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Inside Politics

Elian Gonzalez Custody Case: Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks Removal of Elian From U.S.; Transfer to Father Again Put on Hold

Aired April 13, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The scene at the Gonzalez home in Miami, where young Elian remains inside. A deadline has passed, a court stay issued, and the boy's handover to his father is again on hold. We'll have extensive coverage of the case, the major players, and how these latest developments are playing politically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have done everything I could to stay out of it, to avoided politicizing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has to be an incredibly emotional time for the boy and his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am prepared to enforce the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is off this week.

So far today, a lot has happened, but little has changed in the Elian Gonzalez custody case. The Justice Department now is holding off from taking any action to return the young Cuban refugee to his father. That is because a federal appeals court has issued a temporary stay, blocking Elian's removal from the United States. The order was requested by the boy's Miami relatives, who ignored a 2:00 p.m. Justice Department deadline to turn over the boy to federal officials.

We have live reports now from Miami from Susan Candiotti, who is outside the Gonzalez home, and from Mark Potter, covering Attorney General Janet Reno's involvement in this case.

First to Susan Candiotti -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy.

The chants we have heard from demonstrators, "Elian is not going back." Repeatedly we have heard that throughout this day. And at least for now, that's true. This afternoon, as you've indicated, a federal appeals court in Atlanta has given the boy's Florida relatives a reprieve to the delight of hundreds of demonstrators, a judge granting an emergency motion, at least temporarily, preventing the 6- year-old from going back to Cuba.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has announced she will not take any enforcement action until the three-judge panel rules. Now, attorneys for Elian's great uncle say they are cautiously pleased.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANNY DIAZ, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: This is a mandatory injunction of all concerned, including the attorney general of the United States, until further order of this court.

Now you all heard Mr. Craig say a little while ago -- give us his legal opinion. While we thank Mr. Craig for his legal opinion, I submit to you that the last time I heard, the 11th circuit court of appeals is the law of this country. Mr. Craig had also indicated that he thought our appeal was frivolous and had zero chance of winning. I believe the appellate court has spoken about the seriousness of our appeal. We will pursue it, and we will win this appeal.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: But the Florida relatives here have lost a battle in state court here in Florida when a family court judge quashed attempts for a custody battle there, ruling that her court does not have jurisdiction over federal law.

Demonstrators like to call this a chess game. And now, Judy, it appears the next move is up to the U.S. Justice Department.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

WOODRUFF: All right, thank you, Susan. And now we want to go quickly to Mark Potter -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, now that that 2:00 deadline has come and gone without incident, it is unclear what the Justice Department -- what the U.S. government is going to do next. About a half hour ago, Janet Reno left the U.S. attorney's office here. She's heading back to Washington. But before that, around noon, she held a news conference and she talked to the Miami community. She indicated that the U.S. Marshals would not be going to the house anytime soon to pick up the boy, and she called upon the citizens of Miami to remain nonviolent.

But beyond that, there were scant details, saying that only the Justice Department would enforce the law and would do so carefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENO: I am prepared to enforce the law. But I want to be clear, that if we're compelled to enforce our order, we intend to do so in a reasonable, measured way, the approach that we have always taken in this matter. We have the authority to take action, but responsible authority means not only being able to take action, but knowing when and how to take that action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Well, a Justice Department spokesman says the government continues to act on three different tracts in trying to solve this situation.

There is the negotiation tract. Talks, we are told by a Justice Department spokesman, are still under way, with lawyers in this case trying to reach some sort of agreement between all the parties; number two, the law enforcement track: The police officers, the federal officers are engaged in discussions on how best to remove the boy from the home if -- and a big if -- it were ever to come to that. They are talking about how to do it without any clear designation that that, indeed, is going to happen.

And finally, there is the litigation track, fighting this out in court. And as Susan Candiotti has said, there is the matter in the appeals court and a request for an injunction. The Justice Department is expected to respond to that by 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mark Potter and Susan Candiotti, both in Miami, thank you.

