CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Although reporters who have covered John Burton for a while were not surprised, California???s State Democratic chairman managed to ruffle a few feathers here on Monday when he likened Paul Ryan to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Speaking to reporters before a breakfast of the Golden State???s delegation to the Democratic National Convention here, Burton said of the Romney-Ryan ticket: ???They lie and they don???t care if people think they lie ??? Joseph Goebbels, it???s the big lie, you keep repeating it.??? Referring to Ryan???s statements that he worked with Democrats in Wisconsin to stop the closing of a GM plant while Barack Obama was president, Burton said that the Republican vice presidential nominee told ???a bold-faced lie and he doesn???t care that it was a lie. That was Goebbels, the big lie.???
Reminded that his fellow California Democrat and Gov. Jerry Brown got in trouble for likening 2010 GOP opponent Meg Whitman to Goebbels and the ???big lie,??? Burton simply told reporters: “He won big. Goddam, he was in trouble.???
Like his late brother Phil Burton, a left-wing icon and San Francisco-area congressman from 1964-83, John Burton is known for peppering his political salvos with less than family-friendly adjectives. Upon hearing remarks such as this, most California political reporters just shrug and say ???That???s John.???
But even John Burton may have crossed the line on this one.
Republicans who have invoked Hitler, Goebbels, and the Third Reich in speaking of liberal opponents have come under intense fire. Just this year, Samuel ???Joe the Plumber??? Wurzelbacher, running for Congress in Ohio, was widely criticized in the national media for reminding gun control foes that Hitler seized the right to keep and bear arms in European countries Germany overran in the 1930s. Maine???s Republican Gov. Paul LePage apologized for referring to the IRS as ???the Gestapo.???
Shortly after Burton???s remarks, Matthew Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition declared: ???John Burton ought to know better than to bring the Nazis and their victims into our current political debates, but apparently the offense such remarks cause to Holocaust survivors and their families are of less concern to him than the prospect of partisan gain.
“Jewish Americans expect more from political leaders and it is incumbent on elected Democrats, starting with Governor Brown, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein and Senator [Barbara] Boxer, to unequivocally reject Burton’s outrageous and offensive remarks.”
As the uproar grew around Burton throughout the day, the 79-year-old Burton finally backed down and issued an apology — sort of. In his statement the party chairman said: ???To correct press reports of my recent comments about Republican lies, I did not call Republicans Nazis nor would I ever. In fact, I didn???t even use the word.
???If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie — I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment.???