Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, the case of Elian Gonzalez, plus Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
When will Juan Miguel, the father of Elian Gonzalez, get his child? The Justice Department insists the Miami relatives of the child surrender custody to his father this week. Will that really happen? We'll talk with one of the attorneys for the Miami relatives, Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, and Congressman Jose Serrano, Democrat of New York, who met with the father this week.
We'll also talk with Eric Holder, the deputy attorney general, about how the Justice Department is going to handle the turnover.
And we'll talk with Senator Majority Trent Lott about Elian and the other issues facing Congress.
Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on "bobos".
But first, the case of the Cuban boy, on Face The Nation.
Announcer: Face The Nation with chief Washington correspondent, Bob Schieffer.
And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
Schieffer: And good morning, again, on a morning in Washington when of all things it has been snowing.
Joining us from Miami, where I think it is not snowing, attorney Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, who represents the Miami relatives of little Elian; from Baltimore, Congressman Jose Serrano of New York; and with us here in our studio, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.
I want to go first to Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa. Is the family going to turn over Elian to his father and when are they going to do that, sir?
Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, attorney for Miami relatives: Mr. Schieffer, the family has always abided by the law. That's been of course our advice. We're officers of the court.
I think the family has made clear to the INS that they can come pick up the boy now. The door won't even be locked. But before they do so, not only do we think he should have his day in court - which he's never had - but if they're going to proceed and hire these psychologists and psychiatrists, we think they should ask them the question of whether that's the right thing to do.
Schieffer: Well, if they don't do that, then I think that Tuesday is sort of the time that the attorney general says she wants to see him. Will they still surrender the boy?
Garcia-Pedrosa: Absolutely. They have done that - said that all along. If the INS comes to get the boy, they will not interfere in any way.
Schieffer: All right. And Mr. Serrano, you talked to the father, as I understand it, this week. Talk a little bit about his state of mind right now. And let me also ask you, does he plan to stay in this country with the child until the court appeals have been taken care of?
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY): Well, I found him to be a very quiet and humble man who at times was very subdued, just wanted to implore that I help him in getting his child back.
The only time he raised his voice or even showed any kind of anger was when he spoke about the situation in Miami where he felt that people just did not understand that he loved his child. He wants to take the child back as soon as the government will allow him to.
He wants to abide by what he has to in this country, but he doesn't understand why this is happening.
And the most dramatic moment - and by the way, most of the time that I was with him, I was alone with him, and the most dramatic moment was when he said to me: I know of you in Cuba, and I know that you have power in this country. What do I need to do to convince Americans that I love my child and that I want my child with me?
And then the rest of the time he was showing me pictures of Elian playing his stepmother, with his cousins, with family, and he's showing me the pictures and he says to me, "You know, Serrano, these pictures were taken prior to this. These are not made-up photos. And here's a child who was happy, who was loved, and we want him back."
Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. Holder, listening to Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa, it sounds like he wants federal marshals to come to the house to get Elian and bring him away. Is that what you want?
Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General: No, that is not what we want. It is entirely possible. We'll obviously talk to the psychologists after they've had a chance to speak with Mr. Gonzalez today, the relatives in Miami tomorrow, and come up with what we think is an appropriate order.
It is possible, however - and I'd like to hear what his reaction would be - that the order from the INS will be to bring Elian to a neutral site so that the reunification could occur there.
Borger: Well, Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa, would you bring Elian to a neutral site?
Garcia-Pedrosa: Under certain circumstances. Lazaro has said that he would. But I think the question that INS has to answer is why would you not ask these experts, psychiatrists and psychologists, the threshold question: is this in the best interest of the boy, is this going to harm the boy - rather than simply asking them, "Listen, we have arrived at a predetermined conclusion or outcome, how do we implement that decision?" That's not right.
Holder: We have asked those threshold questions, and what the psychiatrists and psychologists have told is that the reunification must occur as quickly as possible, that with Elian's knowledge that his father is here in the United States, we have to effectuate this
transfer, otherwise there's the possibility that he will be harmed.
