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THE JAUNDICED EYE

Mobutu: From Political Contributions to Exile

May 25, 1997|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a regular contributor to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. His memoir, "Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Canada" will be published next month by Random House

NEW YORK — U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R.-Ind.), a fierce adversary of President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater matter, was recently forced to return a political donation from the ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire after the African dictator had maxed out on such contributions to him. Burton has not only explained the matter; he has demanded the return of the money and both a Congressional Medal of Honor and free Indianapolis Pacer tickets for life.

"It's the least a grateful U.S. government could do," Burton said. "First of all, I thought it was my Visa bill I'd maxed out, and have fired the aide who clearly disobeyed my thought processes. Second, Mobutu was trying to buy my influence in getting him a U.S. visa. I thought he was applying for a Visa card but even so, as a secret double agent working for the Indiana National Guard, I not only made sure to 'bungle' the visa application but, in so doing, helped focus national attention on his despotic regime.

"And look what's happened to Mobutu. Pffft! Gone. Zaire too, replaced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. How they moved Zaire to the Congo I don't know, but the Congolese have a natural sense of rubber. In fact, the rec-room floor in my house is covered in Congoleum."

"By the way," the Hoosier lawmaker continued, "my congressional bill to send Father's Day chocolates to all 23 members of the ruling military junta of Myanmar [formerly Burma] should whiz right through."

Citing the Myanmar junta's practice of keeping its critics under indefinite house arrest as "an environmental advance worthy of study," an aide has confirmed that Burton will chair a world congress to explore its wider use. "Myanmar's example shows that if governments put everybody under house arrest," he explained, "crime would drop to zero, not to mention traffic accidents and bus breakdowns, while postage and telephone revenue would go right through the roof."

The world congress is scheduled for Singapore, which another aide to Burton praised as "the global leader in eradicating mankind's age-old curse of chewing gum in the hair." Singapore bans chewing gum and, if it is deemed unacceptably long or unkempt, cuts the hair of arriving visitors. As a "gesture of friendship to its government," Burton will shortly introduce a resolution calling for its critics to be taken to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and run over during the 500-mile Memorial Day race, boosting attendance and thus bolstering the economy of his home state--while saluting the government that has become the global leader in eradicating mankind's age-old curse of chewing gum in the hair.

Yet certain of Burton's other current activities are raising even more eyebrows, even higher. Just last week, for example, he disclosed his partnership in the Amway distributorship for Africa and Paris' 16th Arondissement with a certain "M. Obutu;" applied for a U.S. patent on an artificial leopard-skin men's pillbox hat that plays the 1948 novelty hit, "Bingo Bango Bongo I Don't Wanna Leave the Congo," and petitioned the city of Oakland's Board of Education to change its term, "ebonics" to "utubom."

Reminded that "Utubom" is "Mobutu" spelled backward, Burton replied, "That's nothing. My name spelled backward is 'Notrub.' "

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