Dan Burton: Bitter Clown
Dan Burton, haunted by his past
Friday, November 7th 1997: As we predicted, Congressman Dan Burton is already making a fool of himself, getting into squabbles with other members of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee he unfortunately chairs, and generally continuing his obnoxious behavior beyond boredom.
Yesterday's hearing set a petty partisan tone even more quickly that Fred Thompson's failed Senate hearings. Democrat members of the Committee, were continually rebuffed by off-the-wall Chairman Burton best known for shooting watermelons in his backyard -- shaped like White House Counsel Vince Foster's head -- to "prove" Foster was murdered by Bill Clinton.
The "defining" story of Dan Burton's credibility.
California Congressman Henry Waxman
Ranking Committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the smartest congressman on the Hill, started off the day with a complaint that Republican Burton and his majority would not okay Democrats' request for consultants to aid the minority investigation.
Of course not. Burton has no intention of calling or investigating witnesses important to Democrats. His only goal? -- to create an instant replay Salem Witch Trial which is sure to rehash Thompson Committee testimony ad nauseum. The ruse? -- Keep Democrats on the defensive throughout next year as America heads for the 1998 election cycle.
Burton even frightens "Prince of Darkness" Speaker Newt Gingrich who is privately concerned about Burton's "loose cannon" reputation. Gingrich was forced to add "stealth" Republicans to the Government Reform Committee to keep an eye on Burton and rein him in when necessary. But Burton, who likes to whine about his childhood, is unpredictable and rash. Gingrich may rue the day he let the "Indiana Psycho," as one Democrat staffer calls him, chair what should be a sensitive committee.
Of course, one should keep in mind that neither Democrats nor Republicans have campaign finance reform as the goal. Both the Thompson and Burton committees are nothing more than "display advertising" for one or the other party. Each trying to embarrass the other for exhibition. No reform, from either side, is intended. When Thompson put reform suggestions on the Senate menu, leadership on both sides of the aisle flipped -- "stick to the script" was the message from Chief Senate Acting Coach Trent Lott.
But watch wildcard player Ross Perot, who could throw a monkey wrench into the works by filing one Federal litigation after another in an effort to expose campaign finance practice, by both parties, for what it really is -- a method for business and wealthy Americans to obtain access, favors and votes from elected officials.
If politicians were serious about reform, they'd pay an outside counsel to begin linking corporate and other campaign donations to specific House and Senate legislation. But that won't happen because it could tear the country apart. So what we're left with is two posing - not opposing sides - who want to convince you they're doing the "right thing" while pulling the wool over not only your eyes, but your entire body.
Burton finally did call White House counsel Charles Ruff, deputy counsel Cheryl Mills, associate counsel Dmitri Nionakis, and special counsel Lanny Breuer supposedly to provide explanations for delays in delivering videotapes of White House coffees to the Senate. But nothing new came from the testimony and the nation snored once more.
Burton revealed what he thought was new "stuff" on the President - a White House staffer's memo suggesting that Bill Clinton wanted a "White House database" combined with another belonging to the Democratic Party. Wow! Horror of horrors.
Ruff and Mills were grilled on the memo and Mills said she and former White House counsel Jack Quinn decided to withhold the note since it didn't come under one of seven categories of information requested by another Hoosier Republican -- David McIntosh for his Reform Subcommittee.
Burton accused White House legal staff of an "unprecedented stonewalling of investigations." Ruff insisted, as he did to Thompson, that the presidential counsel's office was complying fully with the requests of a dozen committees, Justice Department investigators and FBI agents investigating campaign finance issues.
Ruff suggested that committee members were making silly accusations regarding the coffee videotapes. "The charges of impropriety surrounding that discovery, although readily disposed of, are symptomatic of a tendency on the part of some, I submit, to reach hasty and ill-considered conclusions," Ruff said.
What he meant was that Republicans on the Committee were making a bunch of wildly exaggerated accusations about the videotapes; knowing all along that there had been no conspiracy to delay their production, and demonstrating that Republicans are not serious about finding "the truth," but rather in gaining a political advantage by highlighting anything they can pin on Democrats, true or not.
Burton, a scion of prevarication, thinks Americans are dimwits, "I will not be having hearings just for the sake of having additional hearings," Burton said last week.
Burton, in an almost insane manner, rattled off a laundry list of White House activity he deems "questionable." It was the same old list we've heard for a year, but Burton doesn't seem to recognize "The lady doth protest too much" theory of political warfare. There is a declining curve of effectiveness when voters watch their tax money disappearing in to the same rat hole day after day in a series of impotent hearings and investigations producing zip, nada, nothing at all. Not even entertainment.
"If anyone wonders why we must continue this investigation, just consider the history of this White House," Burton said, but the few Americans listening said, "Yeah, we know why you go on and on, and it has nothing to do with the White House.
Burton's "Chutzpah of the Month" award goes to the Indiana congressman for personally asking the President to request Chinese President Jiang Zemin to extradite Democrat mega-fund-raiser Charlie Trie from China.
Here's another example of "Stupid congressional pet tricks" -- Trie is not charged with a crime. If Jiang shipped him back on chains as Burton demands, then Trie would simply ignore House subpoenas just as nearly all Republican malfeasers have done for the past year.
"Could it be because Charlie Trie has answers we want and can't get, as long as he's in China? That's something I'm very concerned about," Burton said with a wink.
Yes, but the follow up question is how would Burton get Trie to answer -- bring him to his back yard and torture him by shooting watermelons carved with almond eyes?
Burton turned around and compounded his chuckle-inspiring request of the White House saying, "that question was never asked of the Chinese president, and I'd like to know why the President didn't ask him that if he really wants to get to the bottom of this investigation.
Here's your answer Dan: The President would never say it, but he thinks you're an annoying clown. He wouldn't embarrass himself or Jiang to ask a stupid question merely because you were dumb enough to ask.
Of course, you don't comprehend that, do you?
Subscribe Today! Get American Politics E-Mailed Daily - Free!
A Word from Eliot Janeway:
"JK, a client, a friend, and one of the keenest minds in American politics, told me one afternoon: 'A good place to begin thinking critically about American and Western European politics is to ask yourself: What kind of man or woman would choose to run for public office?Think about that." - I did."
Now, come and read JK who, for more than 25 years, has elevated the phrase -- "There's a sucker born every minute" -- to dazzling heights.
-Eliot Janeway 1991
From an Introduction to JK's, "Washington - The New American Babylon"
Copyright© - UDR Inc