Dan Burton in the Media Bull's Eye
by L. Brent Bozell III
May 1, 1997
In today's competitive, rapid-fire communications industry,
reporters don't tell the world what happened today, they try to predict what
will happen tomorrow. So it wouldn't be prudent to wait and see how Dan
Burton's Government Reform and Oversight Committee undertakes its upcoming
investigation or what it discovers about Democratic fundraising. The media are
already vilifying Burton as something just this side of Cro-Magnon. Al D'Amato
and Newt Gingrich can tell him this is just the beginning.
The media pile-on is under way for a simple reason. To them,
Burton is not enough like Bill Clinger, the moderate Eastern Republican Burton
replaced as chairman, or Fred Thompson, his moderate Republican Senate
counterpart. Burton is a conservative. And he's serious about investigating
the Clintons. You can almost hear the journalistic teeth gnash.
The liberal attacks began back in the December 9 Time. The
headline read "In the House a Zealot Talks Softly." A
"zealot"? This is a term Time has used 39 times since January 1992,
almost exclusively when describing militia wackos -- and Gingrichian
Republicans. Needless, to say, it's not once been used to describe any
Democrat. Writer James Carney claimed "the President's chief inquisitor [Torquemada,
call your office] on such issues as the Democratic fundraising scandal will be
a man who has never pretended to be impartial." Pretending to be
impartial is a game reporters expect everyone to play, and Burton's not
playing to their liking. So it's open season.
Over at U.S. News & World Report, writer Jason Vest was
a little kinder: Burton was "playing the relentless Sam Gerard to
Clinton's Fugitive." (If Clinton is so innocent, who is the one-armed
man? Hillary?) Vest claimed Burton's zeal "reached its zenith when he
used a pistol to shoot a 'headlike thing' in his back yard" to study the
Vince Foster case.
That's a distortion, and Vest clearly had to know it. Burton
went out with a law enforcement friend to test the theory that you can hear a
gun shot from 200 yards. Foster's body was found 200 yards from the heavily
guarded Saudi embassy. Their question was simple: How come the Saudis heard no
shot? That's another media taboo violated: never investigate the Foster death.
They haven't. You shouldn't.
Then came The Washington Post with the suspect story of
Democratic lobbyist Mark Siegel, who claimed Burton "shook him down"
to raise $5,000 in donations. All three networks dove on that story. When
recent accounts in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times started
peeling away Siegel's credibility, the networks were nowhere to be found.
Now it's time for the weekend warriors of the talk show
circuit to blast away at Burton. On CNN's "Capital Gang," Time's
Margaret Carlson said "He is considered flaky and a bit of a crackpot,
even though a nice guy. Some crackpots are nice." Chicago Tribune
Washington Bureau Chief James Warren added Burton "is sort of like the
Republicans' wacky aunt stuck down in the basement. You don't want to let her
out in front of guests."
On "Inside Washington," Newsweek's Evan Thomas
claimed: "Burton is a car wreck waiting to happen. He's got real problems
himself on campaign fundraising....Burton is, shall we say, a complicated guy.
He once, I think, said he wanted to nuke Iraq to avoid the Kuwait War. I mean,
he's got all sorts of problems."
Thomas hadn't been this reckless since he called Paula Jones
trailer trash. In the wake of Iraq's threat to pulverize Allied forces with
chemical weapons, Burton did say -- as President Bush and Norman Schwarzkopf
had also discussed -- that all military options should be considered in the
war, including the possible battlefield use of tactical nuclear weapons. So
Media liberals really do believe (and hope) that Burton will
embarrass the Republicans. But what about Democratic embarrassments, such
as...Henry Gonzalez, the San Antonio liberal who first came to fame claiming
John Kennedy was shot by a right-wing militia conspiracy? This is the man who
spent 1992 claiming George Bush was "principally responsible" for
Iraq's war machine," including two days before the 1992 election on
"60 Minutes," who spent the first half of 1994 stonewalling any
House Whitewater investigation. Did the media describe him as a loony, a
hard-charging partisan, a conspiracy theorist? Flaky, a car wreck, a zealot?
They loved him. On Iraqgate, one reporter told it right.
Stuart Taylor wrote that CBS, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post
"built upon and magnified reckless and unfounded claims of Bush
administration conduct by congressional Democrats led by Henry Gonzalez, the
flaky, fiercely partisan chairman of the House Banking committee."
The media never change. Every day now, reporters are preying
over Burton's personal and political life grasping for straws to discredit
him, while Gonzalez's actions are long forgotten. And to think, the hearings
haven't even begun yet.
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