Frame Game

Comandante DeLay’s Revolución

Tom DeLay is at it again. When we last saw the House majority whip commenting on foreign affairs—during the war in Kosovo—he was leading the U.S. cheering section for Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. DeLay voted for legislation “directing the president … to remove U.S. Armed Forces” from the war, blamed the Serbs’ atrocities on “Clinton’s bombing campaign,” assured Americans that “the Serbian people are rallying around [Milosevic] like never before,” and blasted “the president’s spin machine”—the American president’s spin machine—for falsely suggesting “that Milosevic is weakening.”

Now DeLay is weighing in on the Elián González case. Wednesday, he called a news conference to complain that Elián’s father, Juan Miguel González, had failed to respond to an invitation to meet with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. After citing González’s failure to visit him as evidence that he was “under house arrest,” DeLay turned the podium over to Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart praised DeLay’s overture to González and declared, “Through the president’s personal emissary, Mr. Craig [González’s lawyer], the Clinton administration convinced the Cuban dictator that it was in his interest to send Elián’s father here, because that would give the American people the impression [that] by virtue of the fact that Elián’s father is on free soil, he is a free man. That is a farce.”

Diaz-Balart elaborated on DeLay’s complaint about González: “The fact that the congressional leadership invited him to come here, to the citadel of American democracy, and pledged that here, where there is neutral police, the Capitol Hill police, that is not under the control of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, Elián’s father could meet with the whip, the majority leader, and the speaker—that makes it extraordinarily clear … that since he is under the control of Cuban agents and Clinton administration security in coordination with the Cuban government, since he’s under constant surveillance, and his every move is controlled and decided by Mr. Craig in coordination with the Cuban dictator … it should be made clear now to millions of open-minded Americans that he is not a free man. Why doesn’t he accept the invitation [that] the three Cuban-American members of Congress made to him to come here for a private lunch so we could have a parent-to-parent conversation with him and his wife and infant son? Why doesn’t he accept the invitation made to him by the Republican—by the congressional leadership? Because he’s not a free man. … The congressional leadership [is] opening their arms to Juan Miguel and saying, ‘Come to the capitol, where you can have a private meeting, where there is police that is not under the control of either Bill Clinton or Janet Reno, but rather is neutral police, and speak your mind.’ That should make it very clear to open-minded Americans that even though Juan Miguel is on free soil, he is not a free man.”

DeLay stood beside Diaz-Balart approvingly as the Florida congressman delivered this speech. Then DeLay stepped to the microphone and endorsed Diaz-Balart’s theories about González’s no-show. Since González had already met with Reno and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department, a reporter asked what González would gain by meeting with House leaders. “We could answer questions for him … freely, without any sort of pressure,” DeLay replied. “I’m just appalled,” the whip added, “that our own administration doesn’t even understand American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Let’s review the charges here. First, González’s failure to accept DeLay’s invitation proves that González is unable to express his true wishes. It’s unthinkable to DeLay that González doesn’t want to meet with him, just as it’s unthinkable to Warren Beatty that any woman doesn’t find him attractive. Second, Greg Craig, a lawyer in private practice who was enlisted by church groups to represent González, is Clinton’s “personal emissary” to Castro, since Craig represented Clinton during the impeachment showdown a year and a half ago. Third, through Craig, Clinton persuaded Castro to send González to the United States to trick Americans into returning Elián. Fourth, “Clinton administration security,” under Craig’s direction, is controlling González’s “every move” in cahoots with Castro.

Fifth, González should come to Capitol Hill because it is protected by a congressional police force “that is not under the control of either Bill Clinton or Janet Reno, but rather is neutral.” Only there, away from Clinton’s “security” thugs, can González speak “freely, without any sort of pressure.” And why will Congress, unlike the Justice Department, protect González from Castro and Clinton? Because it is run by a “Republican”—er, a “congressional leadership.” To recap: Clinton is using espionage and a personal security apparatus to commit treason, and Congress—a sovereign territory within the United States—is prepared to use its own police to thwart him.

Imagine González hunkered down in his host’s living room in suburban Maryland, watching C-SPAN’s broadcast of DeLay’s press conference. Imagine González staring at the screen as DeLay expounds these theories and offers to give González “real insight into what America’s all about. We could discuss not only what he thinks America’s about, but what we think America’s about.” If González is watching, perhaps he already understands what DeLay thinks America is about. Perhaps González has realized that he doesn’t need to go back to Cuba to be instructed that the United States is run by a dictator who should be resisted by force. He can get that instruction right here.