- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Trouble ahead

"When a politically agile guy like President Clinton starts worrying aloud about the danger of a 'train wreck' over Elian Gonzalez, it's clear the White House knows trouble looms ahead," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes in a news analysis.

"The problem is that thanks in fair measure to Attorney General Janet Reno's latest bungling of a delicate matter it's hard to envision a happy ending for adorable little Elian. Or for Clinton-land," Miss Orin said.

"A happy ending for Reno would have Elian's dad come here from Cuba, the boy joyfully jump into his father's arms shouting 'Papa' and see them happily head home to Cuba together.

"But it now seems questionable whether the dad will come at all and doubtful that Elian, closely bonded with a young cousin here whom he may see as a surrogate mom, would happily go off with his dad."

That means the most likely outcomes "all look like political disasters for the White House," Miss Orin said.

Con job

"The Clinton strategy of pretending to follow the law [in the Elian Gonzalez case] is a con job," the Weekly Standard says in an editorial.

"What the Florida court decided in the Elian case was basically that the INS has the right to enforce INS policy. Big deal. The INS, or at least its boss, Janet Reno, and her boss, Bill Clinton, also have the discretion to let Elian stay. So what's at issue is whether the United States can in good conscience return a 6-year-old to one of the few remaining descendants of the mid-century totalitarianisms," the magazine said.

The editorial, written for the editors by Christopher Caldwell, said that if Elian's father is speaking his own mind, "he's the first Cuban allowed to do so in 40 years." It also noted that Elian's father is represented by Gregory Craig, President Clinton's lawyer during his Senate trial. Since Mr. Craig's hourly fee "approaches the per capita annual income of the average Cuban, we're curious to know who's actually ponying up for his services."

The editorial added: "President Clinton has taken to traveling the world apologizing for American collusion with authoritarian regimes. This little obsession has more and more the look of a hobby and less the look of moral resolution. If the president is willing to send a 6-year-old child back to a crumbling outpost of Leninism, what is the point of all these apologies? Apologies are promises. Ultimately, the Elian case is a battle over whether we take Communist dictatorship seriously enough to protect refugees in our nation who are threatened by it."

Exactly the opposite

"Why is Mr. Castro so interested in Elian? It's not for his love of rafter children," writes Carlos Alberto Montaner, a Cuban novelist living in Madrid.

"In the summer of 1994, his political police killed 10 of them, and 22 adults, as they tried to escape aboard the tugboat 'Trece de Marzo.' He didn't even allow the families to bury the bodies returned by the sea," Mr. Montaner said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

He added: "The irony is that supporters of the Clinton administration have portrayed Elian's Miami family and the Cuban community in Miami as unwilling to respect the supremacy of law. The truth is exactly the opposite: Ms. Reno is inappropriately trying to accelerate the course of the judicial process, and she is trying to deny Elian's family the right to appeal through all the available channels, including the Supreme Court. Elian's family in Miami is not demanding that Ms. Reno decide the child's fate one way or another. What they wish is to be allowed to act before the courts in a serene manner."

Hillary hunts, too

Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that life on the Senate campaign trail is harder than expected, especially for women.

"I'm almost embarrassed to think back all the times that I would say to my husband, 'Well, you could have said this differently, or you could have done that,' " the first lady told about 100 people at a community forum in Coxsackie, N.Y.

"Now, I would like to take all those words back because it's very tough for both men and women," Mrs. Clinton said.

But "there are extra burdens that women [candidates] face around the country," she added.

"The best advice I've ever seen for women in politics came from one of my favorite predecessors, Eleanor Roosevelt… . She said 'You must grow skin as tough as a rhinoceros.'

"So if you look carefully at my skin …" Mrs. Clinton began before she was drowned out by laughter.

Mrs. Clinton also repeated her support for gun licensing, a position shared by her Republican opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Mrs. Clinton attacked the National Rifle Association for being stuck on a "theological view" about gun control, but she also warned against "people on the other extreme who want to take everybody's guns away," the Associated Press reports.

"I've gone hunting," she said. "I don't have anything against guns if guns are used by responsible people."

Bush and California

George W. Bush is taking pains to show he won't let history repeat itself in California, eight years after his father ceded the state early to Bill Clinton in a move that helped the Democrats win back the White House, the Associated Press reports.

With symbolism and actions, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is seeking to reassure jittery Republicans that he intends to fight for the state and win just as his father did in 1988.

One example: Even though he's far behind Democrat Al Gore among Hispanics in the state, he's going out of his way to seek their votes. He's popular among Hispanics back home in Texas, and during the California primary campaign he challenged other candidates to debate him on issues important to Hispanics, but "solamente en espanol" only in Spanish.

So far, Mr. Gore has the upper hand among voters statewide, with the latest Field Poll showing him 10 points ahead. He also has a powerful ally in Gov. Gray Davis. And the Clinton administration has rained down federal money in recent months a tactic Mr. Bush is powerless to counter.

The vice president topped Mr. Bush 35 percent to 28 percent in the state's open primary last month, in line with a wave of Democratic popularity that swept all but two Republicans from California's statewide offices a year and a half ago.

But Mr. Bush's people insist he's not budging in a state that holds one-fifth of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Mr. Bush will campaign in California this week, beating the vice president to the state following last month's wave of primaries. But he won't stay long this time. After about a day and a half in this state of 34 million people, he returns to Texas.

Car trouble

President Clinton's Cadillac began to spew smoke as he was en route to a Nevada golf course Sunday, Agence France-Presse reports.

Mr. Clinton was in Las Vegas, the world gambling capital, for two fund-raisers with rich Democratic contributors that raised a reported $500,000 for his party.

The Secret Service, which provides security for the president, stopped the presidential motorcade and led Mr. Clinton to a second limousine.

The change took only a minute, and the motorcade continued on its way, leaving the first limo and its driver behind.

"It smelled like brake fluid," commented White House spokesman Jake Siewert.

Best line

The Media Research Center credits pundit Tony Blankley with the best line of the weekend, uttered on "The McLaughlin Group":

"The only way Gore can be credible on campaign finance reform is to turn himself in."

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