- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

Everybody got a piece of little Elian Gonzalez. There's less to send back to Fidel Castro than there used to be.

Fidel got a live trophy, seized from the toothless Uncle Sugar. Bill Clinton got an assurance that Fidel won't flood Florida with robbers and rapists from his prisons, sinking Al Gore the way he sank Gov. Bill Clinton in Arkansas an eon or two ago.

Greg Craig, who is but two ambulances short of a shyster, got a high-profile client, even if he did have to mooch his fee from Democratic fat cats in Georgetown after the National Council of Churches, a refuge of dying congregations with empty pews, was forced by internal outrage to balk at coughing up the dough. The odious Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, all bosom and bombast bereft of a pulpit to call her own, got an unexpected 15 minutes of fame for her part in dispatching little Elian back to her favorite satrapy, where he won't eat nearly as well as she does.

Janet Reno got to be of some further use to Bill Clinton in the last days of his disgraced presidency, maybe enough to shore up her pension and health-insurance benefits as the sordid facts of Al Gore's escape from prosecution paint a legacy of corruption at the Justice Department.

The agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service got to play with their guns, pretending to be at Omaha Beach, playing war not against evildoers their own size but against frightened women and a terrified little boy. (When the Justice Department put out a thrilling tale of its manly agents this week, hearts pounding at how brave they were, their names were omitted so they could hide.)

Even the Republicans got a piece of Elian. They practiced their rhetoric, empty as usual and more squeak than roar, a prelude to the inevitable climb-down. Tom DeLay's outrage and Dennis Hastert's anger subsided when the polls told them that doing something to help Elian would undermine their slogan for this fall: "Vote Republican. We're not as bad as you think."

Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma got the biggest Republican piece of Elian. Mr. Largent had dug himself into a hole as a member of the committee choosing the new House chaplain. In an interview with the Catholic candidate, he asked whether the priest's clerical collar might offend Protestants. Such a question would not have raised an eyebrow in rural Oklahoma, where Protestants and Catholics are grown-ups and engage each other in real conversation, but in contemporary urban America, where finding offense has become a growth industry, Mr. Largent had stepped in a pile of the stuff that made Texas and Oklahoma famous. The House leadership, terrified of losing the Catholic vote, pressured Mr. Largent to do something.

Enter Charlie Rangel, the Harlem Democrat who has been leading the charge to send little Elian back to the paradise where life is not really so bad. (Doesn't Fidel pass out fine cigars to his congressional visitors?) Maybe, if Steve Largent could do something for Charlie, Charlie could do something for Steve. Whatever, soon afterward, Mr. Largent, who had been leading the effort to grant citizenship to Elian, signed an op-ed piece in the New York Times, a mawkish appeal to the government to send Elian back to Fidel. What a coincidence: the organized Catholic anger at Mr. Largent, now a nice Rangel Republican, dissipated overnight.

Just when it looked like this sordid episode couldn't get any smarmier, it did. Government memoranda and e-mail unearthed by court order (thanks to Judicial Watch) reveal in stark detail just how desperate Bill Clinton, the State Department and the Clinton kiddie corps are to kiss Fidel where the flies are thickest. These internal documents reveal how the U.S. government "coordinated" with Fidel the strategy for sending Elian home, even the timing of the litigation, and how it tried to maneuver the Catholic Church into taking the heat for the betrayal of Elian.

And finally, how the Clinton administration colluded with Fidel Castro over how to manage U.S. newspaper and television coverage of the incident to give "guidance." A generation ago, a suggestion that a presidential administration was trying to "manage" the news caused an uproar that ruined the reputations of decent men. Now we shall see how the mavens of the American media, who have given standing ovations to Janet Reno for her politically correct mismanagement of the Elian affair, will react to the news that the Clinton administration sought the assistance of Fidel in pulling their strings.

One day Elian Gonzalez may have the opportunity in a free Cuba to reflect on how his mother gave her life to get him to the land of the free and the home of the brave and who it was who betrayed him for their own cheap ends.

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