Remember in the movie Stripes, when Bill Murray came home from a bad day, and he only had one beer left in the fridge?
Harold Ramis asks, “Can I have your last beer?” and Bill Murray says, “No.” And Ramis responds, “We’ll split it!”
No wait, that’s not right.
Remember that story in the Bible, when the two women said they wanted the same baby, and Solomon said, “We’ll split it!” One mom said, “Fine with me!” The other one said, “Are you high!? Give my baby to the other lady if you have to, but don’t kill it!”
Somehow, Solomon gets credit as “Captain 1,600 SAT” for deducing that the woman who wanted the baby to live was the better mom. Duh. Am I the only one who sees this as a no-brainer? It’s very rare that somebody would be satisfied with half a baby in a custody dispute. And, what if both women turned out to be venal? Would Solomon have gone through with the baby-chopping if neither side chirped up?
Real life is much more complicated. Usually when people fight over children it’s because both sides want them very much. That is why we have this bloated, inefficient super-structure of law, bureaucracy, and politics to govern such things. Figuring out who wants a child more and would be better equipped to deal with it is usually very hard. If every dispute were between a wealthy, caring mom (or dad) and a guy with giant piercing claws instead of hands and a long record of using children as Piñatas, do you really think we’d need our elaborate system of rules and checks and balances?
Like with many Biblical tales, the wisdom derived from the Solomon story is not very complicated. Instead, it is simple. Children should be with people who care about them most, because that usually predicts who would care for them best.
I bring all of this up, not to mock the Bible or make light of the Elian Gonzalez situation. In fact, I like the Bible. And I think this Elian thing may have me more angry than the impeachment stuff did — and during impeachment I kicked a lot of cats to vent my anger.
But let’s take a look at what Solomon might think about all of this.
The negotiations between the Miami relatives and the Justice Department were making progress and were in good faith. This has now been confirmed by innumerable news organizations as well as several very Clinton- and Reno-friendly muckety-mucks who were party to the negotiations. This was not — as the craven liars at the Justice Department would have you think — an issue of the Miami family “moving the goal posts.” Ultimately, it was an issue of Greg Craig — a private attorney taking orders from a murderous dictator — ordering an assault on a peaceful home without a proper warrant (see today’s fantastic WSJ op-ed page for more).
Here is how the current issue of Newsweek recounts the “final straw” moment of the negotiations:
“Craig summoned Juan Miguel from a dinner party in the suburbs, and the two men scrutinized the proposal. To Craig, there were too many sticking points. The agreement to turn over custody of Elián to Juan Miguel was not unconditional. As Craig read the plan, the psychologists picked by the agreed-upon panel had the power to give Elián back to Lázaro and Marisleysis if they saw fit. Craig also balked at the time frame for the joint living arrangement, which could be as long as two months. One week was acceptable to Juan Miguel. No more. Juan Miguel also objected to the location. The father wanted the boy to come to Washington. He did not want to go to the chaos of Miami.”
In effect, Craig was in the luxurious position of being able to reject any negotiated settlement because he knew that the Justice Department, would do his bidding, and the White House and its lapdogs in the media would blame the Miami family for the resulting raid.
That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be drawbacks to the raid. Reno and Co. say that the troops went into the Gonzalez home loaded for World War Three because they had reason to believe there were guns on the premises. So the eight submachine-gun-carrying men had to be prepared to return fire in a small Miami bungalow amidst screaming, tear gas, and chaos, with a six-year-old child on the premises, possibly hiding out of sight of the shooters but not out of the path of the bullets.
Senator Connie Mack (R-Fla.) asked the Justice cabal about this very obvious fact yesterday when he and others met with Reno.
Here is how he put it after the meeting:
“[I asked] ‘Was the father informed of the possibility of there being gunfire in the house? And was he prepared to put his son at risk a second time?’ And the answer I got back was, yes, that he was.
Now, I must tell you, I am stunned by that. We have all questioned why the father wasn’t here during the first four months.
But I cannot honestly believe that, during a time in which there were serious negotiations taking place …that the father would in essence agree to sending armed men into a home in Miami to take his son at gunpoint.”
Now, I have received ample criticism from many conservative readers who believe that parental rights supersede the evils of Communism. “What about family values!?” They ask. “Aren’t natural rights more important than political rights?” “What about your previous columns saying he should be with his dad?” These are good questions. But there’s another good question: What the hell is wrong with this father?
If your kid was tragically shipwrecked in a foreign country and taken up by people you didn’t want raising him, how long would it take you to shag your ass there and get him? A day? A week? Well, in Elian’s case, months on end.
Now you might say, “well, Castro wouldn’t let him go.”
There are three responses to this. 1) Exactly; Castro is an evil man. 2) Exactly, Castro is the guy running the show. The Cuban Constitution says children are the property of the state, not the parent. 3) Or, more charitably, you could answer “bull.” We all know Juan could have come a lot sooner, and, certainly, once he was in America, he could have made his way to Miami, no problem. That is if Craig would let him.
(This addresses the fascinating academic question: “Is the lawyer of a man enslaved to a dictator the lawyer of the man, or the lawyer of the dictator?” Best answer will be published here (300 words or less)).
Juan Miguel Gonzalez clearly thinks winning political points for Castro, defeating relatives he doesn’t like, or something is more important than the safety of his son or being reunited with him. Meanwhile, the Miami Gonzalez family either did not have guns at all or was unwilling to use them in the proximity of this boy (either way, this makes the Justice Department look pretty bad). They negotiated in good faith. They cared for Elian at great emotional and financial cost. They have followed him across the Eastern seaboard to Washington — something Juan Miguel was not willing to do in reverse — because they love this child. I, too, am loath to erode parental rights. But Juan Miguel is the pawn of Castro and he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about his child. It’s an exceptional case, but it seems like a no-brainer to me, and I think it would to Solomon too.