September 25, 2004


Elián remark provokes fury: A comment by Senate candidate Mel Martinez about the return of Elián González to Cuba produces an angry response. (MARC CAPUTO AND BETH REINHARD, 9/25/04, Miami Herald)

Calling the federal agents who seized Elián González ''armed thugs,'' the campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez chided Democratic opponent Betty Castor on Friday for campaigning with the U.S. attorney general who sent the shipwrecked boy back to Cuba four years ago.

The language provoked outrage from Castor's campaign and from the national union that represented the immigration officers who took Elián from his Miami relatives and returned him to his father at the behest of then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

''Those were law enforcement officers doing their jobs, risking their lives,'' Castor spokesman Dan McLaughlin said of the ''armed thugs'' comment. 'Regardless of anyone's politics, I think it is outrageous to think someone would call police officers working under those conditions `thugs.' ''

Seizing a child whose mother died winning his freedom and shipping him back to a totalitarian gulag is obviously thuggish, but it was Clinton officials, like Ms Reno, who were the thugs, not the officers who just carried out orders.

Kerry Taps Controversial Elian Attorney (News Max, 9/25/04)

The Elian Gonzalez controversy was the single most critical factor giving George Bush the presidency in 2000.

It may prove to be a critical factor this year as well – thanks to John Kerry who just tapped a key figure in the Elian controversy for his campaign.

Kerry must have forgotten that after the Elian brouhaha record numbers of Cuban Americans in Florida voted against Al Gore – ceding the closely contested Florida race – and the presidency to George Bush.

The Miami Herald reported Saturday that "a lawyer unpopular with many Cuban Americans for his role in the Elián González case will help prepare John Kerry for the upcoming presidential debate to be held at the University of Miami.”

That lawyer’s name is Gregory Craig, a well-connected Washington attorney who represented Elian Gonzalez’s father.

Craig worked closely with the Cuban government and Attorney General Janet Reno to gain custody of little Elian.

In the end, armed federal immigration officers stormed the home of Elian’s uncle and seized the boy. With the help of Reno and the Clinton White House, Craig successfully returned Elian to Castro’s custody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 12:37 PM

If the United States had not returned Elian to his father, then the government of American mothers and fathers whose son or daughter is being held in another country against the parent's will (such as now is happening in Saudi Arabi) would have lost its authority to argue on behalf of the parent for return of the child.

Posted by: George at September 25, 2004 1:07 PM

If the United States had not returned Elian to his father, then the government of American mothers and fathers whose son or daughter is being held in another country against the parent's will (such as now is happening in Saudi Arabi) would have lost its authority to argue on behalf of the parent for return of the child.

Posted by: George at September 25, 2004 1:09 PM


So the U.S. is like Cuba?

Elian's father, of course, wanted him to stay in the U.S. at any rate.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 1:40 PM

To Janet Reno and the Clinton administration, Elian was much more of a threat than Osama bin Laden.

Posted by: sam at September 25, 2004 1:48 PM


Let's make some distinctions here. It's not all relative. Saudi Arabia is not the U.S. The idea that anyone is held in the US against the will of a parent is a straw man argument that can only be made by equivocating this country with Cuba or Saudi Arabia. I can understand the thinking peocess of a Janet Reno type leftist since they are genuinely unaware of any difference other than the method of governance. Nothing to be judgemental about in their little minds.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at September 25, 2004 1:55 PM

Orrin is a Christian, so of course he approves of stealing children

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 25, 2004 2:40 PM

Back on your meds, Harry.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 25, 2004 3:12 PM

Well, here's where I must differ with the great OJ, and agree with George. I happen to think Elian would be much better off in the US. I am also not his father. It is interesting that so many who recoil in horror with the idea that "it takes a village (rather than a family) to raise a child", suddenly see things different in this light here.

Unless Elian's father can be shown to be directly abusive or unfit, he is entitled to custody by any reasonable US or international law. If he chooses to... leave the US... with his child... where he goes after that is neither our business or jurisdiction. And I think some here seriously underestimate the catastrophic implications to any US effort to secure custody of a US child in a similar situation, anywhere on earth.

A nation that the US is most seriously at odds with over this issue right now is... Germany, strangely enough. If a US child winds up there in a custody battle or whatever, it's a virtual lock that the US parent has now lost their child, end of story. It's rather weird on Germany's part, but they are adamantine about it, to the point of helping to actually hide children from their US relatives.

If you don't think Germany and virtually avery other country would use an opposite decision in the Elian case against us to hang onto kids... please.. be serious.

Painful though it was to make and is to admit it, Clinton did the right thing.

Posted by: Andrew X at September 25, 2004 3:41 PM


So had Otto Frank been captured but Anne escaped to America you'd have returned her when Hitler paraded him and forced him to make the demand?

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 4:50 PM


From Communists? What kind of antihumanist wouldn't?

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 5:04 PM

George & Andrew,
Your argument boils down to "...if we don't make them mad at us, they'll do what we want in other areas". This is laughable & wrong. And is just one step from being appeasement.

How's this for a State Department statement to Saudia Arabia or Germany holding onto an American child: "Give him back in 24 hours or we'll come and take him. NOBODY kidnaps an American citizen."

Posted by: ray at September 25, 2004 5:15 PM

Andrew makes a good point. Any citizen has the right to emigrate and his/her kids follow that decision. Lots of peole went behind the Iron Curtain in the cold war and nobody stopped them taking their kids. George's point about reciprocity is also not without merit.

