Gore Left Out of Elian Raid Decision

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Labeled as one of the most involved US vice presidents ever to hold the office, Al Gore found himself totally on the outside in the federal government's decision to seize 6-year-old boat refugee Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives early on Saturday morning.

Gore, who broke ranks with President Clinton months ago on how to handle the international custody case, also declined to say afterward what he thought of the 5 a.m. armed raid to retrieve the youngster.

In a very brief statement Gore reiterated his stance on the long-standing saga that has become an issue in his Democratic campaign for the presidency.

"As I have said, I believe this issue should have been handled through a family court and with the family coming together," Gore said in the written statement issued late on Saturday.

"I commend the people of Miami, who in the first difficult hours, acted in a calm and lawful way, and I ask all Americans, no matter what their position on this issue, to obey the rule of law," the vice president added.

Gore's press secretary, Chris Lehane, responded to a question regarding whether the vice president approved of INS agents forcibly taking the child from his Miami relatives' home.

"The statement speaks for itself," Lehane replied, declining to elaborate on the vice president's feeling about the seizure, which triggered protests in Miami.

Clinton, in campaigning on behalf of Gore, the presumptive 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, has repeatedly described Gore as a key player in administration decisions.

Clinton has said he does not believe there has been another vice president in history who has been given so much responsibility in shaping policy.

However, Gore got no notice on the decision by the administration to pull the plug on talks between the government and the boy's relatives and take the youngster from them.

"He was alerted for the first time shortly after the activities took place," said Lehane, insisting Gore did not feel slighted.

A White House spokesman also said Gore was given no advance notice.

"The vice president has been involved in many administration decisions the past seven and one-half years. But the fact that he was in a different place than the administration on this one made sense that he was not involved in the decision process," Lehane added.

Gore drew fire from fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill last month when he again broke with the administration and backed legislation to give the boy permanent residency in the United States.

The vice president said he did it so that the custody case could be decided in a family court based on what is in "the best interest" of the youngster. It was a position also taken by his Republican rival for the presidency, Texas Governor George W Bush.

Gore denied allegations that he took his stand in the Elian matter for political reasons and because of the sensitivity of the case in Florida.

However, the Clinton-Reno seizure decision is not expected to boost Gore's popularity among voters in Campaign 2000 in Florida, a state considered a "key" by both Democrats and Republicans in the fall general election.