Mr President, You're No JFK

A sad day for the Democrats

By Dave Kopel, Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute.

4/24/00 3:30 p.m., National Review Online. More by Kopel on the Elian Gonzalez kidnapping.

The Castro/Clinton grab of Elian Gonzalez shows that the Clinton/Gore "New Democrats" are not new at all; instead, they are a throwback to the worst period of the Democratic party. The party of Bill Clinton and Al Gore is now, like the party of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, the party of the slave power.

It wasn't too long ago that American Presidents, Democrats included, were justly known as "the leader of the free world." When Harry Truman was President, American air power was used for the Berlin airlift, to bring food and medicine to an island of freedom that was besieged by tyranny. When Bill Clinton is President, American air power is used to destroy the only medicine factory in the Sudan, in order to distract attention from the President's perjury.

When John F. Kennedy was President, he continued Operation Peter Pan, begun under President Eisenhower, which airlifted 14,000 children from Cuba to live in freedom in the United States. President Kennedy understood that living in freedom without one's parents is better than to live in slavery. Speaking in Berlin in June 26, 1963, Kennedy rebuked people "who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists…who say that it is true Communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress."

Kennedy told the world that "freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free." Kennedy's speech showed how far the Democratic party had come from a century before. Then, most Democratic politicians had believed that white men could be free while blacks were enslaved, and believed that it was entirely reasonable that a six-year-old boy could be "a possession of the Cuban government." (Slaves are humans who are the "possession" of other humans; slave trading is not necessary for slavery to exist, as Russian serfdom illustrated.)

Applying the theory that humans could be the possession of other humans, Democratic President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. Under Democratic Presidents Franklin Pierce (1853-57) and James Buchanan (1857-61) federal enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act was greatly intensified. Many escaped slave children were "reunited" with their families back in slave states, where they received free health care and free food. The best-treated of these slaves were given jobs as house servants, working indoors waiting on the master class — much as Elian's father has been assigned to work in the hotels.

President Pierce used U.S. marshals in 1856, to assist "the sack of Lawrence" — a bloody assault against free-soil settlers in Kansas. As part of the attack, the settlers were disarmed by the federal agents. Before becoming President, Buchanan had been U.S. Ambassador to Britain. While in Britain, he drafted the 1854 Ostend Manifesto, which threatened Spain with war, unless Spain sold Cuba to the U.S. — so that Cuba, where slavery was already well-established, could become an American slave state. But when the Manifesto proved politically unpopular in the United States, President Pierce, Clinton-style, denied any knowledge of it.

How greatly American policy to Cuba had changed by time of John F. Kennedy's Presidency. On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy addressed the nation on television, regarding the Cuban missile crisis. He concluded with "a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities." "Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed your liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans look forward to the time when they will be truly free — free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the associations of the hemisphere."

President Kennedy hoped that relations with Cuba would be normalized as that nation began to move towards freedom. He never would have imagined that the great step toward normalization of relations would be a political assault on the Cuban refugee community, orchestrated by Fidel Castro, and implemented by the American President. President Kennedy never would have dreamed that the best day ever in Cuban-American diplomatic relations would come when Fidel Castro exulted that the American President had ordered a Castro-style gunpoint kidnapping of a Cuban refugee child. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy never would have imagined that the American Attorney General would orchestrate the kidnapping, while lying to the American people about every part of it. To President Kennedy and his Attorney General, automatic weapons were for use overseas against Communists — not against refugees from Communism in the United States. How sad President Kennedy would be to learn that the first man to run American foreign policy according to Fidel Castro's dictates would be one of the young men who reached out to shake Kennedy's hand. Perhaps if Kennedy had foreseen young Bill Clinton's future, Kennedy might have taken the young man aside, and explained that shaking hands with the powerful was fine, but that the purpose of exercising power was "to ensure the survival and the success of liberty."

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