Elian's Miami relatives say they want his feelings about his future to be heard. So earlier today, they released a videotape of the boy delivering a message to his father, saying that he does not want to return to Cuba. The family says that the tape was recorded last night after talks with the Justice department broke down. It is not clear who was in the room with Elian or whether he was coached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIAN GONZALEZ, CUBAN REFUGEE (through translator): Dad, I do not want to go to Cuba. If you want to, stay here. I am not going to Cuba.

Dad, you saw that older woman that came to the sister's house -- she wants to see me be back in Cuba. I tell them, I am telling you, you are saying that I want to return to Cuba.

But I am telling you now that I do not want to go to Cuba. If you would like, stay here, but I don not want to go to Cuba.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: That tape was released to the Spanish Language Network, Univision, and it was translated by CNN. The lawyer for Elian's father cited the tape as evidence that the boy's Miami relatives have -- quote -- "emotionally damaged and exploited this most wonderful little boy" -- end quote. And more on that later.

The Gonzalez case has made a mark to some degree on the presidential race, particularly for Vice President Al Gore. Gore had been campaigning in North Carolina today.

And our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now from Charlotte.

Candy, did the vice president say anything publicly about what's been going on in the Gonzalez case.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not a word, Judy. In fact, he said nothing about anything except one subject, and that is education. He was here on the third of what has become sort of a signature kind of event in the Gore campaign, and that is to visit a school all day long. He went to science class. He went to art class. He went to computer class. He talked with parents. He talked to janitors. He talked to bus drivers. And all he wanted to do and all the campaign wanted to do, at this point, was to keep the focus on education.

As you may know, Gore has not held a media availability, a news conference for the media for about 54 days, not since mid February. That media-free zone is maintained today. We have been given some indication that the vice president would speak at a news conference today. That was canceled, or "not held," as one aide put it. They just believe that the situation in Florida is too sensitive for the vice president to talk about it just now.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley, thank you, reporting from Charlotte.

And now to George W. Bush's remarks about the Gonzalez case on a day in which the governor sought to bring unity to his party in more ways than one.

CNN's Charles Zewe has been covering Bush's day in Austin, Texas -- Charles.

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Governor Bush weighed-in on the Gonzalez case again today, saying this is obviously a time of great emotion for young Elian Gonzalez' relatives in Miami and for his dad. At the same time, Bush criticized the Clinton administration for succumbing to publicity pressure by Fidel Castro.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The INS said that the place to determine the status of this young man should be done in a Florida family court. That's what the INS said on December 1, 1999. And then Fidel Castro began to create -- need for demonstration in this country and the administration began to change. What the administration should have done, in my judgment, was to stuck to that line of reasoning and encouraged the attorney general to allow the case to have been decided -- a custody case -- to have been decided in a family court of law. That's what I would have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZEWE: While talking about the Gonzalez case, Governor Bush also announced today that after several months he will finally sit down and meet in person with John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZEWE (voice-over): It will be the first time Bush and McCain have met face to face since their bruising primary fight. Advisers to both men had been talking almost daily by phone to work out differences between the two camps over distribution of convention delegates and the site for what will be a private meeting between the two in Pittsburgh.

BUSH: I'm sure John and I will have a very constructive conversation, and I look forward to talking about areas that -- which we can work together to achieve -- so we can work together to win.

ZEWE: Those close to the process say some time needed to pass to let emotions subside. McCain's Senate aides say it's not likely McCain will formally endorse Bush at the meeting. Bush confirmed his session with McCain, as he emerged from a meeting with a group of gay Republican supporters, members of the group were hand picked by the Bush campaign.

BUSH: The meeting was a wide-ranging discussion on issues. I'm a better person for the meeting. I enjoyed it. I thought some of the life stories were very compelling.

