By Craig Hardegree | 

At 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 21, 1999, Elizabeth Rodríguez took her young son — two weeks away from his 6th birthday — and joined a dozen other people setting sail from the port town of Cárdenas in the Matanzas Province of Cuba, heading to Miami.

The aluminum boat was small; the engine questionable.

The string of inner tubes in tow, both punctuated their determination and acknowledged the grave risks.

And then a storm.

A failed engine.

Ten-foot waves.

Nylon bags ineffective for bailing water.

Elizabeth’s boyfriend secured young Elián to an inner tube.

Exhausted, he fell asleep.

On Thanksgiving Day, fishermen near Ft. Lauderdale found the three survivors.

Elizabeth was not among them.

“I went to sleep and when I woke up, I never saw her again. I think she drowned because she didn’t know how to swim.”



That’s the number of electoral votes available in a presidential election.

Remember, we do not have a national election for president — we have 50 individual state elections. The candidate who wins the most votes in a particular state, gets all the electoral votes for that state. The first candidate to reach a majority (270) of the electoral votes, wins the election. (538 divided by 2 = 269 + 1 = 270.)

Florida has 29 electoral votes, same as New York.

Because of her indisputable strength and insurmountable lead in other states, Hillary can lose Ohio and Florida and still win the election.

Trump can’t.

Trump must win Florida in order to win the presidency.



That’s the number of single individual votes by which Bush won the presidential election in 2000.

When the electoral votes from all other states were tallied, Bush had 246; Gore had 266.

Neither had 270.

Both needed Florida.

And in the final certified-results — the only ones that matter — out of over six million votes cast in Florida, Gore lost Florida by a mere 537 votes, causing him to lose the entire election.

American history would be totally different today if Gore had received only 538 additional votes from people in Florida who didn’t vote.

Or, if 269 of Bush’s Florida voters had voted, instead, for Gore.


Young Elián was turned over to the Coast Guard.

And thus began the most colossal international three-way dispute between the exiled Cuban-American community in Miami; the US government; and, Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Morally and legally, the right thing to do was to return young Elián to his father. Although the mother and father had divorced two years before Elián was born, they had continued trying to have a child together and the father was very much involved in Elián’s life. In fact, Elián stayed with his father five nights a week and only went to be with his mother and her boyfriend on the weekends. Striking out for distant shores with the child a few hours before he was due to be returned his primary custodial parent, would have been labeled “kidnapping” in America.

And Elián wanted to go home to his father.

Forcefully taking young Elián away from his mother’s extended family in the exiled Cuban-American community in Little Havana in Miami at gunpoint using heavily-armed tactically-clad BORTAC strikeforce officers while overruling the strenuous objections and denying the heartfelt pleas of the teeming throngs of Cuban-American protesters in the streets, was the right thing to do.

It was the right thing to do.

But it wasn’t the politically-savvy thing to do.

Not if you needed Florida.

And Al Gore needed Florida.


But Attorney General Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton stood on principle.

And Vice-President Al Gore was nailed the cross on account of it.

In 1996, Clinton/Gore won Miami-Dade County by 20 percentage points; by 107,744 votes.

“Elián” happened.

In 2000, Gore won Miami-Dade by only six percentage points; by only 39,293 votes.

That’s a drop of 68,451 votes in Gore’s 2000 margin of victory in Miami-Dade compared to Clinton/Gore’s 1996 margin of victory.

But Gore didn’t need all 68,451 additional votes to win the White House.

If only 269 of Bush’s 289,574 voters in Miami-Dade County had voted for Gore instead of Bush, history would have been altered.

If only 269-fewer people in that one otherwise statistically-insignificant community had been a little less offended by the administration’s actions….


And now Trump — who must win Florida — has irreparably and irreversibly offended that very same tiny community in Florida.

This is huge.

And Trump knows it.

His Russian hackers know it.

This past Wednesday night Newsweek investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to preview portions of his explosive new article detailing payment by Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. of $68,551.88 to Seven Arrows Investment & Development Corp. to reimburse Seven Arrows for the money it spent in Cuba, on behalf of Trump, in direct violation of the Cuban embargo.

Eichenwald’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show wasn’t just an attempt to pre-hype the article. Before publishing an article about a person, reputable reporters always first show the article to that person to give him or her an opportunity for a rebuttal that will be included in the article.

I learned this a few years ago after I successfully scored the first-ever-released copy of Newt’s divorce file and let CNN scoop me on the story to give CNN time to run their version of my story by Newt for his rebuttal.

And when the person about whom the article is written is guaranteed to claim the article is a “hit piece” and deny being given an opportunity to rebut the content, the prudent thing to do is publicly release the general gist of the article in advance of the actual publication, as proof that the subject of the article was given a heads-up.

Fifteen minutes after Eichenwald appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, a Trump attorney finally responded to Newsweek via email saying they had searched Trump’s records and found no such evidence and suggested the magazine might want to rethink running the story. But what little research they could conduct in 15 minutes was conducted — if at all — on Trump Organization, not on Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., an error they might have avoided had they merely responded to Eichenwald’s numerous attempts to obtain a substantive rebuttal from them.

Thursday morning Newsweek published Eichenwald’s story.

Thursday night, just as the story was being discussed on different cable shows, hackers shut down Newsweek’s site.

At least one hacker had a Russian IP address.

Trump/Putin knows this story will cost them Florida if it is widely disseminated in Miami-Dade County.


It’s not a story of national significance. Outside of Little Havana, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who cares about it, knows about it or wants to know about it.

But we don’t have a national election.

We have 50 individual state elections.

And Trump can’t win the presidency without winning Florida.

And Trump can’t win Florida without strong support in the Cuban-American community.

And the exiled Cuban-American community does care about violations of the Cuban-embargo.

And in the last close election in Florida, offending only 269-fewer members of that very community, would have changed the course of history.


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