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Published on Tuesday, April 4, 2000 in the Madison Capital Times
Elian Gonzalez Should Be Sent Home To Cuba. Al Gore Should Be Sent To The Woodshed
Al Gore really does care about Elian Gonzalez. The vice president's appeal to Congress to erect legal barriers to the return of the kidnapped boy to his Cuban father really was a sincere expression of interest in the youngster's well-being. This has nothing to do with Gore's desire to carry the Miami Cuban vote, which could be critical to his winning Florida this fall.

Yup, and Gore really didn't know in 1996 that he was attending a fund-raising event at that Buddhist temple.

Gore's Cuban misstep is transparent, shameless and indefensible.

There is only one thing that anyone needs to know about the Democratic presidential candidate's embrace of the extremist, legally absurd and morally wrong position in the whole Elian matter: The vice president is playing politics.

Gore's advisers think that he might be able to win Florida in November if he can carry Dade County, where Cuban-American voters form a large and volatile voting bloc. So Gore is playing to them, taking a stand that "every immigration authority I know of outside Dade County, Florida, agrees'' is wrong, according to Temple University immigration law specialist Jan Ting.

Gore's stance on the Elian matter neatly sums up why millions of loyal Democrats remain ill at ease with his presidential candidacy. The vice president seems to be uncomfortable running as a Democrat. Instead, he evidences a determination to out-Republican the Republicans.

A measure of pragmatism is to be expected in politics. But there comes a point when a candidate bends so far to the whims of particular voting blocs that he runs the risk of falling.

Gore fell badly in his embrace of the political kidnapping. As such, he raised real concerns among Democrats about whether it matters to elect him over George W. Bush. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., says she may withdraw her endorsement of Gore as a result of his mishandling of the Elian issue; U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., says he may boycott the Democratic National Convention in protest.

Let's make one thing clear here: Gore needs the backing of Waters, Serrano and foes of this country's Cuba policies a lot more than he needs the votes of a handful of extremists in Miami. And if he does not recognize his duty to speak the language and uphold the values of core Democratic voters, then he will lose.

Elian Gonzalez should be sent home to Cuba.

Al Gore should be sent to the woodshed.


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