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Jewish World Review May 2, 2000 /27 Nissan, 5760

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter
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Consumer Reports


Moving the goalpost -- ON THURSDAY, the Justice Department press office at CNN reported that a member of the ski-mask-wearing, machine-gun-toting SWAT team that staged a predawn raid on a 6-year-old in a home full of law-abiding, unarmed citizens said that he "had never encountered this much resistance." The only conclusion it is possible to draw from this assertion is: These guys aren't working too hard. Remember this when it comes time to renegotiate border patrol salaries.

But of course, they were only enforcing the law. Old uncle Lazaro, it seems, had broken the inviolable law of "moving the goalpost." At least I think that's the law he violated. That's the only one the administration has been able to cite.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has steadfastly maintained a consistent position: Whichever tribunal or legal principle will send Elian back to Cuba is the only one that counts. Back when the administration believed it would have to grant asylum to Elian (assuming it slipped and followed the law) but that Castro would win if the case were treated like a normal child custody case in a state court, the administration was adamant that Florida state courts would have to decide Elian's fate.

Thus, for example, on Nov. 30, 1999, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said: "The highest concern that we have right now is for the health and welfare of this young boy. ... It's fair to say the disposition of this case might ultimately be decided by the courts." The same day, INS officials said the child's custody status would probably be "decided by the state courts" of Florida.

That same day, in a headline that proclaimed, "Courts, not feds, to decide custody," the Knight Tribune News Service summarized the united front in the administration in favor of deferring to the Florida state courts:

"U.S. government officials said yesterday they will not intervene in deciding whether 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez ... should rejoin his father in Cuba or remain with relatives in Florida -- a question they said can be answered only in state courts." The report elaborated: "State Department and immigration officials concluded in a late-afternoon meeting that they simply have no legal say in the matter."

On Dec. 2, The Associated Press cited "legal experts" for the proposition that "Florida state courts may ultimately decide whether Elian should be raised in the United States or returned to Cuba." And there was the State Department's Rubin again, announcing that Elian's case had been referred to Florida authorities because state law takes precedence in custody disputes.

On Dec. 5, The New York Times reported that American officials had concluded that the question of whether Elian should be raised in the United States or returned to Cuba was a matter that should be decided by Florida state courts.

But then -- in what The Washington Post called "a surprising legal victory" a month later -- a Florida state court ruled in favor of Elian's staying in the country, at least for a while. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez held that Elian's return to Cuba could cause him "imminent harm." She issued a temporary protective order for the child, directing that he remain with his Miami relatives, and scheduled a full hearing on the case for March 6.

In an act some might compare to "moving the goalpost," the administration promptly denounced the Florida state courts, saying they had no jurisdiction in the case. In a letter to the Miami relatives' lawyer the next day, Reno wrote that any ruling from a Florida state court "has no force or effect" on the administration's decision to return Elian to Cuba. The question of what to do with Elian "is a matter of federal immigration law,"

(It probably won't shock you learn that "legal analysts" consulted by The New York Times, now said Reno was right -- federal immigration law takes precedence over a custody ruling by a Florida court.)

But it was Elian's Miami relatives who were guilty of "moving the goalpost."

Meanwhile, the administration's sound-bite mantra about the goalpost-moving by Elian's Miami relatives is completely incomprehensible. Not only had these citizens abided by the law insofar as "the law" consisted of Janet Reno's personal feelings, but they had either a state or federal court ruling on their side at all times from the very first court ruling in this matter.

There was absolutely no reason to execute a Chuck Norris Delta Force raid to retrieve a little boy, except to wake the border patrol agents from their naps. It is difficult -- no, impossible -- to conceive of any law enforcement purpose being served by federal agents wearing ski masks during a raid even if they were raiding Al Capone. Not in a free country with a rule of law, and not a rule of goalposts, anyway.

JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton.


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04/19/00: No shadow of a doubt -- liberal women are worthless
04/14/00: It takes a Communist dictator to raise a child
04/11/00: The verdict is in on Hillary
04/07/00: Vast Concoctions III
04/04/00: 'Horrifying' free speech in New York
03/31/00: Campaign finance reform brings out worst in senators
03/28/00: All the news that fits -- we print!
03/24/00: Net losses all around
03/20/00: To protect, serve --- and be spat on
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03/13/00: Vast concoctions II
03/09/00: The bluebloods voted against you
03/07/00: The Tower of Babble
03/03/00: Vast concoction
03/02/00: Hillary's sartorial lies
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02/18/00: A liberal lynching
02/15/00: McCain and the flag
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