Burton Accuses Clinton of Private-Life Prying: Calls Upcoming Expose Part of `Scorched-Earth' Policy
Sammon, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of a committee investigating President Clinton's campaign finances, said yesterday that his private life is to be the subject of a story in Vanity Fair magazine and he asserted that it was part of a White House "scorched-earth" policy to punish Clinton adversaries.
Mr. Burton, who as chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee is leading an investigation into Mr. Clinton's campaign finances, said he and other critics of the president, including Rep. Paul McHale, a Pennsylvania Democrat, are being savaged by Clinton loyalists trying to shield the president from the effects of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
A spokesman for Vanity Fair scoffed. "It's totally ludicrous to think that this is orchestrated in any way by the White House - or that they could in fact orchestrate any Vanity Fair story," said Beth Kseniak, the magazine's director of public relations.
But Mr. Burton, Indiana Republican, said the magazine's examination of rough patches in his 38-year marriage is the kind of story that the White House threatened to unleash against Clinton adversaries after the Lewinsky scandal broke into public view Jan. 21.
He noted that George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton adviser, warned on Feb. 8 that "White House allies are already starting to whisper about what I'll call the Ellen Romesch strategy." Ellen Romesch was an East German spy whose sexual relationship with President Kennedy was kept secret after FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover threatened to reveal embarrassing secrets of congressman who brought up the subject. Mr. Clinton "said he would never resign," Mr. Stephanopoulos said, "and I think some around him are willing to take everybody down with him."
Last month, Salon magazine, an Internet magazine that vigorously defends the president, quoted unnamed Democrats as saying the White House and its surrogates would pursue a "scorched-earth" strategy against Republicans who initiate impeachment proceedings. Salon said targets would include Mr. Burton, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.
"They are focusing their attention not only on issues of marital infidelity but also on issues of character," a Democratic strategist was quoted by Salon.
Roger Clinton, the president's brother, told CNN-TV interviewer Larry King last week that politicians who "live in glass houses" should "be careful, very careful."
Democratic National Committee member Bob Mulholland, in an interview yesterday, said an attack on Republicans like Mr. Burton is a response to the GOP's own "scorched-earth policy" toward Mr. Clinton.
"You can't be Republican in 1998 and be part of this scorched-earth policy against the president and not expect someone to look at your own life - public life or private life," said Mr. Mulholland, who is also a spokesman for the California Democratic Party. "So I have no sympathy for Dan Burton - I never liked him. It sounds like Dan should get out of the kitchen if he can't stand the heat."