ZEWE: The Texas governor said he reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage, a position considered key among his religious conservative backers, among the group were several local elected officials, and former GOP congressman Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin.

STEVE GUNDERSON, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: This was a conversation. This was not a quiz. It was not a test. It was not a confrontation saying, will you support us on A, B, or C, and if you don't we're going to go and pout, or we're going to go do something else between now and November.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZEWE: Bush advisers are saying this was all part of an attempt to moderate the governor's image after he appealed so strongly to religious conservatives, particularly in South Carolina. During the primary, some conservatives like Gary Bauer are saying now that, that kind of attempt to moderate his image could drive some Bush supporters to a third-party candidate -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Charles Zewe reporting from Austin, Texas. Thank you, Charles.

We now want to show you some live pictures of the house in Miami where little Elian Gonzalez, the little 6-year-old boy at the center of this extraordinary drama being played out in south Florida. He is there in the yard outside his -- the home of his relatives in Miami. He has been there since sometime late last night when he came back from the home of a Catholic nun, president of a college there in the Miami area where a meeting was held with the attorney general. And of course today, his Miami relatives have said that they will not obey any government order to turn the boy over to his father who has been waiting for him in Washington for the week.

Now we are joined by Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times" to consider some of the issues brought up by this extraordinary story.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Another extraordinary day.

WOODRUFF: Ron, we now have the attorney general saying, yes, we will carry out the law, but we're going to do it in a measured, reasonable way. Is that even possible under these circumstances, thousands of people sitting outside the house?

BROWNSTEIN: It's hard to see how, but I think it makes her -- it reminds people of why they liked Janet Reno originally. I think when she was standing up in that press conference today saying, we will enforce the law, it was some of the same straight shooter appeal that she had I think when she first came on the scene.

Look, I think people can relate to what's happened here in the last few weeks in a way that transcends politics and think about in their individual lives. I mean, you make decisions in the heat of the moment that seem like the right thing to do or you seem like you have no other choice and you find as you get toward the end of the day they're taking you further and further away from what you want and if indeed the relatives in Florida want what is best for the child, you know, it gets harder and harder to see how escalating things to this point really move you in that direction.

WOODRUFF: Now, what about this videotape, Ron, this -- really unusual piece of videotape? We're not sure of who shot it or under what circumstances, but in it, you do see this little 6-year-old boy saying, I don't want to go back to Cuba, papa.

BROWNSTEIN: I think that any -- I think that this videotape will certainly, along with the other events of the day, particularly ignoring the order to turn him over at 2 o'clock, will tend to further polarize opinion. And I suspect that most people who watch the videotape will have real anxiety about what is -- how the child is being used and whether, in fact, he is being used to further a broader political agenda.

It's hard to watch that and not feel that there is manipulation going on. It felt a little like watching those Calvin Klein ads of a few years ago that, you know, people got so angry about. It was just a very weird tape and one that I think leaves you with a lot of disquiet about how the boy is being dealt with through this.

WOODRUFF: Ron, we are just -- we have just been listening to Vice President Gore, actually not commenting on this today.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Governor Bush of Texas saying, well, I told you all along that what should have happened was it should have gone to family court. That's what the administration should have done. They should have stuck with that position. Is either candidate helped, hurt by what's going on? Are they really bystanders to this at this point?

BROWNSTEIN: I think everyone in the political system are bystanders mostly at this point, Judy. You don't see Congress moving to pass the laws that people have talked about to try to shift jurisdiction away from the INS over the case. It feels like events are sort of running past them.

But I do think that political -- that both Gore and Bush are somewhat exposed in the sense that -- perhaps Gore even more because his shift was so much more public and visible the other day -- if they both have identified largely with the cause of the relatives and the demonstrators, not entirely, but basically saying that the INS process should not go through, and as this comes to be questions of enforcing the law and if it does get violent, I think there will be a lot of hard questions for the vice president who seems exquisitely uncomfortable with his position. I mean, ever since he came out and broke with the administration, he has done nothing but send mixed signals.

