Couple on farm produces tough ads for Buchanan

February 29, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Correspondent

UNIONVILLE -- Ian and Betsy Weinschel's farm, a haven for peacocks, cats, cows, a rabbit and one pet snake, seems an unlikely source of some of the most slashing campaign advertisements of the presidential race.

But since December, the Frederick County couple has been producing Patrick J. Buchanan's tough attacks against President Bush from two cluttered rooms in their 172-year-old house.

Political analysts say their ads are some of Mr. Buchanan's best weapons against the president -- whose advisers spurned the Weinschels' offer of help and drove them into their opponent's camp.

An ad mocking Mr. Bush's broken campaign pledge from 1988, "Read my lips, no new taxes," ignited smoldering discontent among New Hampshire Republicans and enabled Mr. Buchanan to finish with a surprising 37 percent of the primary vote Feb. 18.

A new Buchanan ad airing this week in Georgia takes Mr. Bush to task for federal grants that the National Endowment for the Arts has given to what a narrator terms "pornographic and blasphemous art."

The ad, which has sparked a furious reaction from the Bush campaign, shows a scene from a PBS documentary about gay black men, "Tongues Untied," that received a $5,000 grant. Bare-chested men, including one whose buttocks are nearly bare, appear to be performing solo dances outdoors.

The ad began airing Wednesday, even though the Bush Administration forced out National Endowment for the Arts Chairman John Frohnmayer last Friday in an attempt to assuage conservatives angry with the quasi-independent agency. NEA officials do not require White House approval to make grants.

The Weinschels say they don't know what all the fuss is about. All they're doing, they say, is accurately documenting Mr. Bush's record.

"It's real clear and simple stuff, it's real documentary," Mr. Weinschel said yesterday of the ads. "I'm not like stretching the points or twisting it or misleading it or trying to bend people around backward."

The ad is not anti-homosexual, Mrs. Weinschel said, but an attack on a much-criticized use of federal funds. "Pat has been hammering on it for years," she said, adding the subject is an appropriate one to raise in a "good Bible-belt state."

Indeed, the Weinschels say they urged restraint when some members of the Buchanan campaign sought to include more graphic images from "Tongues Untied."

"The film was horrid," she said. "This was the cleanest part of the film."

It's ironic that the Weinschels are working for Mr. Buchanan. They worked for Mr. Bush when he ran for president in 1980 and again in 1984 when he was vice president and running for re-election with President Reagan.

"Six months ago we begged" to work for the Bush campaign, Mr. Weinschel said. He even brought up the fact that he kept all the unused taped material, some of it "very controversial," from his -- early work with Mr. Bush. "I said, 'If nothing else, guys, you should take care of me, because I'm sitting on the whole closet.'"

"Finally they told me I wasn't an insider enough to do it, and it didn't fit with the political deals that they were cutting," he said. "Buchananfound out about it in about five minutes, and I had a job with Buchanan."

The Weinschels are the antithesis of insiders. They dress up to be photographed for an interview, then change back to jeans, their usual garb.

They've been living in the country since 1974 and bought their current home in 1984. Mrs. Weinschel, 43, and Mr. Weinschel, 44, have been together since they met in Baltimore in the late 1960s. He had won a Maryland film festival award and was heading into a political media consulting career, which she readily joined after a semester at Towson State University.

They mainly work in even-numbered years, when most elections occur, and relax in between with their four children, ages four to 16, who dart in and out of their office while they're working.

"This is how we've lived for years," said Mrs. Weinschel, wearing a sweat shirt inscribed with the words, "OK, So I'm not supermom, adjust."

"So we make enough money to live two years, and that's how we work," she said. "It's fun. It's not for everyone, though. Sometimes at the end of the second year and money is beginning to run out . . . you say, 'I wonder if we're in the right

business.' "

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