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

John Leo

John Leo
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Consumer Reports


Elian's opera isn't over until nearly everyone sings -- Elian: The Opera

AS OUR STORY BEGINS, a 6-year-old boy, whose mother has perished at sea, is saved by dolphins, who tuck his little legs back into his inner tube and nudge him toward a fishing boat. "Not Since Moses," an opening aria by the first dolphin (Peggy Noonan) indicates that there may be something unusual about the lad. Other warbling dolphins (Dan Marino, Don Shula) point out Elian didn't have a sunburn, an obvious religious omen of some kind. Besides, the fish is a traditional Christian symbol, and dolphins, though mammals, are sort of like fish.

At dockside, a lusty chorus of underemployed TV reporters join the aria, singing "Not Since Di and JFK Jr.," thus indicating group yearning for a truly meaningful news event. Soon all of South Florida is on stage singing "Not Since Moses, Di, JFK and the Bay of Pigs."

A tense confrontation pits a group of principled conservatives shouting "Family values!" against a clump of principled liberals chanting "The child's best interests!" A government emissary bounds onstage to announce that little Elian is too young for asylum, despite being interviewed by Diane Sawyer, and therefore must be reunited with his father in Cuba. Both groups are stunned into silence, then each starts singing the other group's song. The conservatives musically insist that family values can't be all that important if they make the local commie dictator look like a winner.

The liberals, never secure about family solidarity if a child-liberation suit can be filed, and never quite sure why families need fathers at all, sing with newfound emotion over the powerful father-child bond. Both groups rush offstage, leaving behind the boy's savior, a brave camera-ready fisherman (Kato Kaelin). He sings movingly about how Elian likes to lick his face.

Act II, which many critics consider dramatically weak, features Attorney General Janet Reno (Dan Aykroyd) sitting motionless for five months while pondering what to do. Every few weeks she moves a few inches, usually to phone President Clinton (John Goodman), but all she hears is a recording, singing "I'm not here, Janet. You're doing just fine." Narrative drive in Act II is provided by Al Gore, who races back and forth across the stage, exposing a wet finger to the wind.

Act III opens with a festive, circuslike atmosphere. Elian's grandmothers arrive from Havana, allowed out briefly by Fidel Castro (Woody Allen). One granny playfully bites Elian's tongue, unzips his pants and makes proud comments about his private parts. A Justice Department pediatrician (Robin Williams) is doing magic tricks. One trick is diagnosing psychologically endangered children around the country whom he has never met, including Elian. The crowd applauds and calls him "Carnac." Only one man in this merry crowd is sad. He sings a bitter song -- though he lives only two miles from Elian, he hasn't yet been invited on either "Larry King" or "Geraldo."

Brushing away cobwebs with a firm hand, Janet Reno swings into action. She sends gun-toting agents dressed like Darth Vader to invade the house. One, who had missed media training, poses for a photographer with a massive gun in the boy's face. To correct the erroneous impression that the boy was somehow terrified, the government releases a happy father-and-son photo, which the Miami relatives say is a doctored image, since Elian's hair is too short and he is smiling.

The conservatives rush back onstage and sing the popular aria "Jackbooted Thugs," from the 1993 opera "Janet Does Waco." Liberals reappear too, led by the jubilant Justice Department dancers, who sing "Finally Janet comes out ahead/Her first raid that didn't leave everyone dead!"

Elian's sexy cousin, the 21-year-old Marisleysis (Jennifer Lopez) sings her two big numbers, "Federal Child Abuse!" and "Don't Cry for Me, Little Havana." Alarmed that Marisleysis has been able to weep on cue for 145 consecutive TV shows, the government sends out Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder (Eddie Murphy), who announces that he held Janet Reno in his arms as she wept over Elian. A chorus of reporters smack their foreheads in unision and sing, "You did what?"

Sen. Trent Lott (Lyle Lovett) sings the powerful closing aria, "From November to November," pointing out that little Elian was saved from the sea in November 1999, and will be saved from the Democrats on Election Day in November 2000. All it will take, he explains, is six months of congressional hearings. A group of reporters, all of whom have already filed 249 stories about Elian so far, faint together.

One sings that he would rather become a gravedigger or a house cleaner than go through more of this.

On cue, the brave fisherman, who has been out of the spotlight for more than an hour, moves center stage and delivers the musical revelation that he is not a fisherman at all. He is a house cleaner himself and is thinking of running for mayor of Miami. He cautions Americans to behave with dignity -- he doesn't want people to think of America as some sort of media madhouse.

The singing dolphins reappear and endorse the plea for dignity. So do Trent Lott and the Justice Department dancers. Eric Holder holds Janet Reno in his arms once more as the curtain falls.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police. Send your comments by clicking here.


04/25/00: All the news that fits: The media serve up many stories from a standard script
04/19/00: Those darned readers: The gap between reporters and the general public is huge
04/05/00: Census sense and nonsense
03/29/00: Hollywood message films leave no room for other views
03/22/00: The Vatican confesses, but is it enough?
03/14/00: Watch what you say: The left can no longer be counted on to defend free speech
03/07/00: McCain's malleable messages
03/01/00: Bush's appearance at Bob Jones U. will dog him all the way
02/23/00: 'Multi-millionaire' show is new evidence we're insane

© 2000, John Leo