Frank Burns remembered

"M*A*S*H" star saluted from the campaign trail.

By Jake Tapper
Published April 13, 2000 4:01PM (EDT)

As Hollywood mourned the death Tuesday of actor Larry Linville, the men running for the highest office offered their own thoughts on the man who played Major Frank Burns on the Emmy Award-winning television series "M*A*S*H."

Linville, 60, left "M*A*S*H" in 1977 after five seasons to pursue other acting opportunities, but not without leaving an indelible mark on one of TV's classic sitcoms. On Wednesday, four of the leading candidates for president of the United States offered their thoughts on Linville and his legacy.

Campaigning in Watts, Texas Gov. George W. Bush said, "I liked his acting a lot, though "M*A*S*H" was typical Hollywood, uh, liberal, um, point of view. Larry Linville, who played Frank Buns, was a great Ameritian, and will be mixed. Not only by me and others in my campaign, but by the people of our country and not just Albert Alda."

Swimming off the coast of Miami, Vice President Al Gore said, "Lawrence Linville -- Larry to his friends -- was a wonderful and decent and caring individual. When Larry Gelbart, Alan Alda, and Gene Reynolds sat down with me after I got back from 'Nam to discuss the "M*A*S*H" -- or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital -- pilot, we agreed that there was but one individual who could best replicate Robert Duval's brilliant film portrayal of the man who, to many, though not necessarily to me, portrayed a kind of thoughtless jingoism that you sometimes see in the military, though not in the rank and file soldiers who, like me, have fought for our country. And that was Larry Linville, who will be missed, not only for his portrayal of Major Frank Burns, but for his guest role on CHiPS, or California Highway Patrol, in which he played a kind of crazy tail-gaiter. Governor Bush should be ashamed."

Downing a beer at the AnzHeilputsch Beer Hall in Youngstown, Ohio, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan said, "Linville, eh? What kind of a name exactly is Linville?"

At a rally in his Maryland living room, Ambassador Alan Keyes said, "I think in fact that a question about a Hollywood actor misses the point. Because in fact this period of prosperity, far from confirming that we are in good shape, simply gives us the leisure to contemplate the truth. And that truth is disturbing. That truth is dangerous. Because as we look back over the course of this century, a century of horrors, and a century of hope, a century of great tragedies and great achievement; but in the midst of it all, what do we find? We find that time and again America has gone through periods of great testing, times when we could not be saved by our military might, because our military might was precisely what was in question. When we could not be saved by our economic might, because our economic condition was exactly what lay in ruins. In the depression, in the challenge at the beginning of the great world wars, it was not our material circumstances that saved the day; it was the fact that as a people we could draw on a moral heritage that gave us the faith and the courage and the will to rally our forces even in the face of challenge and defeat; to hold on to our liberty even in the face of economic depression; to resist the totalitarian temptation that overtook many of the countries of the West; and to emerge as the champion of liberty through the longest and darkest struggle against tyranny that the world has yet known. And we did not do it, in those times of challenge, because of our material strength. We did it in the face of relative material weakness, because of our moral heritage and beliefs. The reason that I favor limited government is not that it is some end in itself. It is because limited government is the foundation and paradigm of all our freedom. Because limited government is where the founders placed this nation. And where, as a people, we belong. But you know if we are going to sustain that vision we offered the American people, then I think it is about time that we remembered something. And I address this especially, if I may say, to all my colleagues who are running, and to all the folks who sit in Washington today debating all the complex issues of our time. If we are going to win the battle for limited government then we had better remember what our founders understood when they framed the Constitution to set up this limited government of the people, by the people, for the people. They saw it and spoke with Adams when he said that this Constitution was framed for a moral and a religious people, and that it is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other. If we are a people who can no longer tell right from wrong, and stand for right; if we are a people who can no longer tell justice from injustice, and stand for justice; then we will be a people no longer capable or fit to govern ourselves! And I believe, that after 30 and 40 and 50 years of misrule by Democrat liberals who made government into God and people into slaves, we have come to a great crisis of self-government in America. We have come to a parting of the ways, and down one road lies the totalitarian utopian vision of freedom lost, and down the other lies the founders' vision of self-government regained, and we stand, now, to choose. But you know what the issues shall be that determine our choice? They shall not be the issues of whether the budget is big or small; they will not be the issue of whether the taxes are cut or raised, though all those issues are important. They will be the issues of how we understand our freedom. Is it something that we can abuse in any way we choose, even at the expense of our dearest principles? Or is it something that we must wield with respect for what they laid down at the beginning, and no one likes to talk about anymore: the laws of nature and of nature's God. They did not set this country on a course that said "We worship our freedom." They set it on a course that said "We worship our God, and he gives us our freedom." And it is time that we remembered that. That is what we are here to discuss, not trifles like the question the gossip-lusting and more-than-likely racist member of the media just asked."

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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