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Denver Post April 23, 2000 Front Page
Christian Science Monitor April 26, 2000 Front Page

Elian Gonzales vs. Janet Reno

Attorney General Janet Reno took a chance to end the Elian Gonzales stand-off and appears to have won. Floyd Ciruli told the Denver Post the day after the Miami raid on the Gonzales home that "Nothing succeeds like success. It looks like a government win here. Had someone gotten hurt, it would've been a different story."

Public opinion has been in favor of a return of the boy to his father. Since this raid fulfilled that goal without violence public opinion is likely to remain unchanged even in the face of the pictures of armed men capturing a crying child.

When the Federal Court of Appeals refused to order Elian returned to his father and ruled against the Justice Department and INS position that the boy could not seek asylum and said the boy's views must be considered in an asylum hearing, his removal from the Miami relatives to blunt the child's apparent desire to remain in the United States became an urgent government goal.

The main danger was violence in the house. Had there been gun fire and violent resistence the Reno/Clinton strategy to seize the boy would have been a disaster. The picture of Associated press freelancer Alan Diaz may be the most dramatic image of police action since the Rodney King video tape. The INS and FBI wanted this seizure to be violence free and out-of-site of demonstrators and cameras. Diaz's picture was more damaging to the government position than a gun.

In a Christian Science Monitor article of April 26, titled "War of perception over a raid," pollster Ciruli said, public reaction is divided between those concerned about a government intrusion - and still resentful of a communist nation 90 miles south of the Florida coast - and those relieved that the Miami standoff is over. "Some people say finally it's over and the administration showed a little grit."

Polls taken immediately after the raid showed continued support for returning the boy to his father even if it meant living in Cuba. Opinion about the amount of force was closely divided but a majority of the public appeared to believe the time had come to end the standoff. Public opinion consolidated behind the Justice Department position and even the raid within 48 hours reflecting release of still pictures of a happy, playful Elian with this father and new step brother and supportive public commentary from Clinton advocates and the child psychology community.

While Republicans had an edge in the Presidential race in Florida reflected in its prior presidential voting history and George W. Bush's brother Jeb Bush being governor, Democrats had not written the state off. Clinton won it against Bob Dole in 1996. But the "Clinton/Reno taint on Saturday's incident would likely mean a win for Bush in Florida" Ciruli told the Denver Post.


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