaro Gonzalez as an action taken to remove Elian from a "harmful" environment. And according to Mr. Holder, the Justice Department reached this grave assessment by having government psychologists more than 1,000 miles from Miami review video recordings of Elian outside his uncle Lazaro's residence.

Of course, any individual involved with custody disputes knows that such a determination should be made only by an impartial entity equipped with all the specific facts of the case. If an unbiased examination finds clear and convincing evidence of imminent danger, the child is almost always placed in a foster home, a shelter or with other caretakers before final custody is determined by a court of law. This procedure is followed to guarantee the child's safety to the greatest degree possible.

The Clinton administration sought to protect Elian by removing him from a loving home at gunpoint without a court order, and now the deputy attorney general dares to defend the government's decision by offering up the uninformed opinions of government psychologists. That might pass for due process in the gulag, but in America we should continue, I think, to insist on a higher standard.

The descent into the sort of twisted thinking that presents a life without liberty as an acceptable upbringing for a child began when the administration tried to undermine Elian's legal rights. It accelerated with the Justice Department recklessly endangering his very life. And I fear it will conclude with a perverse celebration of his return to communist oppression.

The Clinton administration has set out to uphold "the rule of law" and serve Elian's "best interests" by attempting to deny him a court hearing and forcibly seizing him from the tender care of blood relatives. Our government has done all this to return him to a life without free speech, free thought or free worship. It is a despicable end that has been pursued through despicable means.

We should ask ourselves what kind of world view, what kind of governing philosophy, allows educated adults to deny an innocent boy freedom and call it justice. Elian Gonzalez deserves much better.

Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, is House majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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