Buchanan's ad slings new mud across old ground

MICHAEL OLESKER

March 01, 1992|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Ian Weinschel shifts gears a century at a time.

He conducts electronic attacks for Republican presidential contender Patrick Buchanan, and then he chops winter ice so the cattle on his 150-acre Mount Airy farm can have a drink. He beats up President Bush on television, and then he blissfully watches the birth of a calf in his Frederick County barn.

''I farm to relax from the high-tech stuff,'' says Weinschel, 42, who grows corn and alfalfa between political campaigns. ''It's like moving from the fast lane to go back a hundred years.''

For now, though, the past will have to retreat a little. The present tense arrives with a chorus of outrage over newly launched Weinschel commercials in which Pat Buchanan attacks George Bush by showing images of gay black men dancing in leather harnesses.

Weinschel says the spot is all about taxes.

Everybody else says it's about pornography, homosexuality and race.

Weinschel says it's not an attack so much as a documentary.

Everybody else says it's this year's Willie Horton ad.

''Let's not let the White House spin say what this ad's about,'' says Weinschel, who produced the spot with Buchanan's guidance. ''There's been a lot of misinterpretation. The ad basically says our tax dollars shouldn't be used to fund pornographic art, and that this message has been given to the president but he does it anyway.

''It doesn't have to do with homosexuality or blacks or anything else at all. It's that we get our paychecks and they take money out for taxes, and the president has funded this stuff. And people without jobs who are wondering if their plants are going to close are paying for this. That's all we're trying to say.''

Oh.

In fact, the ad charges the Bush administration with wasting tax dollars -- ''on pornographic and blasphemous art too shocking to show,'' while showing some of it anyway, and then adding, ''This so-called art has glorified homosexuality, exploited children and

perverted the image of Jesus Christ.''

While we hear these words, we see slow-motion, homosexual, sadomasochistic images from a film produced with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The implication? George Bush is responsible for every government grant; therefore, he used tax money to fund filth, and such a man should not be running the country.

In a campaign for the presidency, this is the biggest issue they could find?

''We're talking,'' says Weinschel, ''about big grants, real big.''

In terms of overall NEA funding, sure; in terms of the specific film in the commercial, it was a $5,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Film Institute, which received the money from the American Film Institute, which got it from the NEA.

But Weinschel says the NEA isn't exactly the point anyway.

''We're not trying to make a case against pornography,'' he says. ''But the government shouldn't be in the business of porno when it should be in the business of education, of finding jobs, of making America great again.

''We're just saying we don't want tax money spent on it. This is not an attack; it's a documentary. We take Bush and put him on camera. It's real easy for us. We let him say things he's said in public. We hold up the facts: Here's what he said and here's what he did.''

Case in point was a Buchanan ad in New Hampshire in which Bush declared, ''Read my lips: No new taxes.''

''I would say that's a blatant lie,'' says Weinschel, ''and we're just trying to remind people.''

Interestingly, the NEA spots are being run in Georgia, in time for next Tuesday's primary, but not in Maryland. Weinschel says they work better there but won't explain why. But in a way it doesn't matter.

With all of the TV networks and most of the big newspapers now analyzing TV spots, the message in all ads quickly spreads across the country. All ads, in effect, become local ads, finding their way to homes everywhere.

''Good,'' says Weinschel, who says he's worked in 80 political campaigns over the past 23 years. ''We're just trying to get people to focus their attention. You see this [NEA] ad and say, 'What else is Bush doing?'

'It makes you upset, thinking, 'Why am I clipping double coupons when the president is funding this and giving us a tax increase?' Look, I showed the mildest stuff I could put on television. If you saw the whole tape, it's illegal to show.''

Then why show it at all? Claiming it's an ad about taxes, an ad to focus people's minds on tough times -- while showing gay black men in leather harnesses -- is an act of calling people stupid.

It's this year's version of Willie Horton, which claimed to comment on Michael Dukakis and prisons while plucking at America's uneasiness over race.

''Wrong,'' says Weinschel. ''George Bush was elected to carry on the Ronald Reagan dream. But all he's done is run the country into depression and despair. And we're just documenting it.''

Bush's campaign people have complained, of course. They say the ad is distorted and plays on people's fears.

And who would know better than they?

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