- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

If the Clinton administration has its way, this will be the week Fidel Castro finally gets his hands on Elian Gonzalez. Unless Congress acts as even Vice President Al Gore has belatedly urged it to do to grant immediate permanent resident status for Elian, the child's father may arrive in this country under circumstances that will not permit him to opt to stay here with the boy.

In that event, the determination of Attorney General Janet Reno and, behind the scenes, those at the State Department bent on normalizing relations with the Castro regime, may mean that father and son will be forcibly reunited. In short order, they could be on their way back to Cuba where, it can be reliably predicted, Elian will become a central prop in Fidel's next round of compulsory mass demonstrations infusing a desperately needed sense of popular support and legitimacy to his politically and economically bankrupt government.

Should that happen, the adverse impact on the psychological well-being of the 6-year-old most immediately affected will be just one of the undesirable repercussions. Even if such a step does not precipitate massive civil disobedience to say nothing of actual violence in South Florida, the more grievous and lingering effect of surrendering Elian to totalitarian Cuba will be the further erosion it will mark in the morality, attachment to liberty and self-respect of the American people.

We have much to learn in these areas from Cuban-Americans who remain adamantly opposed to Mr. Castro. They may be an unwanted reminder for the Clinton administration of what this country is all about. Still, they appreciate and prize the freedom and opportunity afforded by this country, privileges taken for granted by many of us and systematically denied to their families and friends by a ruthless communist regime in Cuba.

Although the expatriate community is endlessly told that the Cold War has ended and that they must "get over" their hostility to Mr. Castro, these intelligent and industrious people comprehend what President Clinton and his colleagues deny: It cannot be over for their compatriots and should not be considered over for us until his regime, and the others that brought us the Cold War, have taken their place on the ash heap of history.

Unfortunately, this proposition requires a confidence in the superiority of American values and institutions that the Clinton-Gore team finds repugnant. It is guided, instead, by a form of moral equivalence that, when coupled with an extraordinary indifference to U.S. sovereignty, has profoundly mutated American foreign policies and priorities far beyond the Elian Gonzales affair.

Consider, in this regard, the following, illustrative list: the Clinton-Gore administration's appeasement of China, Libya, Syria and North Korea; its euchring of democratic friends like Israel and Taiwan; its reckless export of strategic technologies to potential adversaries; its willingness to compromise (perhaps with "extreme prejudice") perishable "sources and methods" through the wanton "sharing" of U.S. intelligence; its pursuit of trade, arms control, environmental and other accords that seriously impinge upon American interests and governing institutions; its overextension and squandering of defense resources in dubious peacekeeping and humanitarian operations around the world; and its ignoring, and otherwise compounding of, the dangers associated with, the true, corrupt and devious nature of successive Russian regimes.

It speaks volumes about the Clinton administration's stewardship of foreign policy that such ill-considered, misbegotten and/or morally reprehensible initiatives are the only kind that it seems willing to pursue with determination and steadfastness.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Clinton administration's sordid conduct in the Elian Gonzales affair is what it says about us. We have been systematically led to believe there is no despot on the planet (with the possible and certainly temporary exception of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic) with whom the United States cannot responsibly do business. We have been lied to, both about the true intentions and the increasing capabilities of these rulers (and their regimes) to do us harm. And we have been encouraged to believe there is no fundamental moral or other difference between political systems that depend upon the repression of their people's rights and those that are rooted in respect for the liberty of their citizens.

Is it any wonder that opinion polls suggest a majority of Americans favor sending the boy back to Cuba? In the sort of moral-free zone the Clinton-Gore administration has fostered over the past eight years, there appear to be no costs associated with doing so either to Elian or to this country's attachment to freedom.

In fact there will be a cost. We will be betraying two of the most fundamental principles of the American Founding, namely the inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness by suggesting that it matters not a whit to the well-being of a child whether he is raised under a totalitarian regime. These costs should be unacceptable not just to Cuban-Americans but to the rest of us, as well.

If the Clinton-Gore administration succeeds in the next few days, or weeks, in compelling the return of young Elian to Mr. Castro's gulag of a country, it will be more than a black mark against its already dismal record. It will be a tangible manifestation of the extent to which the moral decay exhibited and promoted by the administration's principals has metastasized among the U.S. population at large.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times

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