Clinton and Castro Hating's Finest Hour

What else could possibly cause Republicans to drop their allegiance to family values and simultaneously side with Al Gore on an issue? Nothing but the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bash President Clinton and Fidel Castro with one fell swoop. One can't remember such a political oddity in recent history - Democrats preaching the sanctity of family and the rule of law while Republicans preach of the importance of the role of government.

But that is what happens when Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro are perceived as sitting on the same side of an issue. There is no leader in the world, including Sadaam Hussein, that certain Republicans hate more than Mr. Castro. In their view, Castro is like a fossil whose imprint never seems to wear away. He has outlasted seven American Presidents and is working on his eighth in the person of Pres. Clinton. He has revealed more contradictions, caused more blunders and inspired more obstinacy in American foreign policy than any foreign leader in the history of the U.S. Even one of the most sane and reserved political writers in America, Robert Novak blows his stack at the mere mention of Castro's name. Novak, though not a card-carrying Republican, certainly shares their sentiments where Castro is concerned.

Toward President Clinton, Republicans have developed an attitude like Democrats held toward Ronald Reagan in the 1980s; he is the man they love to hate. Though impeachment is over a year old, Republicans, like House Majority Whip Tom Delay, still cannot get over the resentment and bitterness they feel. Many Republicans appear as bent in their opposition to Clinton over Elian Gonzalez as they were over Whitewater, Travelgate, Campaign Finance, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Wiley and, get the point.

The double play of "getting" Clinton and Castro over Elian Gonzalez, not to mention Janet Reno, is too enticing to pass up. This is especially true in an election year. And the Republican fervor on the Elian issue represents an energy level that cannot be matched by any Democrat, even one like Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) who hates Castro as much as any Republican. No, Republicans surpass even Torricelli Democrats as the GOP's dislike for Castro and Clinton generates a double-portion of the spirit of disdain.

The result is that even more than John McCain's campaign, the Elian Gonzalez issue is rupturing the Republican Party. It is even removing the illusion that Republicans wholeheartedly and steadfastly hold to a family values agenda. Far from impenetrable unity, the Elian issue hits every male Republican at home. As a Republican colleague of mine said to me, " You can tell which Republicans had a good relationship with their fathers and which ones didn't by the stand they take on Elian". It is all the more good that the less-than-perfect childhoods of some Republicans fit rather nicely with a personal vendetta against two more domineering male figures - one from Cuba and the other from Arkansas.

And so America will be treated to at least another month of sentences prefaced by " We must consider what is in the best interests of Elian …" but which reveal nothing more than rabid anti-Clinton and Castro isms. It is more than just the worst type of partisan politics; it is the type of emotional unintelligence that can drive a country into the abyss. Already the affair has revealed the potential to not only fracture a party but to plant the seed that could fracture a nation along ethnic lines. The result maybe that even after Elian's custody and place of residency is determined, this country will be the worst for it. And there may be nothing but stubbornness and the hatred of two men to blame.

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, April 24, 2000