WOODRUFF: What about the politicians, Ron, in Congress, the politicians in Florida who have argued all along that this boy should stay in the United States?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think that, you know, again, for all of the people who have identified with the cause -- and certainly there are strong emotions on that side -- I think there is an exposure and a vulnerability if in fact it comes to violence, if it comes to open law breaking, because what you have is a very polarized environment even in Florida.

Most non-Cubans, even in Florida, believe that the boy should be returned to his father, and I suspect that the events that are going on now are only going to further that polarization with Cuban- Americans feeling even more passionately and I think many others feeling, look, this has gone too far, we ultimately have to enforce the law.

WOODRUFF: Have you ever seen anything like this in all your years of covering public affairs, politics?

BROWNSTEIN: It's bizarre. I mean, I think -- you know, what happens, I think, in the way the modern media works is when you can personalize stories to an individual, you generate enormous emotion and attention, and -- you know, the sort of the whole 24-hour cable phenomena that we saw during impeachment sort of being ratcheted onto this in a way that you couldn't on an abstract policy -- imagine if this was a debate about this in just in general, if we're going to change immigration law to allow, you know, relatives here to retain custody -- we would not be going through this.

But once you personalize it to this extent, it drives it to a level that is almost unimaginable, and I suspect most Americans want this story to end and know how they want it to end, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein, "Los Angeles Times," thanks very much.

And as we watch those pictures of Elian Gonzalez playing on a slide outside the home of his Miami relatives, INSIDE POLITICS will continue.

Still ahead, the reaction from the homeland of Elian Gonzalez, a look at how Cubans are handling the ongoing drama over one little boy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez plays out in the United States, the citizens of Cuba are watching.

Our Bill Delaney joins us now from Havana with the latest there -- Bill.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Judy.

It's perhaps a measure of the gulf between U.S. and Cuban society that on this most frantic of days up north, here in Cuba, it's been very much business as usual.

Now, just about 20 minutes ago, at 5:00 Cuban time, Eastern Standard Time, the daily tribunal began. Now, the so-called tribunals are government-sponsored events at which Cubans get together every day, as they have for months, to look at the Elian situation. Judy, sometimes these tribunals take the form of street protests. Today, however, as it often does, it's a government roundtable. It's a roundtable of discussion that appears on television. The two government-sponsored TV stations here and on government radio, at which the Elian situation is looked at. Now sometimes Cuban President Fidel Castro does drop by to these events. We have no indication whether he will or not today.

But basically, we don't expect any major shift in the basic position here for months now, that Elian should come home. There has been no public comment on the events in the United States from Cuban officials, except what we may hear in the next two hours at this roundtable.

We did speak to Cuban officials privately earlier. They told us they're following the situation closely. They said they remain very proud of how Juan Miguel Gonzalez has conducted himself under so much pressure up in the United States, and Cuban officials told us that Elian Gonzalez' grandmothers, who of course went to visit the boy in January, are feeling particularly anxious, particularly concerned now that somehow their grandson may get back here home to Cuba -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Delaney, reporting from Havana, thanks.

And joining us now, the mayor of Miami, Joe Carollo.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with us.

MAYOR JOE CAROLLO, MIAMI: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: The situation outside the Gonzalez home there in Miami, Mr. Mayor, seems to be increasingly tense. What is being done to get -- to keep it from spinning out of control?

CAROLLO: On the contrary, there's nothing that's spinning out of control here. The only person that I know of that's being spin out of control is Mr. Craig. I guess his boss, Fidel, must be awfully mad today, because in the United States, we do things by the law, and that's exactly what's being done here. The law is being followed. The people that peacefully gather under our constitutional rights so that they can express their freedom of speech was done in a peaceful manner, not like usually things are done in Cuba. Miami is a peaceful, nonviolent city, and that's how things are going to stay here, peaceful and nonviolent.

