Commentary

Clinton Regime Outdoes Itself by Snatching Elian Gonzalez

By Deroy Murdock
April 24, 2000
Saturday’s Nacht-und-Nebel-style seizure of Elian Gonzalez by armed U.S. agents resembled Munich 1940 more than Miami 2000. The abuses of power and excessive force in this revolting episode epitomize a federal police state that has goose-stepped from Ruby Ridge to Waco and now to Little Havana.

At 5:14 a.m. — while attorneys for the young Cuban refugee negotiated his status with Justice Department officials — eight Immigration and Naturalization Service officers used a battering ram to knock down the front door of Elian’s great uncle, Lazaro. Wielding machine guns, the body-armor-clad agents knocked over a picture of Jesus Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary on Easter Eve. They then kicked down another door inside the Gonzalez home.

According to Elian’s cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, federal agents held her at gun point while one screamed, “Give me the f - - - ing boy or we’ll shoot you.” An NBC cameraman said federal gunmen kicked him in the stomach, hit his sound man with a rifle butt and yelled, “Don’t move or we’ll shoot.”

A Border Patrol agent in a helmet and goggles soon pointed his assault rifle at Elian and the man who shielded him in his arms — Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued him from the Atlantic Ocean last Thanksgiving. As Elian hollered, “Help me! Help me!”, he was whisked away in a white van driven by yet another federale whose face was hidden in a ski mask. Onlookers, meanwhile, were kept at bay with pepper spray.

This nauseating episode — captured by TV cameras and Alan Diaz, an intrepid Associated Press photographer — looked more like a kidnapping than an official act of the United States government. Then again, very little about this case has been kosher.

This raid supposedly was triggered after Attorney General Janet Reno decided that talks with the Gonzalez family had collapsed. Attorneys for the Gonzalezes say they spoke by phone with Reno and her subordinates late into the night and faxed proposals back and forth to Justice headquarters in Washington.

“For Janet Reno to say that negotiations had broken down at the time of the raid was an utter, utter lie,” Barbara Lagoa, one of Elian’s attorneys, told Fox News Channel.

The president previously urged the Gonzalezes to follow the rule of law — and who better than Bill Clinton could make such an admonition? Nonetheless, it appears that federal officials trampled the rule of law when they burst into Lazaro Gonzalez’s private property with a dubious search warrant. As Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe wrote in the April 25 New York Times, “it was not a warrant to seize the child. Elian was not lost, and it is a semantic sleight of hand to compare his forcible removal to the seizure of evidence, which is what a search warrant is for.” Tribe, a veteran liberal, added: “Ms. Reno’s decision to take the law as well as the child into her own hands seems worse than a political blunder. Even if well intended, her decision strikes at the heart of constitutional government and shakes the safeguards of liberty.”

Furthermore, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 20 that Elian Gonzalez himself may have the right to seek political asylum in the United States, even against his father’s wishes. The decision that Elian is entitled to a day in court — specifically a May 11 INS asylum appeal hearing — argues against his immediate transfer to his father. Juan Miguel Gonzalez is currently influenced, if not thoroughly controlled, by Cuban functionaries. His parents are reportedly in a Cuban government compound, perhaps held as collateral until their son returns to Fidel Castro’s “workers’ paradise.” Juan Miguel has spent nearly his entire sojourn in America in the home of a senior Cuban diplomat. Imagine a North Korean boy who had escaped to Seoul awaiting a court hearing in the “neutral” territory of an apartment occupied by the Pyongyang regime’s attache.

The Circuit Court also chastised the Clinton Administration for ignoring Elian’s desires. “According to the record, plaintiff - although a young child - has expressed a wish that he not be returned to Cuba,” the three-judge panel wrote.

“It appears that never have INS officials attempted to interview plaintiff about his wishes.

“It is not clear that the INS, in finding plaintiff’s father to be the only proper representative, considered all of the relevant factors — particularly the child’s separate and independent interests in seeking asylum.”

Fox News analyst Dick Morris joked that Hillary Clinton’s next book will be called “It Takes a SWAT Team.” The thuggishness of the Clinton Administration, reputedly the best friends a child could have, likely will scar Elian for years. Just last April 17, the Justice Department released a letter from Dr. Irwin Redlener claiming that “Elian Gonzalez is now in a state of imminent danger to his physical and emotional well-being in a home that I consider to be psychologically abusive.” Perhaps the Clintons and Janet Reno believed Elian would find federal gun muzzles psychologically soothing. As Reno helpfully explained: “Elian Gonzalez is a child who needs to be cherished.”

Adding further to all this intrigue is the fact that Dr. Redlener is a pediatrician, not a psychologist. As such, he is as qualified to comment on Elian’s state of mind as a psychologist is to treat him for chicken pox. Beyond that, Dr. Redlener never even spoke with Elian. Unless Dr. Redlener is clairvoyant, he seems entirely unable to evaluate Elian’s psyche. Redlener, it transpires, also served on Hillary Clinton’s health care task force in 1993 and chaired the 1992 Clinton-Gore National Health Leadership Council. He is little more than an Administration flack with a stethoscope.

Add to this that Juan Miguel Gonzalez is represented by President Clinton’s top-dollar impeachment attorney, Greg Craig. Nothing about the Elian Gonzalez case is as it seems. An adorable six-year-old boy is the latest victim of a lawless regime seemingly bent on serving the political wishes of Fidel Castro, even at gunpoint. So it goes these days in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Deroy Murdock is a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and a policy advisor to the Cato Institute.