There he was, propped up on a fluffy K-Mart pillowed bed cuter than the Pets.com sock puppet and as dangerous as dynamite. Elian Gonzalez, the kid that ate Cable, telling his daddy that he didn’t want to go back to Cuba. Now the argument rages, was he coached, did his frantic relatives read him his lines as they may have rehearsed him to tell Diane Sawyer that dolphins swam around his tube and that his Mommy wasn’t dead, just lost in Miami. There were dark suggestions the Morris office or Tri-Star reps might have coached him there. How perfect for the TV-movie to throw in some cute fish for dramatic tension. And who could blame them? Anything seems fair in this soft cold war and nothing hammers the spinster heart like a pleading six-year- old.
For surely, the target of the Cuban Americans desperately trying to hold onto Elian — their pride, their hatred of Castro and all he stands for — is the thought of Janet Reno, shambling, shaky and over her head, jetting into town with her outriders of lawyers and shrinks to take away the little boy who has become such a symbol of their hard-won freedom that they are seeing visions of the Holy Mother of God on their windshields and in their Wheaties. They know if Reno wins and the kid goes back there is no book, no movie, no Elian action dolls, no mugs, T-shirts or tie-ins. They have to get to her. As a mother who has been there, let me suggest that Elian does as well. For buried deep in every little boy’s brain is a weapon that no one can match. It’s called the Brat Snap, and displayed on international television it’s a slam-dunk guaranteed winner.
No matter how they come for him, at some point it’s going to be on camera — careers depend on it. This kid knows from cameras by now. As soon as he hears the whir of a Nikon or spots a long lens he goes into the Brat Snap. Whoever is carrying him is at his mercy. It starts with the arched back. The legs go stick, the head is thrown back, arms raised. A scream that cryonizes the blood goes up as the eyes roll under the skull. It is impossible to hold a child in the Brat Snap position, but as soon as his feet touch the ground the legs go limp. He must be picked up again.
At this point he can no longer scream because he is holding his breath. Panic ensues. Onlookers press forward, as do the cameras, just in time to catch him turning blue and passing out. Somewhere in Miami where Attorneys General hang out, Reno and the INS commissioner try to decide what to do. Greg Craig clutches his cell phone and tells the Immigration agents surrounding the boy and his handlers to back off. The crowd parts and Elian, who has now started to breathe again, is carried back into the house. The Brat Snap never fails. He knows this. He also knows he can do it again — on cue — until he’s thirteen or fourteen. It is terrifying, it is effective, it’s a winner. The kid stays in the country. The kid stays in the picture.
—Lucianne Goldberg is a radio talk show host and publisher of Lucianne.com.
Editor’s note: Nothing in Mrs. Goldberg’s comments should be construed as a commentary on the Editor-at-Large of National Review Online.