WOODRUFF: So with the thousands of people outside the Gonzalez home, who is in control there?

CAROLLO: Well, the only person that is not in control in Miami is Mr. Craig's client, that apparently, up to now, thought that he was in control of our foreign policy and our federal government.

Miami is a peaceful city. People have a right under our Constitution to lawfully assemble and express themselves in a lawful manner, and that's exactly what's happened here.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, the family, the relatives in Miami of the little boy, have indicated that they will not permit him to be turned over to federal authorities no matter what the court has -- is that not correct?

CAROLLO: No, that is not correct. Lazaro Gonzalez has always stated that he would follow the law. Now, at no time has the federal government come with any kind of injunction from the courts, forcing him to hand them the boy.

There is, however, as you can see here, a court order from the appellate court in Atlanta that states "It seems that plaintiff probably has demonstrated that he is entitled to an injunction prohibiting his removal from the United States during the appendancy of this appeal." And until they hear this sometime tomorrow or the next day, the appeals court in Atlanta has told the United States government that Elian Gonzalez cannot be removed from the United States, and furthermore, federal agents... WOODRUFF: Well, once...

CAROLLO: ... federal agents, including Immigration officers, have to make sure that Elian Gonzalez does not leave, is not taken out of the United States.

WOODRUFF: What -- if the court rules, Mr. Mayor, if the judges in the 11th circuit rule that the boy may be transferred to his father, will his relatives in Miami abide by that ruling?

CAROLLO: Again, Lazaro Gonzalez is a man of his word. He has always stated that he will follow the law.

But you know what the problem here is, that our federal government is so intimidated by Mr. Castro and the deal that Mr. Craig worked with Castro and our government, the same Mr. Craig that represents our president, that we're ignoring the law just to appease Mr. Castro.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mr. Joe Carollo, mayor of Miami, thank you for being with us.

CAROLLO: Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: And still much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come, the White House position on the Gonzalez case, plus the president's thoughts on thoughts on White House pardons, impeachment and his legacy.

Also: four months and counting -- how long will Elian's father have to wait for custody?

And later: how it all started, a look back at the events that have brought a Cuban boy into the American spotlight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As he has in the past, President Clinton tried today to keep his remarks about the Elian Gonzalez case to a minimum. But Mr. Clinton was more outspoken about a battle of his own.

Let's go to CNN's White House correspondent Major Garrett -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, White House officials have received regular updates throughout the day on the Elian Gonzalez case from Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. They also point out they get routine updates by watching our network and our continuing coverage of this case.

What they tell CNN is that the president supports Janet Reno's attempt to do two things in this case: focus the country's attention on the rule of law and trying to expedite the ultimate reunification of Juan Miguel Gonzalez with Elian Gonzalez. The White House is really not interested in commenting on other issues, political or legal. They just want the country and especially Janet Reno to focus, as she has throughout, on the two key issues: the rule of law and reuniting father with son.

Now, earlier this afternoon, the president addressed the question of his own legal battles earlier at a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors. This is a society that the president has spoken to before and routinely has taken questions from the audience, often times on questions of public integrity.

Well, today he got a question about whether or not he would ever seek a presidential pardon. There has been some talk about that since newly appointed independent counsel Robert Ray has suggested he might indict the president after he leaves office. Today, the president said he won't need a pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: The answer is, no, I don't have any interest in that. I don't want one and I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before. But I would like just once to see someone acknowledge the fact that this Whitewater thing was a lie and a fraud from the beginning and that most people with any responsibility over it have known it for years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: A very steely and not all together very happy president taking that question. Well, the very next question he received from the audience was how his presidential library would treat the question of impeachment. The president said there would be a section devoted to it, a battle, he said, was a very important legal one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I am proud of what we did there because I think we saved the Constitution of the United States. I think, I -- first of all, I had to defeat the Republican Revolution of 1994 when they shut down the government and we beat back the Contract on America. Then we had to beat it in the impeachment issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: White House officials knew those questions were coming, the president was ready for them. The White House says the president's comments speak for itself. But also today here, Judy, the number one issue, Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, as I said, the attorney general briefing the White House on a regular basis -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Major Garrett at the White House.

