April 28, 1999
Tait & Associates
701 N. Park Center Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
In January , you were re-elected as chairman of the Orange County Republican Party for the 14th consecutive year.
You’re the man in charge!
Which brings me to a small favor I’d like to ask: I’m collecting autographed photographs of famous Orange County celebrities—you know: Richard Nixon, Joey Bishop, John Schmitz, Dennis Rodman, Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Tommy Lasorda. I’d like to include you in what I call "my own private pantheon."
You might be asking yourself, "Why me? Why Tom Fuentes?"
Don’t be so modest. As the local GOP chairman in the 1980s, you were in command when Republicans held every elected office in Orange County. I can’t name an organization in the free world with that record of total domination! Of course, these days, we have a few elected Democrats here—Loretta Sanchez-Brixey, Lou "The Puppet" Correa and Joe Dunn. But I’m sure you’re working on ways to punch their Democratic lights out in the next election.
You’re the toastmaster, the kingmaker, and the boss of one of the biggest and most important Republican counties in the USA.
But enough about you. My name is Nathan Callahan. I’ve lived in Orange County for 30 years, and I write for the OC Weekly. Don’t let that throw you, Mr. Fuentes. The Weekly is more conservative than you might think. Have you read my article "One More Reason to Hate Bill Clinton"? You should. I’m not claiming to have your conservative résumé, but I actually shook hands with Nixon when I was 5 years old. (He looked right at me.) And because my grandfather was secretary of the Reserve Officers Association of America, my family welcomed guests like Strom Thurmond to our Southern California home. Strom used to call me "Little Buddy."
Anyway, if you could see it in your heart to send me an autographed photo, I’d be delighted. You can inscribe it anyway you want. If, however, you’re drawing a blank on what to write, consider this:
To my buddy Nathan, Scientia est potentis. Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
In case you’re wondering, "scientia est potentis" is Latin for "knowledge is power." And you’ve got plenty of both.
Here’s to you, Mr. Fuentes. Congratulations again. I’ll be checking my mailbox for your 8-by-10 glossy.
May 12, 1999
Dear Mr. Callahan,
Thank you for your kind letter. . . . While I do not have a photo to offer, I would enjoy talking with you over lunch when your calendar permits. Please call me at (714) 560-8200.
May 30, 1999
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
I’ve got some great news! After I received your letter, I visited the Weekly offices after-hours and snooped around. Guess what? I found a great shot of you in their computer photo file. I printed it out on some glossy paper, and you look sharp. You’re in a silver-toned sharkskin kind of jacket—just the right background to sign your name on. You’ll find it enclosed in this envelope. So how about that autograph?
Frankly, Mr. Fuentes, you ought to consider keeping a few photos of yourself on hand for admirers. When I told my friend Mike—who’s a political consultant—about your photo situation, he laughed. Mike said that maybe the Republican Party couldn’t afford a Fuentes glamour shot. I thought he was just trying to be a smart-ass, but, no, he was half-serious. He said an Orange County Republican Party splinter group —New Directions—is trying to unseat you. Mike said they’re a bunch of fat cats who think you’re "a far-right-wing, out-of-step-with-the-mainstream good old boy." Ouch!
Some of these New Directions kooks are reportedly withholding donations to your party in an attempt to leverage you out.
They’ll never be successful. You’re too clever for them. Mike told me a lot about you. Catholic school. The 1960 presidential campaign. Richard Nixon (Protestant) vs. John F. Kennedy (Catholic). You were the only student at your Catholic high school who wasn’t a JFK supporter. Nixon was the one for you. Boy, could you separate church from state!
I bet you had mixed emotions when Kennedy was elected the first Catholic president.
"Catholics for Nixon." Boy, that takes guts. I told Mike that he was 100 percent wrong about you and the photo and the money. I figure the demand for Tom Fuentes photographs is so high that you just ran out of them.
But all this Catholic stuff got me wondering if you hated the quote I picked out. Maybe that’s why you didn’t send me a photo. Latin may not be your favorite form of expression. Not to worry. I found another, more appropriate quote.
Let me explain. Eight years after the Kennedy victory, you went on to become a renowned local political fund-raiser, and Nixon went on to become president. When he visited Orange County, you were master of ceremonies at the Republican Party Richard Nixon Presidential Shebang. The event was a huge success. Nixon loved your professionalism and style. "I have never had an MC handle the occasion better," he said.
What an inspiration he was for you. When you listen to Tom Fuentes, the Los Angeles Times once said, "close your eyes and you will hear precisely the enunciated cadences of R.N."
I found a quote for the photo from Nixon’s second term. It’s something I imagine Tom Fuentes would say, too:
To Nathan: Nixon said, "The tougher it gets, the cooler I get." Stay cool. Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
What do you think? Go ahead. Pick up that pen. Be cool. Sign the photo.
Oh, by the way, thanks for the lunch offer. I must apologize. Right now, I’m booked.
July 27, 1999
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
I looked at my calendar today and realized that it has been almost two months since I mailed you the photo to autograph.
What’s up with the U.S. mail!? Man, is this another example of the government incompetence you rail against or what!?
I bet they lost the package. You’d think the post office would be more careful, especially after they raised the rates.
I found your photo again at the OC Weekly. This time, though, I Photoshopped the pope in next to you and enclosed two copies—one for me and one for you.
