It has again become apparent that Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's loose, tequila-oozing grip on reality does not include a sincere appreciation of U.S. military bravery against terrorists, so it's necessary to remind him of what front-line courage looks like:
• During a six-hour period at the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009, outnumbered Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer ignored rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and intense machine-gun fire from enemy combatants hiding in higher ground to make five trips into an ambush site with hopes of rescuing trapped corpsmen or retrieving their corpses.
• Though seriously wounded and surrounded in 2005, Navy Seal Michael Murphy lead a four-man team against a Taliban force 10 times larger, and to find a place in the rough terrain where he could call for helicopter assistance, he exposed himself to enemy fire so he could successfully transmit a radio signal—selfless courage that cost him his life.
• Despite dozens of 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens remained at his Libyan post when more than 125 Islamic militants yelling, "Allahu Akbar!" stormed the diplomatic compound; spent hours firing rockets, grenades and bullets; and murdered the respected foreign-service officer and three staffers.
Sadly, Rohrabacher recently decided to cheapen those undeniable heroics. In a Jan. 29 Dallas Morning News article featuring Republican Congressman Steve Stockman, our Costa Mesa Republican, known even on the GOP rubber-chicken circuit as one of this country's least productive politicians, added to his stockpile of obnoxious, head-scratching quotes. This time, he tried to put himself on par with the likes of Meyer, Murphy and Stevens.
"We were on the front lines of the war against radical Islamic terrorism and the front lines of what's really important," Rohrabacher asserted about himself and Stockman to the Texas newspaper.
No, these politicians didn't parachute into a combat zone in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or anywhere else. There was no reason to wear protective gear. They didn't hunt down a single terrorist. Nobody shot at them or hurled a grenade in their direction.
Instead, Rohrabacher's claimed risky business consisted of a series of pampered experiences befitting a man who ran for Congress on a term-limits platform and this year is seeking to extend his stay to 28 years. In mid-January, he flew for free in an upgraded seat on a commercially comfortable flight to Cairo with Stockman and Anaheim Democrat Loretta Sanchez, slept in luxury accommodations, enjoyed fine meals and told anyone who would listen that he was leading the tiny U.S. delegation.
The gravest danger the notoriously disheveled congressman faced? The threat of an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
To meet Egyptian government officials, Rohrabacher put on a red, white, blue and gray outfit and—without a scintilla of worry—walked gingerly into one of that nation's most secure and elegant buildings. Photos taken at the event show him slouching in an ornate chair. His red power tie dangles from his neck, then takes a steep roller-coaster climb up and over his belly. Beneath an ever-expanding double chin, there's his trademark goofy smile foreshadowing a post-trip press release announcing his imagined importance in world affairs.
Like his buddy, actor Steven Seagal, the congressman sees himself as a fearless warrior in life-or-death scenarios involving heavily armed, relentless aggressors with evil agendas. That persona might be understandable for a Hollywood action star that sells cartoonish fantasy for a living. However, such fake bravado is grotesque for a 66-year-old career politician who chickened out of Vietnam War military duty when he was eligible for combat.
Nowadays at flag-waving GOP and Tea Party events, Rohrabacher is known to strum a guitar, howl off-key sub-Hallmark lyrics about valor and assure crowds he's "a patriot." He once tried to convince me he'd "bled for this country" while on vacation in Afghanistan when he was a 41-year-old civilian in 1988. Given his proclivity for deceit, I asked him if his alleged bleeding had been a scratch that required a Band-Aid. He started yelling about his fondness for Ronald Reagan and never answered the question.
For a county more populous than 20 states, it's embarrassing this career politician, who regularly operates in delusion—one steeped in comfort, self-serving lies and unearned deference—has helped to send young Americans to actual front lines, where tens of thousands of them have been seriously wounded or killed since 2001.
According to the Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who comes from Rohrabacher's wing of local Republican politics, is contemplating a run for his 48th congressional district seat. The 65-year-old Leece is a substitute teacher known for unwavering social conservative stances and—more surprising—being the staunchest ally of unionized city-government employees threatened with mass layoffs several years ago by an all-GOP council.
Rohrabacher—who reported $315,000 in campaign cash on hand as of Dec. 31, 2013—didn't accept invitations to explain his front-line boasts.
* * *
MORE SHENANIGANS IN EXTORTION CASE
Charged with trying to extort $350,000 and expensive jewelry from one of Southern California's wealthiest Republican couples in 2008, ex-Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Toledano, along with his co-defendant, Michael Roberts, is now scheduled to face a jury trial in April.
On Jan. 16, Toledano, an Irvine lawyer, lost what was likely his final chance to secure pretrial dismissal of his 2010 indictment. A three-justice panel (William Rylaarsdam, Richard Aronson and William Bedsworth) at the California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana denied a defense request to overturn pro-prosecution rulings by Superior Court Judge David A. Hoffer, a former federal prosecutor.
The sensational case, which I've covered in depth in prior articles, is loaded with questionable government moves, including keeping potentially exculpatory evidence away from members of the grand jury as well as using Paul Roper, lawyer for the supposed victims, the well-connected Dick and Priscilla Marconi, as the only expert allowed to appear during one-sided, secret proceedings.
According to Toledano attorney David Swanson, Senior Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri trampled legal ethics by withholding "virtually all exculpatory evidence from the grand jury" and permitting the inconsistent, suspicious testimony of a witness who "was not telling the truth."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Appellate justices have previously slammed local prosecutors for hiding exculpatory facts at grand jury proceedings, but apparently they weren't troubled that Hoffer defended Olivieri's conduct. Though the prosecutor knew of notes Toledano insists are exculpatory, she never provided the three-page document to the grand jury—even though a member of the panel inquired about seeing the record. It then took her approximately four years to show them to the defense, which believes the DA's case was manufactured as an insider gift to Marconi.
(Within days of his office arresting Roberts and raiding Toledano's law office, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas accepted maximum allowable campaign contributions of $3,200 from the complaining power couple.)
Hoffer somehow viewed Swanson's reasonable complaint about the evidence hiding as an absurd defense demand to make the government "scour the Earth for all imaginable, arguably exculpatory evidence."
Yes, by all means, don't scour anything in the pursuit of justice and when the liberty of two likely innocent men is at stake.