Serrano: Well, that's actually surprising because I spent six days negotiating with INS officials this last week and the week before. And to the last moment they refused to even consider the question of whether, simply the question of how to effect the transfer. Not to speak to the fact that INS and the federal government had neer even met this boy.
Schieffer: Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa, are you worried about violence? For example, I mean if these marshals do come to the house, wouldn't that just sort of make the situation a little more tense?
Garcia-Pedrosa: Sure. But let me say, the issue of violence has been I think utilized unfairly. There was not widespread media coverage of the huge human cross with candles and so forth that was done in the last few days as a civic and even religious act. But there was extensive coverage when some people approached the house, knocked down a barricade to come closer to the house, which was not really violent.
Schieffer: How do you feel, Mr. Holder? Are you worried that this situation might get out of hand?
Holder: I'm not really worried about violence because I think that he's right that people down there are law-abiding. The concern I have, however, is the prospect of bringing Elian through that crowd of people and the effect that would have on this boy of tender years. What would it be like for a 6-year-old to have to go through a crowd that if not violent, might be yelling, screaming, and things like that. That is a situation that I think we want to try to avoid.
Borger: Mr. Serrano, you've talked to the boy's father. What does he want? How does he want this transfer to work?
Serrano: He wants the child. He wants the government to give him the child. He said I came here to meet with your government and I want the government to give me the child. He doesn't want to face the family in Miami. Unfortunately, that was the worst part of our conversation. He feels that the family has treated him badly. He said that a few months ago he told Mr. Lazaro Gonzalez, "Listen, you could end this. You could tell your government, your country, the community, the press that the child has to come back to me and it's over."
And he told me - and this is what he told me that Lazaro told him, "I wish I could but we've gone too far into this. It's a big problem now." And he understands that problem. And he doesn't see himself as walking into the house, the way the Jordanian father did in Miami to take the child out from the Puerto Rican woman, the mother, and return to Jordan, by the same people that now won't give up another child.
This is not going to happen and I feel that my government - we - need to ask for this child to be delivered to a neutral place and then brought over to the father. And this has to end. This is consuming too much time and too much energy in this country and just hurting too many people.
Schieffer: Are you absolutely convinced, Mr. Serrano, that this father is acting of his own free will? That he is not worried about something happening back in Cuba should he not take the position he is taking here?
Serrano: Well, first of all, I think it's time we gave Fidel Castro a little credit for being politically astute. If he was to do nything in Cuba to this man's family, it would be the worst political fiasco and public relations fiasco for him ever. Secondly, there was a moment amongst a lot of moments that we were alone, when I asked the question that I knew all of you were going to ask me. I said, you know there are people in Miami who say that given a choice you would stay in this country. And before I finished he looked at me and said, "Por que?" Por que is a short version in Spanish of "For what?" And then he
said, you know, "para el gente" - "to be with those people". He says "No, I want my child, I want him back." So I, the body language from him, and we spoke only in Spanish, the body language was, "No, no, I just want to go home with my child and I want him now."
Schieffer: Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa are you as confidant that he's acting of his own free will as Mr. Serrano is?
Garcia-Pedrosa: Conduct speaks louder than words, Mr. Schieffer. That's not been his conduct in the past. He was even trying to sell his car for awhile to buy a boat or find his way here. Also, this is a man who has - well, he told ABC News Nightline that he wanted to come to Miami and start shooting people. This is a man who needs to be evaluated himself. He was divorced from Elian's mother before Elian was even born because of his violent temperment. So I think that these are the issues that even the experts in the field, not the congressman who with all respect is not an expert, nor I, people with expert inthe field.
Borger: Mr. GarciaÂ…
Serrano: I may not be an expert, but I am a father and I'm a grandfather of a seven-year-old and I tell you something, I'm not going to introduce violence, but if somebody takes my child, I'm not going to be a gentleman about asking for my child back.