Well, over on Capitol Hill, where Mr. Clinton's impeachment once dominated the debate, the Elian Gonzalez case also is stirring a good deal of controversy. CNN's congressional correspondent Chris Black joins us from the Hill. Chris, what is the reaction there to all these events unfolding?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, opinion on Capitol Hill is really quite divided. There are many lawmakers who feel very, very strongly that this little 6-year-old boy should be returned to his father just as soon as possible. But there are others, a smaller number, who feel very passionately that the child should stay in the United States no matter what.

Because there is no consensus, Senate majority leader Trent Lott has said that there can be no congressional action, certainly no Senate action this week. The Senate is preparing to go into a recess so that would foreclose that option in any case. But the Senate couldn't even agree and Senate Republicans couldn't even agree on what a non-binding sense of the Senate resolution might say. So that's not going to happen.

This has left the senior senator from Florida, Senator Connie Mack, a Republican, quite disillusioned. He said in recent days that he's become increasingly disappointed with the lack of response from his colleagues, and just an hour ago he went to the Senate floor and slammed the Clinton administration for the way its handled this case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: This administration has intimidated Elian's American family with the sheer weight, power and force of the United States government. This administration has chosen to grind down the family's emotions and trample on the family's rights.

In the process, the best interests of this boy have been undeniably neglected and his mother's wishes ignored. This administration's treatment of a young child has evolved into an exercise of cruel and unusual punishment to preserve a predetermined outcome and to placate an old and bitter dictator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: Meanwhile, Attorney General Janet Reno is getting a lot of unsolicited advice from Capitol Hill. Senator Pat Leahy, the -- a Democrat from Vermont whose the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called her last night and told her emphatically, he says, that she should do everything she can to get the child back to his father just as soon as possible. Today, Senator Leahy was very critical of the Gonzalez relatives in Miami. He said that they had been dishonest and that they should not be allowed to continue this charade.

On the other hand, Senator Orrin Hatch, who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also called Attorney General Reno and he's told her that she should make an exception in this case and ask for a federal court to be able to make a domestic decision in this instance, a decision that's usually reserved for the state courts. He says that he thinks that's the only way the Cuban-American community in Miami would accept the verdict and accept the child being returned to his father's custody.

In any case, the bottom line, Judy, is that this is a very messy situation. Politicians, by definition, don't like messy situations, so they are all hoping on both sides of this issue that it will be resolved just as soon as possible -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black at the Capitol -- it looks like the feelings there are just as strong as they are among the American people -- thanks.

When we return, Bob Franken on how Elian's father is handling the latest developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: After seven days in the United States, Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is still waiting for a reunion with his son. For now, Mr. Gonzalez is staying near Washington, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Our Bob Franken is there, too -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Judy, his quest for reunification with his son ended in a day of frustration. Juan Miguel Gonzalez returned to his residence, his home away from home here in Bethesda. It's the residence of the head of the Cuban interest section. He came back today after a full day, which included the showing of the videotape of his boy in Miami, the one in which he said -- the boy said that he did not want to go back to Cuba, and it also, of course, was a day in which the appeals court built in a delay by coming up with its temporary restraining order.

Much of the day for Juan Miguel Gonzalez was spent in the office of his attorney, Greg Craig.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTY. FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: Juan Miguel Gonzalez asks only this, that the laws of this nation be enforced, that the exploitation of his son come to an end, and that Elian be returned to his care and custody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Now, throughout the week that he has been in the United States, Gonzalez has been adamant about not going to Miami, not agreeing to any of the conditions, but now things have changed a bit. It seems that the advantage might have, at least for the moment, gone to the relatives in Miami, and perhaps this might signal, Judy, some negotiation that had been terminated for a while -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken, reporting from Bethesda, Maryland.

