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A Well-Timed Root Canal for CA Democratic Chair Burton

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Opinion: Burton's Well-Timed Root Canal

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Former California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton speaks at a conference in 2002.

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He's the kind of politician reporters love to interview.

Talking to California Democratic Party Chair John Burton at a political gathering or a legislative hearing is no different than a conversation with him while on a bar stool (which as a recovering drug addict he rarely frequents these days).

In either setting he's candid, profane and funny. He's always good for a quote -- particularly when you needed an expletive to spice up the story.

So when he compared the Republican Vice Presidential nominee to the Third Reich's propaganda minister the other day -- well, not too many of us were surprised.

Over the top? Absolutely. Apologize? Yes -- and he did. Feel bad about it? Maybe, but only for a moment. In fact, probably not.

Such is the approach of a rare political animal: the one who really doesn't give a crap what you think.

Of course, most of those in the room, particularly the ones from Northern California, already knew that about John Burton.

His brother was the late Congressman Phil Burton, the profane, brilliant and over-the-top lawmaker who came within a hair of becoming House Speaker prior to his passing in 1983.

John was the petulant younger sibling -- the one who hired a New York transplant as his secretary named Barbara Boxer.

Oh...and did I mention Republicans like him as well?

He's a Socialist to them and a bit whacked but his word was his bond and he was always ready to negotiate. Schwarzeneger loved him because "John never played games".

But he is laying low now.

"The Chairman is undergoing a long scheduled root canal" was the tounge-in-cheek announcement Tuesday morning that Burton wouldn't be attending the delegation breakfast.

Staying away from reporters was one way of letting the Joseph Goebbels comment pass without answering more questions about it.

Prediction: he won't resign but he will be quiet -- at least for the rest of the week. Nobody, particularly the incumbent President in the middle of a campaign, likes a distraction.

Conan Nolan is a general assignment reporter for NBC4 Los Angeles and the host of "News Conference."

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