Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Bulger and the Watermelon Man. For US Representative Dan Burton, the past week has been like magic. He has metamorphosed from right-wing nutcase to august statesman, and all he had to do was issue a subpoena to UMass president Bill Bulger.

Burton, famed for shooting up a watermelon in his backyard as part of his so-called investigation of Vince Foster's suicide (Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 5/5/98), and for attempting to subpoena Elian Gonzalez (UPI, 1/21/00), is now being taken seriously for the sole reason that he's zeroed in on the politician everyone loves to hate.

The editorial pages of the Globe and the Herald, as well as Globe columnists Scot Lehigh and Eileen McNamara and Herald columnists Cosmo Macero, Peter Gelzinis, and Shelly Cohen, have all called on Bulger to obey Burton's subpoena and tell his committee what he knows about his serial-killer brother, former Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. The only columnist who has leapt to Bulger's defense is the Globe's Brian McGrory.

I'll admit that I'm tempted to side with McGrory -- to urge Bulger to tell the grandstanding Burton to screw. There are two really odious aspects to this: the implication that Bulger is somehow complicit in his brother's misdeeds, of which there is no evidence; and, of course, Burton himself.

But, yes, Bill Bulger should testify. Whitey Bulger, as we all know, was at the center of a vast criminal conspiracy in which he and his gang were protected by the FBI -- perhaps the worst scandal in the history of that scandal-plagued agency. And Bill Bulger's testimony to a federal grand jury -- improperly leaked to the Globe's Shelley Murphy, but fascinating nevertheless -- suggests that the Good Brother may have known a bit more about the Bad Brother than he's ever admitted publicly.

Burton or not, this is a legitimate inquiry. Bill Bulger should testify -- or be gone.

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