Elian has left the building

Bush saddened, Gore relieved as the Cuban boy flies home.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 29, 2000 7:01AM (EDT)

Elián Gonzalez, child refugee and political lightning rod, is back on Cuban soil. Though his citizenship status once sparked major debates, Elian's departure drew low-key responses from the presidential candidates, according to the Miami Herald. George W. Bush said that he wished the Supreme Court hadn't cleared Elian to return home. "I'm disappointed he is going back to Cuba," Bush said aboard his campaign plane in Cleveland. "Hopefully he will go down to a Cuba that becomes free someday and will be able to come back to America at his own choice." Al Gore, whose poll numbers suffered over his Elian position(s), said that the court was "entitled to respect" in its decision, but reiterated his view that the matter would have been better left to a family court.

But that position may not be good enough for Miami's Cuban Americans. Florida pollster Sergio Bendixen called Gore's shaky stand on the issue a "bonehead tactical move" -- and an obvious but ineffective attempt to pander to Cuban Americans.

Candidates spar over justices' "choice"
The Supreme Court made political waves in another ruling, spiking Nebraska's "partial birth" abortion ban in a 5-4 vote. ABC News reports that Gore said that the "razor-thin margin" of the pro-choice victory proved that the country needs him to choose the court's next justices. "The presidential election will ... decide the future of the Supreme Court," Gore said. "And that in turn will decide whether we will keep a woman's right to choose or see it taken away." Bush, meanwhile, condemned the court's ruling as disrespectful of life. "States should have the right to enact reasonable laws and restrictions, particularly to end the inhumane process of ending a life that otherwise could live," Bush said. The Texas governor denied that he would use a pro-life litmus test for choosing justices, but promised to appoint only "strict constructionists" like Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, two of the court's strongest anti-abortion voices.

Bush better be clear on choice
Despite his strong support of the "partial birth" ban, Bush has exercised his right to remain silent on the abortion issue, which is a bad idea, according to William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. "Bush doesn't much like to talk about abortion," Kristol writes. "He needs to be ready to do so just the same." By lying low on abortion, Kristol argues, Bush effectively surrenders the opportunity to frame the debate to Gore, an error Kristol believes could prove disastrous. If Bush maintains his strategy of silence, Kristol foresees Gore painting his opponent as a closet ultraconservative, unwilling to own up to his beliefs. Kristol's recommendation is that Bush quit being coy and speak up on abortion: "It would be sensible for him to do so first, and clearly, before he comes under heated and confusion-inducing assault."

Gore drives for greener pastures
The vice president pitched development of electric cars, traversing the green mile of his "progress and prosperity" tour. Reuters reports that Gore would devote $48.3 billion to encourage purchases of the green machines, including a $6,000 tax credit for buying gasoline-free cars. "If all of our buildings, residential and commercial, shifted to these kinds of efficient, sensible technologies, we could dramatically reduce pollution in our country and generate savings for the homeowners and businesses," Gore said. "But it's a matter of getting people who can't afford the upfront costs over the hurdles by giving them a tax credit, to make it an offer they can't refuse."

Clinton shrugs off scandal scars
Gore won't be hurt by the White House scandals -- he has President Clinton's word on it. According the Associated Press, Clinton dismissed the notion that his veep has been tarred by the corruption charges aimed at the Clinton administration, asserting that Gore had only been implicated in "this campaign finance thing." The president then took the opportunity to get in a parting shot at his more zealous enemies. "Let me remind you that a lot of these other so-called scandals were bogus ... the Whitewater thing was bogus from day one," he said, concluding in Clintonesque fashion, "It had nothing to do with the official conduct of the administration anyway."

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 52 to Gore 39 (CNN/Gallup/USA Today June 23-25).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 45 (Newsweek June 22-23).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal June 14-18).
  • Bush 52 to Gore 40 (Voter.com June 11-13).
  • Bush 50 to Gore 40 (Los Angeles Times June 8-13).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (Zogby June 9-12).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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