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April 28, 2000

The Elian Gonzalez case: Janet Reno v. the rule of law

The tenor of outrage over the INS raid to seize Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez continues to escalate – and with good reason. Only 48 hours before the raid last Saturday, a federal Court of Appeals declined Janet Reno’s request for a change of custody. The INS actions exemplify the Clinton administration’s now-familiar contempt for the much-ballyhooed “rule of law.”

Alan Dershowitz, that Clintonista stalwart at Harvard Law School, protested that the administration acted “lawlessly,” and “it’s a dangerous day for all Americans.”

Rep. Ron Paul notes, “The rule of law and the Constitution have been completely ignored and a police-state mentality dictated the actions by the Administration and carried out by Janet Reno. … Custody cases are properly handled in a family court, with contesting sides present. After hearing the case a judge rules with the loser having the right to appeal.”

In December, The Federalist Editorial Board took the position that Elian should remain with his Miami family until the Florida family courts had a chance to rule for custody in the case. (We publicly offered to pay the transportation costs to bring his entire Cuban family to Miami for that case.) We took this position for several reasons, not the least of which was that we federalists uphold the sovereignty of states to decide such legitimate matters of custody, while the federal courts have responsibility for immigration appeals.

Our position in this case was not predicated solely on the fact that Cuba is run by a ruthless Communist dictator, who does not acknowledge the notion of “parental rights,” but instead views all Cuban children as “property of the state.” Several members of your Editorial Board have worked extensively with the Russian government promoting democratic reforms. We know that under the old Soviet system, some parents were able to successfully rear their children apart from the Communists’ designs upon their destiny – though we never met any loving parents who would not have willingly broken that bond in order to win freedom for their children.

Our position was certainly influenced by the fact that his mother had custody of Elian and gave up her life attempting to win him freedom on our shores. And it was heavily influenced by the fact that, from all indications, Juan Miguel Gonzalez had (and has) little interest in the child other than his value as a political football for Fidel Castro.

National Review’s Kate O'Beirne echoes the basis for this assessment: “A loving father, who claims to be free from Castro’s control, would have been in Florida with his son months ago. Once he finally arrived, he would have walked across broken glass to see his son for an hour. … Elian’s Miami relatives are losing in the court of public opinion, but they have passed Solomon’s test with flying colors.”

Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, the university president who was selected as the neutral party to host the meeting between Elian and his grandmothers, reversed her support for Elian’s return to Cuba for much the same reason: “What, if not for fear, could keep a person from making a 30-minute trip to reclaim his son?” And then it would follow, if fear, why would a loving father not want his son to remain free with relatives in Miami?

The principle here is not genetics, but what is best for this child. The Federalist has always advocated parental rights and responsibilities, be those parents natural or adoptive, but in the abject absence of responsibility, we do believe the state family courts have a legitimate interest in considering a change of custody.

Regarding the media’s coverage of this event, the talkingheads have shown great contempt for Americans who escaped Castro’s Communist island prison. The media were critical of family pictures showing a smiling Elian with his Miami relatives, but now are eager to promote pictures of a smiling Elian with his biological father and his Cuban handlers.

And a final note about that federal agent whose MP-5 was pointed in Elian’s direction during the raid, Janet Reno claims, “If you look carefully [the agent’s] finger was not on the trigger and the safety was engaged.” One might infer from her comment that guns, even when pointed at 6-year-olds, are safe in the hands of responsible users. But we have been told by Clinton/Gore – ad nauseum – that America has a “gun problem.” Maybe it is, as we have argued all along, a “user problem,” ergo, primarily the culture of disenfranchised sociopathic criminals spawned by years of liberal social policies.

Speaking of Sociocratic spawn, at the National Zoo’s eighth annual African-American family celebration, a black sixteen-year-old shot up a group of black children. Less than an hour after that tragedy, Al “I-Don’t-Use-Tragedies-To-Promote-My-Political-Agenda” Gore announced the shootings at a star-studded Democratic fund-raiser in New York City: “We really have to have mandatory child safety trigger locks,” Gore told the crowd. “Trigger locks”? Washington, D.C., has the strictest “gun control” laws in the nation, which apparently failed to prevent this shooting. What difference, exactly, would child safety locks have made? (The Village glitterati anted up $2 million for Gore’s campaign.)

“Tragedies like this aren’t about gun control – they’re about a breakdown in society,” says Rep. J.C. Watts. “This culture we live in, where kids are killing other kids, is about children who need guidance, supervision and leadership. I hope Democrats and the vice president will quit the gun-control rhetoric and focus on the real problem. We need leaders who will serve as role models – not opportunistic politicians. Al Gore and his Democrat friends who grew up in Washington should know the gun laws where they were raised. Handguns have been illegal in Washington, D.C., since 1977. And children aren’t allowed to own guns anywhere. What kind of increased gun control could he possibly have in mind that…would have stopped this [or any such crime] from occurring?”

Last month, Bill “I-Don’t-Use-Tragedies-To-Promote-My-Political-Agenda” Clinton called for new gun legislation, citing an elementary school shooting by a child who took a gun from his guardian’s crack house. Crack addicts, of course, are fine law-abiding citizens.

And on the topic of the Clinton/Gore efforts to use the courts as a club to mandate “gun control,” seven leading firearms manufacturers have filed a counter-lawsuit against federal, state and local agencies and officials, alleging “an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade and in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.” Tit for tat!

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