Final A

I Have A Dream

This is an op-ed piece written for the April 28, 2000 New York Times by syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman. It appears originally at

I had a dream that it all ended differently.

I had a dream that Janet Reno never ordered a SWAT team to go to the Miami home where Elián González was being held, but instead went by herself. She walked up to the front door, rang the doorbell, asked for Elián and his relatives graciously handed him over. Ms. Reno then drove to a waiting airplane and took Elián back to his father in Washington D.C. It all ended so peacefully. And then -- and this is where my dream turned scary -- Ms. Reno decided she wanted to do something nice and normal for Elián, something kids and parents like to do when they first visit Washington.

So she took Elián to the National Zoo.

And in my dream, just as they were walking out around 6 p.m. Monday, Elián found himself in the middle of the shooting there. Suddenly the poor boy found out what it really means to be terrorized by people not just brandishing guns but firing them. He found out what it's really like to be in the middle of a panic -- one that doesn't end with you being scooped up by a caring police officer but ends with you cowering behind a trash can, looking out at the bleeding bodies of seven kids sprawled across the entry of our National Zoo, after being shot by a 16-year-old with a 9-millimeter handgun.

In my dream, I despaired for Elián and all those kids, for they had endured something that would really scar them for life. They had gone to the zoo in a country without adequate gun control.

When I awoke the next morning I heard Trent Lott, Tom DeLay and Senator Connie Mack (the king of pandering pols) all talking about how horrified they were that guns had been brandished around children, and I was so relieved. But then I realized that they weren't talking about guns that were actually fired, guns that actually put a bullet in a kid's head, guns that were in the hands of crazed teenagers who can buy them like candy bars thanks to Republican opposition to gun control -- no, no, no. They were talking about guns in the hands of U.S. marshals enforcing the laws of this land. That's what outraged these Republicans, and they were going to hold hearings to condemn it. Well, thanks a lot.

You want to hold hearings about the "horror" of guns, Mr. Lott? You want to hold hearings about the rights of kids, Mr. Mack? How about holding hearings about our kids -- about the guns that threaten their rights to visit our National Zoo in peace? That wouldn't require expensive hearings by Mr. Lott, Mr. DeLay and Mr. Mack. That would just require them to look in a mirror to find the solution.

Fortunately, the American people understand all this. God love them. Every poll shows that two-thirds supported Ms. Reno in reuniting Elián with his father and two-thirds see no reason for staged hearings.

What are those two-thirds telling us? They are telling us that they know there is an ideological vacuum at the heart of the Republican Party today. They know that ever since America's victory in the cold war -- a just crusade against an Evil Empire -- the hard-core Republicans have been looking for a new enemy and a new moral crusade. Unfortunately, they've decided it's the enemy within -- the Evil Administration.

The Republican extremes use the same imagery against the Clintons that they used against the Soviets -- brainwashing, black helicopters, assassination plots and doctored photos. For them the Elián case was a godsend, because it enabled them to hate Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton together -- the last Evil Empire working with the first Evil Administration to harm a Cuban child. But most Americans don't buy it.

They know that if the Republican leadership really cared about the Cuban people, they would be holding hearings about why our 40-year-old policy for ousting Mr. Castro hasn't worked. And if they were really horrified about guns they would be holding hearings about why our gun control laws haven't worked.

That, though, would require real policies, some sense of responsibility and some vision that goes beyond a dart board with Mr. Clinton's and Mr. Castro's pictures on it. And that is precisely what Messrs. Lott, DeLay and Mack don't have. So they will turn Capitol Hill into their own private national zoo, with their own kangaroo court, and they will leave the real National Zoo, and those of us who would like to visit it in peace, unprotected.

Question: What does Friedman suggest has filled the ideological vacuum of the Republican Party? Based on observations of people that you know or have read about, do you think most Americans share the vision, as Friedman depicts it, of the Republican Party?

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