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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.

Bill Press: Two Americas -- One in Washington, one in Miami

By Bill Press/CNN

April 18, 2000
Web posted at: 11:53 a.m. EDT (1553 GMT)

Life is unfair.

Last week, the day after Juan Miguel Gonzalez arrived in the United States, I left for ten days vacation. My final instructions to our crack Crossfire staff: please get little Elian back together with his father before I return, because I never want to have to talk about him again.

Life is unfair. So I come back from vacation and, not only is Elian still not reunited with his father, things have gotten worse, not better.

Here's why the Elian Gonzalez affair is so important and so disturbing: it perpetuates the absurdity that there are actually two Americas, not one.

The first is the America of free trade, based in Washington. Carrying out policies articulated by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton -- that true world power in the post-Cold War era is economic power, not military power, and that economic ties are the strongest preventive measure against military conflict - the United States has dramatically expanded its global trading reach, opening new markets in China, North Korea, and even North Vietnam.

The second is the America of no trade, based in Miami. Following a policy first articulated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 -- that economic sanctions against Cuba would bring Fidel Castro to his knees -- the United States still today, 38 years later, stubbornly refuses to recognize or allow American firms to do business with the most promising new trading partner in Latin America, located just ninety miles off the coast of Florida.

The result? Two Americas. One open, the other closed. One of the 21st. Century, the other of the 18th. One smart, the other just plain dumb.

It's patently obvious that sanctions against Cuba are a dismal failure. Not only is Fidel Castro still in power, only Israel joins the United States in boycotting Cuba.

Why do we cling to such a manifestly outdated and ineffective policy? Because, since 1959 and the Cuban revolution, U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba has been made in Miami, not in Washington. Made by Cuban-Americans and willingly endorsed by spineless presidents and members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, afraid of alienating such a powerful political constituency.

Add Elian Gonzalez to the mix and, again, we act as if we are two Americas, not one.

The first is the America, based in forty-nine states, of family values and respect for the law -- where families are still the basic societal building block; where nothing can replace the loving relationship of parents and children; where children are raised to be loyal, law-abiding citizens and where those who defy the law are punished.

The second is the America, based in Florida, which ignores both family values and the law. Where international politics supercede family values; where a little boy can be ripped and kept from his biological father, only so he can be paraded around as a political tool; and where those who break the law are honored, not condemned.

Let's be honest. Elian's Miami relatives care about one thing only: continuing their long, failed war against Castro and for sanctions. They are using this poor little boy as a puppet in their own political games. And they are now holding him against the law.

George Bush, Al Gore and the Mayor of Miami should be ashamed of supporting such lawlessness. They wouldn't do it for anybody else. Only Miami's Cuban-Americans are so politically-powerful, they can break the law with impunity.

It's long past time to put an end to this national outrage. It's time to reunite Elian with his father. And it's time to end the sanctions against Cuba.

That's the only way we can become one America again, not two.

 
ELECTION 2000

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Tuesday, April 18, 2000


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