Thanks.

A number of politicians, from members of Congress to the two major presidential hopefuls, have offered their opinions on the Elian Gonzalez case. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us now.

Bill, is this a political issue?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, In a sense, Judy, no, it's not. By two to one, Americans believe the boy should go back to Cuba with his father rather than remain in the United States. Now that view has absolutely no relationship to politics. It's shared by conservatives as well as liberals, by Republicans as well as Democrats. What that says is the Cold War is over for most Americans. The public sees this as a family issue, not as a political issue.

Now here's something else the public is not divided over. By the same two-to-one margin, Americans say that if the family refuses to turn the boy over to his father, the government should physically remove him from the Miami home. Again, this is not political. Conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans all agree.

So it looks like the American public ought be behind Janet Reno and the administration on this.

WOODRUFF: Are they?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's the surprise -- they're not. Americans disapprove of the way the government has handled this situation, by the same two-to-one majority.

Remember the Waco siege in 1993? Americans supported the government's objective in Waco. They felt the authorities were justified to go in. But they saw the whole thing as a bungled operation. The government just can't go in and seize the boy and assume the public is going to be behind them. The public will not be behind them if they are seen as causing harm to the boy or his family, even though people agree with the government's objective.

WOODRUFF: Seems contradictory. But does that give the relatives in Miami the advantage?

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. They really don't have to do anything. They are daring the authorities to come and get the boy, at the government's risk. If that boy is forcibly removed and sent back to Cuba, the Cuban-American community wants the Clinton administration to pay a political price, which could happen, as long as the resistance of the Cuban-American community is nonviolent and the feds look like the aggressors. The instant the feds make their move, the issue changes. It becomes not, are they doing the right thing, but are they doing this right? The public already says yes to the first question, and no to the second -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Hard to see how the government can win.

SCHNEIDER: It's a very tough one.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

And up next, a look at Elian Gonzalez's journey to this point.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Live pictures of the scene outside the Gonzalez home in Miami, Florida

In all of the confusion around the government's effort to return Elian Gonzalez to his father, it is possible to forget what made this such a compelling story in the first place, both personally and politically.

Jonathan Aiken takes a look back at Elian's story now, in two parts, beginning with his ill-fated journey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elian Gonzalez' sad, strange odyssey began last year on the 21st of November, on the northern coast of Cuba. Like hundreds of thousands of Cubans before him, Elian sets out for the Florida coast in a 17x20-foot boat, along with his mother and her boyfriend. Back in Cuba, his father, Juan Miguel Gonzales, searches frantically for his son. He knows nothing of the boat trip.

Three days out, the boat capsizes and sinks. The survivors, including Elian and his mother, hold on to innertubes. She slips off and drowns. Elian is picked up on Thanksgiving Day by two fishermen off the coast of Florida and he is taken to a Miami hospital.

On the 27th, Elian is released to the custody of his Miami relatives.

On the 28th, his father asks for him back.

The epic custody battle over Elian Gonzalez begins.

December 6: Elian turns 6. In Cuba, Fidel Castro marks the occasion with a speech demanding Elian's return.

FIDEL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There will be millions of people on the streets demanding the freedom of this child.

AIKEN: The speech sparks weeks of anti-American protests in Havana and instant condemnation from the Republican campaign trail.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would urge President Clinton to make it clear that under no circumstances that this young boy should be condemned to a life of communist oppression.

BUSH: The Cubans boy's day ought to come to America, and he ought to get a taste of freedom in America, and then he ought to make his decision of what's best for his boy. And I don't trust Fidel Castro. I am not so sure this man is making the right kind of judgment.