Would this tragic story have been any different if the parents hadn't been divorced? Suppose Elian had fled with his mother and left the father behind, but there had been no previous separation. If the mother died in the attempt, Orrin, would you have objected to returning Elian to his father?

Then there is the fact that most people just don't see Cuba in the frightening, totalitarian way they see, say, North Korea. Too much sun and rhumba. You think beatings and starvation for the latter, but not for Cuba.

There are lots of stories from WW 11 about European Jews who took desperate measures to get their kids to safety either by smuggling them out across borders or placing them with Christian families who agreed to hide them. If that happened today we'd probably have a whole cottage industry of psychologists talking about how cruel they were to sever the parental bond.

Posted by: Peter B at September 25, 2004 7:40 PM

If Otto Frank came to the US, was under our jurisdiction enough for him to have every opportunity to ask for asylum, chose to pick up his daughter and then... leave the country.... who are we to stop him?

I phrase it that way for a reason. Both Otto and Mr. Gonzalez may not necessarily be going to "Country X". But they are passport and visa holding travellers who have committed no crime, and are thus free to leave the US, with their birth-children, at will. Once they are over our border, well, I suppose they could take them to an ice-cave in Antarctica if they desire. It is NOT our call to order them this way or that. That is how a free country, which allows humans and not the state, responsibility for themselves and their children's welfare, conducts itself.

Ray has my argument wrong. I am not talking about "other areas". Let's say we keep Anne from 'ol Otto there. Now she, who is not American, is safe. Great. And four American children taken to and trapped in Hitler's Germany are now lost to us... forever. We have NO recourse to get them back. None, tough talk nonwithstanding. In other words, do this and a forcible reverse-kidnapping by special forces or whatever is now our ONLY option, since we have established the precedent. And any sane politician will tell you we don't want to wind up there.

Governing is the job of making extremely difficult choices. Clinton sacrificed Elian. George Bush sacrificed 1000+ soldiers. You can get weepy eyed and maudlin over both, or you can see that there are thousands of American children at risk to overseas custody disputes, and millions of us at risk to Saddam, to difficult choices had to be made, and stood by.

I honestly wonder if a single American citizen struggling to get a child home from an overseas dispute would have criticized Clinton for his decision. I stand pat.

Posted by: Andrew X at September 25, 2004 7:57 PM


That's an excellent standard. You'll note though that Castro could not allow Elian's father and family to travel here, precisely because they would have stayed.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 8:05 PM

Tough world sometimes.

Posted by: Andrew X at September 25, 2004 8:07 PM

Tougher when those who love freedom side with thugs.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 8:14 PM

I hope someone's going to make sure that every Cuban-American in Florida gets to see the picture of Kerry hugging Manuel Ortega.

Posted by: ralph phelan at September 25, 2004 8:22 PM

Am I missing something in this argument? People are aguing that the US was right to send Elian back to Cuba, because Saudi Arabia and Germany do not return US children to their parents, and if we had kept Elian we'd, what, somehow be metaphysically worse off?

The argument makes sense if Saudi Arabia and Germany were returning US children. As it is, only a lunatic could make this argument seriously, and not feel the need to explain how returning Elian didn't cause the Saudis and the Germans to consider us schmucks who they could push around when it comes to kids.

Posted by: MG2 at September 25, 2004 9:39 PM

I'm guessing joe is one of those Christians who knows nothing about Christianity, but Orrin knows what I'm talking about. He's the one standing tall for 16th century Spanish Catholicism, which is well known (to some of us) for its doctrine of child-stealing, which was ratified by Pio Nono 400 years later.

Christians believe it is their right to steal children -- strictly for the child's own good, as Orrin says.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 25, 2004 10:16 PM

Andrew says:

"Clinton sacrificed Elian"

Why was Clinton even involved? We know now (from the release of govt. docs) that the Elian intervention was being directed from the Whitehouse. Why? Pres. Clinton never took a personal interest in seeing the children of American mothers taken in custody disputes to foreign countries returned to them.

Posted by: carter at September 25, 2004 11:59 PM


Someone has to have the child's good at heart.

Posted by: oj at September 26, 2004 12:09 AM

You don't.

It's just like when the newspapers run a story about a poor little dog who's down on his luck. Dozens, hundreds will offer to adopt the dog.

We know they don't give a damn about the dog. If they did, they'd have adopted the other dogs who are just as bad off but haven't been the subject of newspaper stories.

Same with you and Elian.

You don't care a thing about the boy, just scoring poltical/religious points.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 26, 2004 6:14 PM

Elian had a family there taking care of him and a mother who died saving him. He isn't a dog, even if Democrats treated him like one.

Posted by: oj at September 26, 2004 7:17 PM

It's not so much that people care only about celebrity dogs, as it is that most people are caught up their own spheres of relationship and experience, and fail to notice what is obvious to anyone who truly looks.

A media story about an animal down on its luck intrudes into people's lives; they're forced to acknowledge its existence.

Otherwise, unless packs of wild dogs are roaming the neighborhood, it's easy to forget that there are strays in need of care.

The same dynamic occurs with just about every issue that's not widely life threatening, and even some that are.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 27, 2004 5:15 AM

True enough, Michael.

But people who react like that are disqualified from telling other people how to behave.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 28, 2004 2:26 PM


Thank you oh great disqualifier and, conversely, advocate of tolerance.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2004 3:58 PM