The Selling of Bob Dornan

One of the spectacular aspects of The Orange County Register's editorial page is how often it flies in the face of reality to protect its ideological soul mates on the far Right.

In 1994, then-Congressman-for-life Bob Dornan waited all of an hour after polls closed to recant his pledge not to run again in 1996. At the GOP victory party at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel in Costa Mesa, a smiling Dornan--who had maintained he was "the term-limits champion" up until that night--hypocritically told reporters, "All bets are off."

But Dornan's move didn't faze the Register, which, in the weeks following the nine-term congressman's bold about-face, failed to report the comment to its readers and then congratulated him for what it saw as his consistency on the issue. In its Nov. 16, 1994, lead editorial, the Reg wrote that it was good to have a congressman like Dornan who was true to his word, especially on term limits.

Consistently inconsistent, the Register's post-election analysis of Dornan's recent campaign against Loretta Sanchez was also nothing short of embarrassing and begs the question: Can the paper's editorial staff be awakened from its stupor?

While Dornan conjured up a pathetic, blatantly anti-Latino conspiracy theory to explain his loss, the Register declared him a role model for how Republican candidates should treat the increasingly powerful local Latino voting block.

Dornan, the Register editorialists said, eagerly distances himself from "radical anti-immigrant sentiments." They've also said that "Mr. Dornan understands how Hispanics are natural conservative allies, not enemies."

Meanwhile, the 64-year-old Dornan--refusing to be dignified in his darkest hour--was telling every reporter and news camera he could find that illegal Mexican immigrants in his district plotted to knock him off to protect their welfare checks.

The nefarious claim may have impressed the Register, but it did not please Latino leaders. Raul Yzaguirre, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of La Raza, told the Times the ex-congressman "should either put up or shut up."

But the Register doesn't need a scintilla of evidence when it goes on a tirade for a political pal, such as Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Chris Cox. Based on rumors of election irregularities, originating primarily from the stung Dornan camp, the paper used its Nov. 17 lead editorial, "A clouded victory," to equate Sanchez's win with the downfall of democracy, claiming the people's will may have been thwarted.

Refusing to acknowledge that Sanchez ran a superior campaign and connected with the district's voters, the Register went on to make the preposterous claim that Dornan's campaign had been "sabotaged" when two of its posters were torn down by Sanchez's husband, Stephen Brixey III.

With all the intrigue it could manufacture, the Reg argued, "Many Orange County voters will spend the next two years wondering . . . had Mr. Dornan's campaign not been sabotaged, Ms. Sanchez might have lost." Uh-huh.

We're wondering what a Register editorial based on facts--not pseudo-intellectual drivel--would look like.

Sorry, Loretta, there will be no honeymoon. Loretta Sanchez hasn't even been sworn into office (that will happen in January), but L.A. Times Washington, D.C.-based political reporter Gebe Martinez has already declared the Dornan slayer's political honeymoon over in a Nov. 14 article: "She will have won the battle, but not the war."

Relying on sources Mark Dornan, the ex-congressman's Republican son; Congressman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield); and an anonymous Republican congressman, Martinez conceded that Sanchez "will be hailed by Democrats as the woman who took down [Dornan]. And then the honeymoon will be over."

Martinez, known for penning glowing, one-sided accounts of the county's Republican members of Congress, apparently won't be as generous with the incoming Democrat, who is the county's first female and first Latino congressional representative.

After offering the breathtaking revelation that Sanchez "will face the scrutiny of Republicans intent on retaking her seat in 1998," Martinez went on to write that "Sanchez can expect an armload of legal challenges from Dornan and his family." What her analysis failed to mention is that Dornan has a long history of trying to intimidate opponents with bogus election-related lawsuit threats; some of them were never filed, while others were promptly dismissed.

To keep her theme alive, however, Martinez handed the heart of the article over to a whiningly biased Mark Dornan, who was delighted to answer why he thought Sanchez will have no honeymoon.

"My mom and my sisters are taking her to court for libel and slander," Dornan's 38-year-old son told Martinez.

According to Martinez, the Dornan family is "incensed" about a campaign sign-yanking incident and Sanchez's allegedly misstating Dornan's position on abortion. The Times reporter failed to remind readers that it was the nonpartisan Project Vote Smart--a group headed by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter--that publicly slammed Dornan for lying about Sanchez during the campaign, not the other way around. Perhaps Dornan's honeymoon with a certain member of the press corps never ended.

 
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