AIKEN: January 5: The Immigration and Naturalization Service, with the backing of Attorney General Janet Reno, rules that Elian should be returned to his father by mid January. The announcement causes mass protests in the streets of Miami and a court challenge from Elian's Miami relatives.

In the middle of a tough primary fight, Vice President Al Gore signals his opposition to the administration's policy.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then the matter should be addressed in our domestic relations courts that have expertise, and experience and the body of law by which we traditionally answer those questions, according to due process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Even with all those comments, at that point, the case was still fairly low on the political agenda, with Gore and Bush focused on defeating their primary opponents. Weeks later, with the general election effectively underway, Gore's break with the administration made headline news. That story after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Politically, the Elian Gonzalez story got hot after the primaries, when everything the candidates said was judged for its effect on the fall election. But in personal terms, the story took off with the arrival of Elian's Cuban family, beginning with his grandmothers.

Here's part two of Jonathan Aiken's look back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm dying to see him, to hug him, to be even if only for a short while with him.

AIKEN (voice-over): January 21st: The abuelas arrive in Washington. Elian's Cuban grandmothers hit the capital to lobby for Elian's return. They meet with Janet Reno, and their grandson, and return to Cuba upset and angry with the way the boy's Miami relatives are handling the matter.

On March 21st, a federal judge rejects the Miami family's attempt to win political asylum for Elian. Elian's great uncle, Lazaro, decides to put the boy before television cameras. In an interview with ABC, Elian says he doesn't believe his mother is dead, that he doesn't want to go back to Cuba, but that he doesn't like Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

E. GONZALEZ (through translator): My mom is not in heaven, not lost. She must have been picked up here in Miami somewhere. She must have lost her memory and just doesn't know I'm here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AIKEN: His father is furious, accusing the Miami family of parading Elian before television cameras for political gain.

March 29th: With nothing left to prevent the federal government from revoking Elian's right to stay and sending him home, Miami's exile Cuban community grows increasingly agitated. Local mayors say they will play no part in any attempt to take Elian.

MAYOR ALEX PENELAS, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: That if the Justice Department's handling of this matter, if their continued provocation in the form of unjustified threats to revoke the boy's parole leads to civil unrest and violence, we are holding the federal government responsible, and specifically, Janet Reno and the president of the United States for anything that may occur in this community.

AIKEN: Penelas later clarifies his position, saying his police will, of course, help keep order, but will not actively help federal agents take the boy.

One day later, Al Gore contradicts administration policy in a written statement saying he supports permanent residency for the boy and his father and says the matter should be settled in Florida family court. Critics accuse Gore of pandering to Miami's Cuban community in an effort to increase his prospects of winning electorally-rich Florida in the fall. Gore calls his position principled, but then confuses the issue by apparently backing the father.

GORE: If the father says on free soil that he believes the son should go back to Cuba with him, that, of course, is likely to be determinative and will be determinative.

AIKEN: April 6th: Enter Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S FATHER (through translator): I have just arrived in Washington where I hope I'll soon be able to embrace my son, Elian Gonzalez Broton, for the first time in over four months.

AIKEN: Elian's father comes to Washington to reclaim his boy, putting pressure on Janet Reno to act swiftly. The Miami family says Gonzalez is unable to speak freely and demand a private meeting. But during an emotional meeting with Reno, Gonzalez insists he wants to take his son back to Cuba. Reno says she is determined to enforce the law.

RENO: Mr. Gonzalez and I do not share the same political beliefs, but it is not our place to punish a father for his political beliefs or where he wants to raise his child. Indeed, if we were to start judging parents on the basis of their political beliefs, we would change the concept of family for the rest of time.

AIKEN: Jonathan Aiken for CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Attorney General Reno's stated determination to return Elian to his father has, of course, been tested again and again over the past week, and it continues to be so.

And that is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when Bill Schneider will have his "Political Play of the Week." And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics. com.

This programming note: Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Miami Mayor Joe Carollo will be discussing the Elian Gonzalez case tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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