»  National Review Online

June 29, 2000

   When None Cares


Looking back on the affair of little Elián González, there are questions to ponder and lessons to be learned.

The largest of the questions is: Why did the administration go to such lengths to make sure that Fidel Castro had his way? To suggest that it did so on moral grounds is preposterous — this is the Clinton administration, the one that bombed a third-world country with whom we had no argument, just to distract media attention from the President's personal legal problems. Besides, morally the González case was a wash. On the one hand was the biological father — somewhat of a provincial playboy, we gather, who may, for all we are able to know, have a score of bastards running round the streets of his home town. Juan Miguel had never shown much interest in raising Elián and displayed no intention to claim his parental rights until Castro's lads took him aside for a little chat. On the other side were, first and foremost, the dying wishes of the boy's mother; and second his relatives in Miami, who seemed willing and able to supply Elián with a loving home, but had no strong biological claim on the child. Prior to the intervention of Castro, there was no pressing need for the administration to take one side or the other, or to get involved in the case at all.

Once Castro decided to make a public show out of Elián's personal tragedy, though, the administration was obliged to have an opinion. Considering that despot's long record of virulent anti-Americanism and the cruel, corrupt nature of his regime, a robustly patriotic administration with a strong attachment to human liberty would have seen an opportunity to stick it to the old murderer. "If that man wants something, let's make sure he gets the precise goddam opposite" — such would have been the instinctive reaction of a Reagan, a Weinberger, a Nixon or a Kennedy. (It was certainly my instinctive reaction. When a man has been poking his finger in your eye for forty years, the opportunity to poke your finger in his eye ought to be seized upon with glee, if you have any red corpuscles in your blood.) It is true that there were some other considerations, though all of them minor when weighed against our national pride and interest. Ticking off Castro might, for example, have caused him to send another Mariel flotilla, dumping the scum of his criminal classes and lunatic asylums on us, as he did twenty years ago. Dick Morris believes that fear of this event was the driving force behind administration policy.

I have no difficulty believing that Bill Clinton, the yellowest of cowards, to whom no priority is higher, no value more deeply and sincerely felt, than the preservation of his own pasty skin, was afraid of Fidel Castro. Still, I don't think cowardice alone explains the briskness and diligence with which our government and its media stooges went at this case. If I hold a threat over you; and if you, out of craven cowardice, do my will, you do it reluctantly. These people — Clinton, Reno, Craig — were not reluctant at all; they were keen. Keen to carry out Castro's bidding; keen to vilify the Miami Cubans; keen to remove every trace of difficulty or effort from Juan Miguel's path. Why the enthusiasm? The answer can only, I think, be found in their mental conception of the world — in their belief that America is a fundamentally wicked nation and that those who hate her are fundamentally right; in their belief that totalitarian socialism, while no doubt prone to certain regrettable "mistakes" in the hands of people who have not enjoyed the clarifying discipline of a good law school education, is based on sound moral principles. Our elites are not just afraid of Castro; they like him, and agree with his opinion of the United States. If you doubt this, I refer you to the June 19/26 issue of The New Yorker, page 137. There you will find a full-page color drawing of a grandfatherly Fidel carrying a small boy on his shoulders. We cannot see the boy's face, but presumably it is Elián. The picture's caption says: "Happy Father's Day!" There is no other commentary and no trace of irony that I can detect. That is the mentality of our elites (for whom The New Yorker is now a kind of house journal). Oh, by the way, did you know? — Cuba has 100 per cent literacy and free health care for all!

I said that there are questions and lessons here. What, then, are the lessons of this sad, squalid little drama, scripted for us by Stalinist torturers and their admiring shills among our own voluptuous, frivolous, craven ruling class? I believe it revealed a number of things about the United States, none of them reassuring to conservatives — not even to those who sincerely supported the boy's return on parental-rights grounds. We learned, or were reminded of, the following.

•  That most Americans cannot imagine what life is like in a communist country.

•  That they are easily bamboozled by a not-very-subtle puppet show staged by an experienced, but not especially sophisticated, third-world propaganda machine.

•  That an energetic executive supported uncritically by the mass media, with a well-drilled party in Congress and a judiciary well-seeded with place-men, can do anything it pleases to American citizens and their liberties, under any flimsy pretext it can think up on the spur of the moment, without fear of sanction by either of the other separated powers.

•  That our elites actually like Castro and his system and will go to any lengths to ingratiate themselves with him, regardless of the interests of their own nation, which they do not like half as much.


•  That penniless immigrants who work hard for decades to establish themselves as middle-class Americans are regarded with contempt and loathing by those same elites, especially when their vulgar, graceless striving is accompanied by signs of religious belief.

No doubt these lessons, like Elián González himself, will soon be forgotten. No doubt when the sordid facts of administration duplicity and illegality in this affair are finally revealed to us, they will be greeted with yawns and sneers and exhortations that we "move on." No doubt when Castro's ramshackle despotism collapses in a cloud of dust and it is left to Elián's generation to dig their nation out of that same pit of hopelessness, squalor and sloth that their erstwhile Russian patrons now dwell in, they will find that those Americans who moved heaven and earth (and violated their own Constitution) to appease a mad tyrant have suddenly lost all interest in the nation he wrecked.

Those of who have cringed with shame to see the highest officials of our country scurrying to do the bidding of the lowest and vilest of third-world gangster-despots will be left with the melancholy, extremely un-Clintonian consolation that: "The truth is great, and shall prevail, When none cares whether it prevail or not."