Schieffer: Sir, no one took this child.
Borger: Mr. Garcia-Pedrosa, you seem to be intimating here that Mr. Gonzalez is an unfit father, is that true?
Garcia-Pedrosa: Oh, there's no intimation here. There's record of evidence now in the case and been made public about this mans violent temperament. That's why he divorced Elizabeth and frankly we've said and the boy has said, he's told psychiatrists that he's deathly afraid of his father because his father beat him up.
Schieffer: Let me ask Mr. Holder. Do you have any evidence at all what he is saying there is true?
Holder: Absolutely not. In fact in the interaction with the lawyers for the family, we have asked them. Are there specific instances, specific instances of conduct that you can refer us to. Those are obviously things that we would consider. The notion of him being an abusive father, an unfit father, is something that we've only heard in the last few days and we've not heard, at least to my knowledge anything specific about any thing's that he has done specifically.
Schieffer: Mr. Holder, let me also ask you. Have you talked to th local authorities there. Are you confident that if this transfer takes place that they'll cooperate with you?
Holder: Yes, I am.
Schieffer: You've been given those assurances?
Holder: We've had conversations with local authorities. Mayor Penelas has said some things that I think he has taken a couple of steps back from. I think that we will get the necessary support so that if there is the need for some kind of an operation we would have that support.
Borger: Mr. Holder, can you assure that Elian's father will remain in this country during the appeals process?
Holder: His lawyer indicated that is his desire as long as he is reunited with his son. There is some conversation we're having about the number of people you would like to have up here as a support group, but it is our hope that they will stay and I think that they will.
Schieffer: Do you think it can be wrapped up this week?
Holder: I hope it can be, the psychologists says that we will meet the family tomorrow. We will evaluate all the things at the conclusion of that meeting and then we will start issuing orders.
Schieffer: All right, I think we're going to leave it there. I want to thank all of you for helping enlighten us on this very controversial subject.
When we come back, we're going to talk to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott about this and a lot of other things in a minute.
Schieffer: And we're joined now by the Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Thank you.
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.): Thank you.
Schieffer: Glad to have you back. You said earlier that perhaps giving citizenship to this young boy might be a way out of this. It turned out, it didn't appear that there was support for that in the Senate.
Would you think now granting residency might help him as the vice president has suggested?
Lott: Well, we've looking at the best way we could be helpful if we could be helpful. But our first rule is do no harm. And so we've been - honestly we've been cautious about injecting legislation into this situation hoping that it could somehow find itself in the youth corp of custody court there in Florida, where I think the proper decision could be made. And I don't think it's being made the way things are being handled now.
But we've looked at moving forward first on citizenship, then on permanent residency. We've looked at just a sense of the Senate expressing their concern about the situation.
But again, we have not wanted to go forward unless we felt like when and would be constructive in the overall debate.
Schieffer: So it sounds to me like what you're going to do is kind of wait for a couple of days and see how this shapes up?
Lott: Well, we've been waiting, hoping that something would happen that would allow this to get in the proper forum where the primary issue, and that's whats best for the boy, for Elian, would be the only thing that's considered.
You know, this whole thing tugs at your heart strings as a parent. You feel compassion for all sides - the family that has the little boy, you see the little boy seeming to be happy. And you think his mother gave her life to get in here. Shouldn't we pay attention to that? I think a lot of American people are forgetting that there's no moral equivalency between the United States and Cuba.
And if he goes back to Cuba, even with his father, he will be a ward of the state. And that worries a lot of us.
Schieffer: Well, I was going to say just from a personal standpoint. What do you think would be best? For the boy to stay here, or for the boy to go to Cuba?
Lott: Well, I personally think it would be better for him to stay here, but I do as a father, think that the father's situation is something that's very serious we ought to consider that. If he is abusive, I wish we knew the truth. What does the father really think. What really was his relationship. But clearly I think growing up in the United States the freedoms he would have, the opportunities that he'd have, clearly would be better than growing up in Cuba.
