For many years now, the liberal Children's Defense Fund has featured as a sort of logo a children's drawing with the scrawled-out words, "Dear Lord, be good to me, the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small." For many of those years, Hillary Rodham Clinton chaired the group's Board of Directors. It's extraordinary that CDF has nothing to say about six-year-old Elian Gonzalez and his plight at sea, and now Hillary is saying to little Elian: get back on a boat to Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Spokesman Howard Wolfson recently explained that "Hillary Clinton knows that we must take politics out of this decision." But this clashes mightily with her law review articles in the '70s and '80s complaining, "The pretense that children's issues are somehow above or beyond politics endures and is reinforced by the belief that families are private, non-political units whose interests subsume those of children."
Elian's plight underlines that for liberals, it is not really about "compassion" or "the children," but about maximizing the power of government, even if it means looking like hypocrites while they spit out phrases they loathe, like "family values," over the Cuban boy's dilemma. They still have warm feelings for Fidel Castro and his revolution, and dislike the idea that America somehow offers a better life to a child than Cuba.
For the press, it means striking the ancient "objective" pose of moral equivalence. As Time's Tim Padgett declared, "In the end, the drama may reveal how fed up both societies are with the 'Dr. Strangelove' hysteria of U.S.-Cuba relations." Padgett and other reporters went looking for local experts to declare anti-communist Cuban exiles are "damaging their cause in most Americans' eyes."
Cuban-Americans are the media's least favorite minority today. Throughout the controversy over Elian, they have been described with words like "hard-line," "militant," "dysfunctional," "opportunists," "zealots" running a "jihad." An MSNBC graphic on Cuban exiles pledging to surround the Gonzalez home actually declared, "Captors or Saviors?" Anchors like Katie Couric perpetually wonder if these zealots are going too far. What other minority in America gets this kind of media treatment? This would never happen with most blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, even homosexuals. Imagine the left's differing reaction years ago if Chile's Pinochet or South Africa's Botha demanded the return of a child to a distant father.
Too many reporters are making themselves available vehicles for ridiculous Cuban propaganda. NBC's Jim Avila, for example, filed a "Nightly News" piece suggesting that if Elian would go home, he would be a "a four-foot tall deity in a country that officially does not believe in God." The evidence of his holy status would be living the "Cuban good life," defined as - I kid you not - an extra 15 bucks a month of rice, beans, and shaving cream, and five free monthly gallons of gas. That seems like low-balling it a bit for a demi-god, don't you think?
The week before, Avila was insisting that "Cubans point to the good things about their country. An education system that is the envy of Latin America, virtually everyone in Cuba reads and while life may be hard in Cuba, child psychiatrist Bennet Leventhal says children there can be just as happy as here."
Avila can be refuted by ABC reporter Cynthia McFadden, who celebrated Cuba a few months ago during ABC's all-day New Year's festivities, but announced "in the classrooms we visited yesterday there was certainly no computers and almost no paper that we could see." There's no paper in the classroom, but it's the educational utopia of Latin America.
More recently, ABC's paternalistic Peter Jennings put the debate in its proper leftist perspective: "Once again the government has failed to get the kind of cooperation from the relatives that might allow the case of this young boy to end in a civilized manner that is best for him." Jennings can't even see the point of a debate over whether a life under Castro's tyranny and "Young Pioneer" indoctrination is actually "best" for the child.
Liberals will no doubt spend the forthcoming months ridiculing George W. Bush's claims to be a "compassionate conservative." But their willingness - no, eagerness - to dishonor his mother's dying wish and force Elian Gonzalez back to boot camp with Castro reveals once again the emptiness of their own "compassionate" poses.