"A concentration camp on American soil"

Sen. Bob Smith offers a new description for the Cuban boy's Wye Plantation digs.

Published May 9, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., went farther out on a limb Sunday in a speech about Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez. Was his friend, Miami Gonzalez cousin Marisleysis, making hallucinogen-spiked mojitos for Smith or what? Just when you thought the Third Reich analogies to the Elian situation couldn't get any more absurd, Smith offered this:

"Right now, this little boy is in a concentration camp on American soil," Smith told listeners, referring to the Wye Plantation in Maryland where Elian is staying temporarily with his father. "It's surrounded by communists. He's got his communist playmates there so they can re-indoctrinate him. And he's not going to be with his father for long when he gets back to Cuba. He's going to one of those Cuban schools where he learns to be a good little soldier of the revolution."

And, referring to pharmaceuticals confiscated from Dr. Caridad Ponce de Leon, who was part of a delegation of Cubans that came to visit Elian, Smith said: "They've already found tranquilizer drugs with the doctors. I think you can reasonably assume that on May 11 the little kid is going to come say 'I want to go back to Cuba.'" (Customs officials should've given the tranquilizers to the American public, who could use a little downtime after all the trauma they've suffered through the Elian debacle.)

By Monday, a Smith spokesperson was offering clever revisions to the Associated Press, with word play that would make even New York Times scribe William Safire envious. The senator "never ever" said the 6-year-old was being drugged, the flack said. And what about that line about the concentration camp? He meant to say "re-education camp." Sure.

By Daryl Lindsey

Daryl Lindsey is associate editor of Salon News and an Arthur Burns fellow. He currently lives in Berlin and writes for Salon and Die Welt.

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