- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

Poor little Elian. He lost his last friend in the U.S. government Thursday when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had dangled a sympathetic ear before him, took a powder.

The court, which only Tuesday had warned Attorney General Janet Reno to cut out the lawyerly crap and hinted broadly that it would appoint its own friend of the court and special guardian to look after Elian while he is in the custody of the Cuban brain-washing team on the Eastern Shore, Thursday said the brainwashers were good enough for him after all. What is one little boy in Washington, so full of important people?

The government has offered to supply the court with biweekly reports from a psychiatrist, retained by the government to "monitor and examine" the boy, and from a social worker, the court said. "The court accepts these offers."

The judges are free now to return to their four-hour days, their golf games and frequent snoozes on the bench. Miss Reno, twice rebuked by the appeals court, can relax.

Elian can't. The State Department late Thursday sent 10 of Elian's "classmates" and adult "chaperones" who are trusted Castro goons to keep Elian company during the brainwashing that has already begun. Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, may or may not approve of what is going on. He doesn't have anything to say about it, as Miss Reno and her boss, Bill Clinton, very well know. Fidel Castro is in charge of this sordid drama, as he has been from the very beginning. Can anyone imagine any circumstances in which Juan Miguel would tell Fidel to butt out and leave his boy alone?

Mr. Clinton, who would sacrifice his own child's freedom if political expediency demanded it (just as he sacrificed his own child's peace of mind for his cheap sexual gratification over the years), can relax. Fidel won't empty his prisons, as he did when Mr. Clinton was merely the governor of Arkansas, and Al Gore won't be threatened with rioting Cuban criminals on these shores as the presidential campaign unfolds.

We should all be very clear about what the sacrifice of Elian Gonzalez means. We are not sending him back to his father, the father who allowed four months to elapse before he got to America to see about his boy and who, after he got here, settled himself in Washington with Cuban secret police minders, not in Miami. We are sending Elian back to a harsh Communist "re-education" camp.

Perhaps this saddens Juan Miguel. (We can be pretty sure that Bill Clinton hasn't bothered to think about it.) Juan Miguel could have gone to Miami to retrieve the boy himself, but did not. The fathers I know would have got there if they had had to hitchhike, stowaway, walk or crawl.

Elian's relatives in Miami, so demonized by the reporters who want nothing so much as to be cuddled in Janet Reno's lap, were nevertheless on the next plane out of Miami after Miss Reno's troopers, some in terrorist's ski masks and armed with battering rams, tear gas and submachineguns, seized Elian from his sleep in the middle of the night. The relatives failed to see Elian, but not for lack of trying.

Miss Reno herself seemed to have a twinge of conscience yesterday. She wouldn't do anything to help the Miami relatives get their moment to tell little Elian goodbye, but she offered a little cheap sentiment. "I can't imagine that Marisleysis will be out of his life," she said. "You could look at them and see a connection." This is cheap sentiment because she knows that once Elian is back in Cuba, where the boy will be "a possession of the state," there is no chance that Marisleysis will any longer be part of his life.

With Elian as good as gone, we have to move on to the larger issue of what the Republicans will do about Miss Reno's raid on the Constitution. "Miss Reno's decision to take the law as well as the child into her own hands," says Laurence Tribe, the Harvard professor of constitutional law who was a faithful apologist for Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, "seems worse than a political blunder. Even if well intended, her decision strikes at the heart of constitutional government and shakes the safeguards of liberty."

Certain Republicans in Congress, pushed by Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat, are making brave noises about getting to the bottom of the latest Clinton assault on the Constitution. Talk, like Janet Reno sentiment, is cheap. Old hands around town are betting they will back down when they cool down. Republicans always do. This will be a test of whether the Republican Congress is worth saving. If they cut and run this time, they will invite scorn and the question of why anyone should bother saving them.

Elian Gonzalez, who came so close to a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was worth an inner tube. Most of these guys are not.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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