Borger: At this point, are you saying that you do not intend to bring up legislation.
Lott: No, I'm still working with my good and close friend Senator Connie Mack, who is a very fine human being and is very emotional about this whole situation and with others.
Borger: How about the vice president. He believes, as you doÂ…
Lott: Well, you know, if we're going to leave the vice presidentÂ…
Schieffer: But has he called and offered any help.
Lott: No, he hasn't.
Borger: Is he working with you?
Lott: But you know he could help. He was 50 miles from Miami, I understand yesterday, and he didn't have a thing to say about it. He has bragged that he sits right next to the president and he has influence on the decisions, so I would say to him, Mr. Vice President, reach over there, tug on the president's sleeve and say, "Mr. President, this is looking very bad."
You know, the idea, even the suggestion that marshals will go in there and seize this little boy and give him to his father without a proper custody consideration about really who is best to have the custody of this young boy and what are his best interests. That's not being done and the vice president ought to plead to the president, because two of the president's - well, one of the president's former prosecutors and one of the president's former attorney's are directly involved. This looks like the line goes through Janet Reno directly to the White House.
Borger: Some Republicans in Florida have tried to use this issue as a way to raise money for the Republican Party. Do you think that's appropriate?
Lott: You know, I don't want to cast any more stones that have alread been thrown in this situation, but probably not. There probably should be a better way to do that, but it does - where you stand on this issue makes a lot of difference to people in Miami and all across the country, but it's not even a clear cut ideological thing. You've got people all over the map and in both parties and on both sides of this issue and the Democratic Party, too.
I mean, Senator Torricelli, Senator Graham, two Democrats one from New Jersey, one from Florida, they're very much involved in trying to find some solution here. Senator Graham, Senator Mack are saying to the father, "Will you please in a quiet place that we will find for you, meet with the family from Miami? You all talk this through. Let them decide together what their intentions are and what is best for the little boy."
Schieffer: Do you, just - I always ask questions because you never know when somebody might have some information you don't know about. Now we heard it this morning that this lawyer for the family in Miami is saying that they have reports that the father beat this child. Have you had any information come to you of that nature?
Lott: Not directly. I've heard those allegations that perhaps the relationship between the boy and the father were not that good, but that kind of, you know, took me back today. And that's why I say I'd like to know what the truth is. What was the relationship, what will happen to him if he goes back. Will he become some sort of a ward of the state and become some sort of symbol. What is going to happen to him?
Schieffer: Let's talk about some other things. Gloria.
Borger: All right, we're going to go to the gasoline tax.
Borger: You seem to want to a repel of the gas tax. Prices are going up at the pump. You had a test vote last week in which, Mr. Leader, you lost. So, are you gong to go at it again?
Lott: Well, it's not about whether or not I lose or not, but whether or not the American people are going to lose. First of all, this is bigger than just the federal gas tax. The big question is, what are we going to do about energy policy in this country. Twenty years ago we had high prices and long lines. Now we're being given a second little tap on the shoulder saying, "America, you have a problem here." You're dependent on foreign oil for 55 percent of your needs. You're depending on people like Khadaffi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq where we're now getting 700,000 barrels of oil a day and we're providing them equipment.
Borger: So, why didn't you win?
Borger: It should have been easy.
Lott: The battle is not over. The way Senator Byrd had that worded, you know, you might have voted that way and you might vote differently this coming week, but we're going to vote on it. We're going to let a vote show who really does care about working Americans that have to drive 10 miles round trip a day to work. About farmers and people that are barging things down the Mississippi River, their costs have gone up.
And not just a few dollars. In many instances, if you're a trucker, hundreds of dollars; if you're in business building roads or hauling sand and gravel, thousands of dollars.
Borger: But Republicans voted against this as well.
Lott: Well, again - look, there are those that are nervous about how that might affect the highway trust fund. But I want to emphasize: My proposal says that it would not come out of the highway trust fund, it would be a temporary gas-tax holiday, and it would come out of the surplus.
