Notable Quotables - 04/17/2000


Not to The New York Times

"Communism Still Looms as Evil to Miami Cubans."
- Headline over April 11 New York Times story.


Little Havana, Banana Republic

"Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on south Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it an out of control banana republic within America. What effect is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well-known columnist for the Miami Herald about that."
- NBC's Katie Couric opening the April 3 Today.

"The banana republic label sticking to Miami in the final throes of the Elian Gonzalez crisis is a source of snide humor for most Americans. But many younger Cuban Americans are getting tired of the hard-line anti-Castro operatives who have helped manufacture that stereotype especially the privileged, imperious elite who set themselves up as a 'pueblo sufrido', a suffering people, as martyred as black slaves and Holocaust Jews, but ever ready to jump on expensive speedboats to reclaim huge family estates the moment the old communist dictator stops breathing."
- Time Miami reporter Tim Padgett, April 17 issue.


Nurture Elian in Peaceable Cuba

"Elian might expect a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in Miami. Because Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, works as a cashier in a tourist resort, the family already belonged to the nation's well-off stratum, who has access to American dollars. The boy's relatives in Miami can offer further support: Cuba now even has ATM's that dispense dollars from foreign banks. The education and health-care systems, both built since the revolution, are among the best in the Americas, despite chronic shortages of supplies...
"The boy will nestle again in a more peaceable society that treasures its children. But his life will oscillate to the contrary rhythms of this central Cuban paradox. As a shining symbol of the communist state, he will have access to the corrupting fruits of the new economy. He'll enjoy the best Cuba has to offer, the things only dollars can buy."
- Brook Larmer and John Leland in Newsweek, April 17.


Elian Better Off in Cuba

"To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami and I'm not going to condemn their lifestyle so gratuitously."
- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group, April 8.

"Altogether, in wages, tips and bonuses, he [Elians father] earns more than 10 times Cuba's $15 average monthly salary enough to afford to buy Elian imported Power Ranger toys and birthday pinatas fat with Italian hard candy and German chocolates....Elian enjoyed that rarest of Cuban luxuries: his own air-conditioned bedroom. And before Juan Miguel sold it to pay, he says, for calls to Elian in Miami, the boy's father even had a car, a 1956 Nash Rambler, in which Elian rode through town like a prince, while many people relied on horse-drawn carts."
- Time Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs, April 17.


Miami McCarthyism

"ABC at first avoided showing the six-year-old saying he did'nt want to go back to his father in Cuba, a statement that could have been coached. But Armando Gutierrez, the family spokesman and a veteran political operator with a heavy touch of Joe McCarthy in him, angrily accused ABC of reneging on a promise to broadcast that very statement. The next morning, the network aired it."
- Time Miami reporter Tim Padgett, April 10.


Civilized Plan = Return to Cuba

"Good evening. In Miami today, immigration officials met with the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez again and once again the government has failed to get the kind of cooperation from the relatives that might allow the case of this young boy to end in a civilized manner that is best for him."
- Peter Jennings opening World News Tonight, March 28.


Blaming the Free Society

"[G]rown-ups near and far cooked his simple, tragic story into a thick stew of politics, legalities, ideology and raw emotion. Today's irony is that to get close to his son, this bo'ys father had to travel more than a thousand miles to a foreign capital and even then, even now, he must wait for the long-sought reunion. Such are the ways of politics and the law in a free society."
- Dan Rather concluding the April 6 CBS Evening News.


Stupid Is as ABC Does

"We did not send him to interview the President. No one is that stupid....All roles of journalists must be played by journalists (duh!)."
- From a widely reported April 1 e-mail message from ABC News President David Westin to his staff about a report that for an Earth Day special ABC News had actor Leonardo DiCaprio interview the President.

"Obviously, we're not going to send Leo to the White House to interview the President. We have plenty of qualified people here to do that."
- ABC News Senior Vice President Phyllis McGrady, as quoted by Gail Shister in the April 4 Philadelphia Inquirer.

Reality Check:

"In hindsight, Westin said, he erred in what he said in an original e-mail on the subject to staffers last week. In it, Westin said ABC had planned to have DiCaprio and the President chat while touring the White House....It turns out, Westin said Friday, that we had worked with DiCaprio to prepare some very substantive, policy-oriented questions, which did, in fact, amount to an interview. It doesn't matter whether you're walking or sitting, Westin said."
- USA Today's Peter Johnson, April 10.


NRA Bashed and Slashed...

"Well, words do hurt people because they prevent compromise. And people have said unless we get compromise on this issue nothing will get done and people will continue to be killed on a daily basis. Even Gerald Ford weighed in on this debate recently, saying that the hard line of the NRA is a complete loser. Where do you find compromise? Where is the end going to come here, Mr. Heston?"
- Today substitute co-host Maria Shriver to NRA President Charlton Heston, March 20.


...CDF Buffed and Puffed

"The Children's Defense Fund will release its annual report today, and the figures in it are shocking and disturbing. They say one in five American children live in poverty. 13.5 million kids in this country are poor. Marian Wright Edelman, the incredible head of that organization, will be here to tell us today what can be done about it. And she firmly believes that mothers, in particular, across the country can get involved in this fight and should get involved because everybody's children are all of our children....It's a call to arms really for America's mothers to get involved in the gun debate. Silence the NRA. Get involved. You say it is all of our fights!"
- Maria Shriver plugging Edelman's appearance, followed by one of Shriver's questions, March 24 Today.


Totalitarian Republic of Miami

"It seems like such a contradiction that Cubans, who profess a love of family and respect for the bond between father and son, would be so willing to separate Elian from his father. But in Miami it's impossible to overestimate how everything here is colored by a hatred of communism and Fidel Castro. It's a community with very little tolerance for those who might disagree."
- ABC's John Quinones on World News Tonight, Apr. 4.


Jim Avila Wins the Castro Prize

"If and when Elian returns, he will become a four-foot tall deity in a country that officially does not believe in God.... Elian's future here likely to be the Cuban good life, lived by Communist Party elite with perks like five free gallons of gasoline a month for the family, a Cuban tradition called La Jaba, the bag, which includes extra rice, beans, cooking oil and sundries like deodorant, shampoo, razors and shaving cream, about $15 a month worth of basics. Plus, invitations reserved for the party elite to cultural events, sports, discos and restaurants, access to the best medicine, expensive drugs like heart cures not available to everyone in Cuba."
- NBC reporter Jim Avila from Havana on the April 4 NBC Nightly News.

"Why did she [Elians mother, a maid] do it? What was she escaping? By all accounts this quiet, serious young woman, who loved to dance the salsa, was living the good life, as good as it gets for a citizen in Cuba....In today's Cuba a maid, where dollar tips are to be had, is a prestigious job. Elian's life relatively easy by Cuban standards, living with Mom and maternal grandparents half of the week, in Dad's well-furnished home the rest of the time. Both Mom and Dad friendly to each other and caring towards their only child....An extended family destroyed by a mother's decision to start a new life in a new country, a decision that now leaves a little boy estranged from his father and forever separated from her."
- Jim Avila from Havana on NBC Nightly News, April 8.


"I Hope We Kill Bush"

"There are reporters who call McCain John, sometimes even to his face and in public. And then there are the employees of major news organizations who, usually at night in the hotel bar, slip into the habit of referring to the McCain campaign as we as in, I hope we kill Bush."
- The Weekly Standard's Tucker Carlson in a March 27 issue piece titled, "On the Road: From New Hampshire to California, a Diary of the Real McCain Campaign."