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A L S O+T O D A Y


What if it were President Packwood?
By Andrew Ross
Liberals must face up to their hypocrisy in backing a president who lied under oath in a sexual harassment lawsuit
(12/22/98)

 

T A B L E+T A L K

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R E C E N T L Y

Life of the party?
By Joshua Micah Marshall
With Livingston gone, Tom DeLay runs the party
(12/19/98)

On to the Senate
By Harry Jaffe
With impeachment behind him, the president carries on. And on (12/19/98)

A plague on all their houses
By Murray Waas
On Capitol Hill, partisan hard-liners have damaged the constitutional democracy they claim to hold so dear
(12/18/98)

And now, back to impeachment
By Bruce Shapiro
Republican skeptic Christopher Shays tries to explain why fence-sitting Republicans suddenly rushed to oppose the president
(12/18/98)

House of adulterers
By David Weir
Unless the GOP is able to convince voters the impeachment proceedings are based on more than disapproval of his private sexual affairs, revelations like Bob Livingston's will continue.
(12/18/98)

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PORTRAIT OF A POLITICAL "PIT BULL" | PAGE 1, 2, 3, 4
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Like Bill Clinton, Dan Burton had a damaging childhood. He grew up poor, in a series of trailers and motel rooms and a house with no indoor plumbing. His father, Charles, a 6-foot-8 former policeman, was brutal and violent. He regularly beat his wife, Bonnie, sometimes knocking her unconscious, and often took off after the kids. A close relative recalls seeing the father laughing while administering a savage beating.

"Our father was a con man," says Indiana State Rep. Woody Burton, Dan Burton's 53-year-old brother, who spoke to me at his home in suburban Indianapolis. "He could sell you anything. He'd sit there and cry crocodile tears one minute and the next minute he'd steal you blind."

Burton's parents were divorced early on, but when Dan was 12, Charles Burton broke into Bonnie's mother's house, where the family was living, and kidnapped Bonnie at gunpoint, holding her hostage for 10 days before she managed to escape. The children were sent briefly to the Marion County Children's Guardian Home; their father served two years in jail. When Charles Burton got out of prison, he tried to return to the house. Dan, then a teenager, grabbed a shotgun the family kept by the front door and pointed it at his father, who promptly left. The event eerily echoes President Clinton's story of standing up to his stepfather and stopping him from beating his mother.

"It does something to a guy when you have to face your dad down in a driveway," says a former top staffer for Burton's House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. When Burton was 21 and working in a local restaurant, his father suddenly reappeared. "When he came in to see me and put his hand down on the counter, there were no knuckles there along the ridge of his hand, just scar tissue from all the fights," Burton once recalled. Burton heard from his father only one other time before he died in 1969.

"We were considered the scum of the earth because of the reputation of our dad," says Woody Burton, "but our mom was always a very proud person, and she always taught us to stand up for what we believe in and never give up." At an early age, Dan Burton saw that life was a struggle, but one that could be won. His mother was a waitress. The family's clothes came from a Goodwill store. As a boy, Burton shined shoes in a barbershop, often using his earnings to buy groceries and heating oil. One day, in came an imposing man with a huge diamond ring, a big black car and a good-looking suit. "He made a real impact on me," Burton told a reporter years later. "I said when I grow up I want a diamond, big car and clothes like that. And he said in America, you can do anything, if you have a purpose ... If you set a goal and never give up, never give up."

Burton took the advice to heart. Like many of his friends, he began caddying at a local country club, where he learned to be an outstanding golfer himself, going on to win a state high school championship. Like Clinton, he enjoyed not only the competitive aspect of sports but also the opportunity to rub elbows with the rich and powerful. In 1956 he enlisted in the Army, but quit the following year and later enrolled at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, which he left without getting a degree or pursuing the ministry. Instead he went to work in the insurance industry. He met his future wife, Barbara, in Cincinnati in 1959. She was a secretary, and after they married she began working with him in the insurance business.

Like Clinton, Burton was a young and ambitious entrant into politics. His public life has been marked by both coalition building and confrontation with Indiana's powerful Republican machine. After serving in the Indiana legislature, and failing twice in congressional bids, he launched his third try for Congress in 1982 by challenging four prominent Republicans, including the GOP state chairman, Bruce Melchert (for whom a new district had been drawn). Burton won by outsmarting and outworking his rivals. He sent volunteers into tiny towns on a fire truck he had bought for campaign purposes.

His mentor, political kingmaker L. Keith Bulen, who sponsored many of Indiana's up-and-coming politicos, says that issues were never Burton's passion. It was the thrill of the game he enjoyed. He also appeared to relish the physical advantage that nature had bestowed on him, something that seems to have carried Clinton, too, through the hardest of times. When Burton won the GOP primary, the Indianapolis Star wrote: "In the age of television, it may have been which guy came across best on the tube, and Burton is nothing if he is not good-looking. The other three major contenders, frankly, weren't as handsome."

N E X T+P A G E+| "The biggest skirt-chaser in the Indiana legislature."


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