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| Tony Kornheiser

Step Right Up and Watch the Elian Case Turn Into a Full-Fledged Circus


It's 15 years from now. Elian "El Duque" Gonzalez, now 21 years old, is getting ready to graduate from the University of Maryland.

Yes, he's still here.

The whole family is still here.

The father, Juan Miguel, his wife, their other son. They're all living in Washington, D.C. (Elian's half brother is at St. Albans, Al Gore's alma mater.)

Uncle Lazaro is here, a snowbird with condos in Miami and Bethesda, Md. And Lazaro's daughter, the bombshell Marisleysis? Now calling herself "Skye," she's in the chopper, doing traffic on the local ABC affiliate.

Even the fisherman is still here. (Don't ask.)

It's like the Partridge Family.


Other Miami relatives drifted up to Washington, and opened up a Cuban Israeli restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue called "Havana-Gila."

In Miami, the extended family owns and operates "Elian's World," a theme park. The most popular exhibit at Elian's World is "Janet Reno Land," home of the killer coaster, Elian's Wild Ride--a stomach-churning trip in the government van that whisked Elian away in the middle of the night. At the end, you can pose for a souvenir photo with an animatronic INS agent threatening you at gunpoint.

Auntie Janet Reno wanted Elian to spend "quiet time" here. But it looks like Elian's going to spend "till the end of time" here.

Why would his father take him back? Juan Miguel is livin' large at the Wye Plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Sure, if he went back, he'd get a hero's welcome from Fidel. And then what, pluck chickens?


Anyway, Elian has to remain here until the federal 11th Circuit court in Atlanta reaches a decision on Elian's "application" for asylum. By the time they're ready to render their decision, Elian might be old enough to actually understand what "asylum" means.

In the meantime, he's the hottest Cuban kid since Little Ricky Ricardo!

There'll be books, movies, CD-ROM games, TV deals and the "Elian Collection" at Target. He'll become America's child. He'll be sort of like Alf.

At least at that point, Elian will be earning his own money, and picking up the tab for his entourage. Because here's what everyone wants to know now: Who's paying for their stay.

Elian was whisked out of Miami to Washington, and within hours, his Miami relatives (plus, the fisherman!) showed up at the main gate at Andrews AFB carrying Easter baskets. They stayed in a Georgetown hotel. They had to rack up huge bills. Airfare, hotels, meals; nets and lures for the fisherman. (Seriously, what is the deal with the fisherman? OK, he saved the kid's life. But what's he doing in the closet? Is this some sort of ancient Cuban custom, that if you pull someone from the sea, you get to live rent-free in their relatives' house? Now, the fisherman--he's really a guy who cleans houses, but The Mopman doesn't resonate--the fisherman says he's thinking about running for political office. Who does he think he is, Donald Trump?)

And what's the deal with Marisleysis? She's on TV shrieking so much, I thought she was The Nanny! If I were Elian, I'd pay the INS to haul me away from her.

The Elian Gonzalez case has turned our political system upside down. Republicans, who normally are the party of guns, are decrying the show of guns used to pry Elian away from his lawbreaking relatives.


While Democrats, who are normally the party of care and compassion, are defending the decision to send in an armed SWAT team at 5 a.m. on Easter weekend. (Deliver me from that fat, camera-hog senator from New Hampshire, Robert Smith, who squired Marisleysis, Lazaro and the fisherman around Capitol Hill like prize poodles. Deliver me, too, from the mayor of New York calling the INS raid "storm trooper tactics." This from the guy whose crackerjack police force emptied their clips at an unarmed man after they confused his wallet for a gun. I make that mistake all the time. When I go to pay my bill in a restaurant, I often reach for my wallet--and shoot the waiter instead.)

The truth is, this whole thing has become less about little Elian, and more and more about big Janet Reno. She's the lightning rod for all the debate. Right now, Janet Reno is the most talked-about woman in the country.

And, boy, is Darva jealous.

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