Now, don’t get me wrong. Whenever a politician shamelessly panders to the political demands of a Catholic, free-market, anti-Communist, socially conservative constituency I consider it great progress. But Al Gore’s whirly-gig of political pimping on the issue of Elian Gonzalez is truly a wonder to behold. His own staff is leaking — or at least not denying — that he is allowing politics to determine his position. The Washington Post writes, “Democratic sources said Gore’s political team feared the Elian case could badly undermine their prospects in Florida.” The New York Times says that Gore’s decision to break with the administration is “purely a political maneuver.” But the best comes from ABC News, which reported last night that “Many officials in the administration refuse to give Gore the benefit of the doubt. Some using words like ‘craven’ and ‘nauseating’.”
Now, when people working for the man Paul Tsongas called “The Pander Bear” (in 1991!) say that Gore is being “craven” and “nauseating” in his political calculations, it doesn’t leave someone like me with a lot of adjectives (I could employ George Bush’s rhetorical utility belt and say Gore is being “really craven” and “very nauseating,” but that doesn’t have a super lot of oomph). Still, it’s safe to say that there is not a person in America who follows politics closely or seriously who believes that Al Gore is honestly doing this for anything but rank political advantage — except perhaps Gore himself, who always seems capable of convincing himself that he’s acting on principle.
Now, as I have written in this space in the past (G-FILE 1/17/2000) the case of Elian Gonzalez is not a high-stakes international event — as most journalists claim in a vain attempt to get some of their Cold War mojo back. If we decided to declare little Elian an American citizen; hold a parade where he gets to ride down Main Street as the Grand Marshal in one of his super-cool electric cars; give Elian a Fidel Castro piñata to whack with his brand-new Star Wars light saber on national news; and propaganda-bomb Cuba with pictures of Elian at a Kentucky Fried Chicken with the caption “Nyah! Nyah! Communism sucks for you!” Cuba could do very little to us.
In my opinion, if the rule is that we can’t boss around China because they are too big and too important, then the inverse must be true as well; we should be able to treat Cuba like a 98-pound weakling we bought at Riker’s for a pack of smokes and the latest issue of Juggs.
(ABC Nightly News: Peter Jennings: “War with Cuba, Day One: An armada of Donkey-propelled tanks landed at Miami Beach yesterday. They were quickly stopped by elements of the Dade County bicycle police force and the bouncers from several Latino and gay discos…”
CNN World News Tonight: Bernard Shaw: “…this evening day two of the War with Cuba. Today the U.S. Marines landed in Cuba. They were greeted by thousands of Cuban soldiers asking for pictures of Mariah Carey and Ricky Martin CDs….”
CNBC Market Wrap: “We are moments away from Alan Greenspan’s speech to the Jebediah Springfield Middle School… meanwhile in other news: just five days after a Declaration of War by the Cuban government, casino stocks rallied as Bally’s Resorts announced a contract with the new Cuban government….Coca Cola confirmed rumors of a new bottling plant on the Caribbean island…and in related news, Fidel Castro announced that he would not take the job of Latin American correspondent for the political magazine The Nation. Instead, he revealed that he will be a program officer for the Ford Foundation…”)
All of that said, just because Cuba is a harmless skeleton of a dictatorship doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the situation seriously. We just shouldn’t take the people who warn of the “dire” and “tense” relations between us and the Worker’s Paradise seriously.
Local Miami officials have said they will not assist the Feds if they try to take Elian away. The mayor of Miami-Dade has said he will hold Clinton and Reno responsible for any violence that might ensue. Could someone get that guy on the phone and ask him how he plans to do that? People have been trying to hold those two responsible for years.
Personally, I think the kid should stay, but I’m not so arrogant as to say that I’m positive about that. The kid’s father is in Cuba, and as Bush likes to say, “family values don’t end at the Rio Grande.” They also don’t end at the Atlantic Ocean; which is a partial reason for Bush’s “Elian should stay” position. The other part, as Ramesh Ponnuru and John Miller point out, is that Florida is no longer a GOP lock these days. Clinton-Gore won it for the Democrats for the first time in 20 years in 1996.
Which brings us back to Gore. My hope here is that this will be the beginning of a media reappraisal. Gore has been shamelessly pandering for the last year. He has promised that he will never sign an “anti-labor” or anti-choice bill and that he will never appoint a justice who doesn’t agree with him on Roe v. Wade. At the Apollo Theater debate Gore promised to reinstate racial preferences for black broadcasters. “I think this country is better off for having the “Tom Joyner Show” and for having April Ryan and for having WLIB. None of those might be available except for the extra affirmative action for black-owned radio stations,” Gore declared in a shamelessly fraudulent misrepresentation of the issue. “Extra affirmative action” is a wonderful Orwellian euphemism along the lines of “extra fairness” or “extra equality.”
If a Republican ever said that he would never sign an “anti-business” bill or that he would only sign pro-life legislation or that he had a litmus test for Supreme Court Justices, he’d be dead in the water — and the press would be saved the time of having to fabricate Republican caricatures.
Whatever happens with Elian it has resulted in one positive thing already: It has exposed Gore as the real Pander Bear — or, since he is Clinton’s sidekick. the Pander Boo Boo (hey Boo Boo it’s time we stole some Cuban votes…).
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