But we're going to have a bigger debate about what we're going to do about the future so we won't be dependent on foreign countries for our energy needs.
Schieffer: Mr. Leader, a lot of people want to know: Is this Senate and this Congress going to do anything about guns? There's this bill that's buried in a conference committee right now. Is anything going to happen on that?
Lott: It could have happened last year if the president had been involved in working in helping us get votes in the House from Democrats, we could have had trigger locks on handguns, we could have had the juvenile Brady provisions, we could have had limitations on foreign clips, and we could have had a 24-hour period for gun shows.
Schieffer: But that was then. What about now?
Lott: I think we're going to get something in this area, but it's going to have to be a common-sense answer. And the question for the president is: Mr. President, do you want to get the thing done or do you want a political issue?
Schieffer: Don't you have to get the conference committee to meet? Why don't you at least have a meeting?
Lott: Well, I talked to Senator Orrin Hatch about that this past week, and I discussed two different options with him. I'm going to talk to the speaker and perhaps Chairman Hyde. Of course they've been working with Democrat Congressman Dingell.
The gap you have to get through on this is very narrow. But I think we should have the juvenile justice bill, and I would be perfectly agreeable to have some, you know, like the trigger lockÂ…
Schieffer: Let me just pin you down, though. Do you think you're going to get that conference committee to meet to kind of get this started?
Lott: I do.
Schieffer: This week.
Lott: Well, I don't know if it will be this week, but we'll get it done in the next few weeks.
Schieffer: The other day, we were talking about cigarettes on this program. We had a spokesman from Philip Morris who said that he now believes that cigarettes are a drug, he believes they are addictive, and he says the cigarette industry would welcome regulation by the Federal Drug Administration.
Now you have said in the past you don't think that's a very good idea.
Lott: I'm not a big fan of FDA, aside from the smoking, the tobacco issue. I don't think they do a particularly good job. Some drugs they approve that turns out that they were approved too quickly, and other instances they take so long or they don't approve a medical procedure. So for a long time - going back actually as far back as 1972 - I've had a minimum high regard for FDA.
Schieffer: Do you think anything's comingÂ…
Lott: Having said that, I think something can be worked out that would be acceptable to all sides on that. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, a doctor, is working on that, and I would listen very carefully to his recommendations.
Schieffer: I'm sorry, itÂ…
Lott: We're out of time?
Schieffer: We're out of time. Always like to talk to you some more about that.
Lott: Thanks, Bob.
Schieffer: Thank you, senator. And when we come back, we'll have a final word in just a minute.
Schieffer: Well, first it was the "Beatniks", then "Hippies" and "Yippies" and "yuppies", which, in case you forget, stood for "Young Upwardly Mobile People."
Well, now comes the "Bobo" - a name that writer David Brooks has coined from the words "bourgeois" and "bohemian" to define what he sees as the new social elite that is driving our economy.
In a hilarious new book, Bobos in Paradise, Brooks says it used to be easy to separate the bourgeois - they were the guys in the suits who worked at the bank - from the bohemians, the artists and the free thinkers who wore jeans.
But now, he says the bohemians and the bourgeois are all mixed up and have merged into a new social elite defined by, of all things, their shopping.
He gives these examples. Old-fashioned rich people spent money on things like yachts. Bobos spend big money on things that used to be cheap: water, coffee, clogs.
Guests never saw the kitchens of the old upper class. But the Bobos entertain in kitchens the size of aircraft hangars.
Regular rich people wear suits. Bobos come to work in designer hiking boots as if in permanent anxiety about the threat of ice storms.
Well, there's more that's just as funny, but at this point I must add a personal disclosure. For 30 years or so, for reasons that have nothing to do with any of the above, my family nickname has been "Bobo." You see, I'm just waiting for all those headlines that say, Bobo Rules.
That's it from here. We'll see you next week on Face The Nation.
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