My friend Tim gave me the idea. Tim (he’s Catholic, too) told me that in 1977, you began a 12-year stint as spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Orange (kind of like the pope’s PR guy for Orange County). You had already been the president of the Young Republicans at Chapman and Santa Ana Colleges and an assistant to an Orange County supervisor. By 1981, you were serving as the local Republican Party’s vice chairman. Then, in 1985, you ran for the chairmanship.
As always, you were a campaign monkey. Everyone on the Republican Party Central Committee list got a phone call from you. You must have really worked the Reagan angle to persuade party members that their presiding chairwoman, Lois Lunberg (a moderate!), should be replaced with Tom Fuentes (a superconservative!).
Just weeks away from Election Day, you received an invitation from the archbishop of Panama for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Vatican to meet the pope. Jesus, Mary and Joseph (can I say that?), I’m not Catholic, but I bet the chance to hobnob with God’s messenger on Earth must be a real honor.
Your head must have been buzzing. You were ready to bag the party leadership AND go mano a mano with the pope—all in the same week.
Then came the disappointing news. It turned out that the flight from Rome wouldn’t arrive in Orange County until two days after the election. You were so primed to lead the Republican Party that you couldn’t take a chance on leaving town and coming back a loser.
So you blew off the pope!
As it turned out, your wife went to Rome, and you kicked Lunberg’s whoopee cushion. Way to go!
I think you made the right decision. After all, what could the pope do for your political career in Orange County?
Which brings me to this photograph. I don’t know if you’ve met the pope since, but I thought you’d appreciate a photo with the two of you together—even if it is make-believe. (I scanned the pope off a holy card.) As for my copy of the photo, Tim suggested you sign it:
To Nathan: Who’s that guy standing next to me? Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
Ha. Ha. Tim has a serious case of corn. Truthfully, whatever you write will be great as long as you autograph it.
There’s one more thing I’ve got to ask: you were a spokesman for the diocese and the chairman of the Republican Party at the same time for four years. Did you ever get confused?
I think you did. Do you remember the time you sent uniformed security guards to Santa Ana polling places on election day in 1988? What was THAT about? You said you wanted to protect the "sanctity of the ballot" by making sure there was no illegal voting, but all you did was piss off a whole demographic of Latinos and give Curt "Poll Guard" Pringle (your candidate and the eventual winner) a nickname. The only place you stationed the guards was in the barrios.
You’re a sixth-generation son of Mexican immigrants. What were you thinking? Could it be that you were still distracted by your aborted meeting with the pope?
Don’t worry. We all get distracted. And even though the guard incident was one of the lowest points in Orange County Republican Party public-relations history, you handled it like a pro. A few months later, you resigned as director of communications at the diocese in Orange and won your re-election bid to chair the Republican Party. Great recovery. But don’t ever let your mind wander like that again. Just remember: NO MORE POLL GUARDS. They tend to emit the vibe of a dictatorship.
Thanks in advance for your autograph. I hope you enjoy your copy of the photo.
Sept. 23, 1999
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
A few weeks ago, I talked to Will Swaim, the editor of the OC Weekly. He told me you sent him a letter—about me! According to Will, you said it was "awkward" to address a photo to me as a "friend" and "respectfully declined" my request. In other words, pass the word along: "Adios, Nathan."
Boy, was I disappointed.
I know we haven’t formally met, but what’s wrong with being pen pals? Writing is more refined than a phone call or a quick lunch. It can help organize your ideas and prevent misinterpretations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had second thoughts about what I’ve said in a conversation.
I know you can relate. In August 1985, you told the Los Angeles Times, "I simply cannot fathom how even well-intentioned Democrats can remain naive about the evils their party has wrought across the great American political landscape. It’s a little like good Germans denying the existence of the Holocaust."
I bet you had second thoughts about saying that! Democrats may be stupid, but I’m sure you didn’t mean to say that they’ve edged the U.S. toward the Third Reich. Later on, you said that the quote was "taken very much out of context," that it was part of a long conversation about the Democratic Party’s position on abortion.
Do you see what I mean about conversation? If you had written your thoughts, I’m sure Hitler wouldn’t have made it to the final draft.
Or how about when you were talking to the Times about political-party registration? "I can tell you the registration of the people in the house by observing the neatness of the lawn and what cars are in the driveway," you said. I can’t imagine that’s what you meant. That’s like saying you could discern a homeowner’s religious beliefs by looking at his car.
Then there’s the incident with Judge Judith Ryan, who opposed Bob Dornan in the 1992 Republican primary. Ryan said you tried to stop her from entering the race by threatening to ruin her family’s business. That’s got to be a misunderstanding. Again, my friend—may I call you "friend"?—if you had composed a note to her, I’m sure she would have understood whatever it was you were trying to say.
Anyway, after Will told me about your "Adios, Nathan" letter, I sulked for a couple of weeks. I’m always reminded of you by that blank space on my office wall where your autographed picture should be hanging. Then last Sunday, I saw the movie Braveheart on NBC and remembered that it’s one of your favorites. You once said it reminds you that—like the Scottish rebels—the Republican Party is fighting against the odds. And you know what? Call me William Wallace and paint my face blue, but I decided right then that I’m not going to give up either.
Just to show that I write in good faith, I’ve enclosed a photo of myself. As you’ve probably already noticed, I signed it:
To Mr. Fuentes: "It’s our wits that make us men." Your friend, Nathan Callahan.
William Wallace’s father said that—at least he did in the movie.
You can never have too many friends, Mr. Fuentes. Write me if you’d like. And how about that autographed photo?
Sincerely, your friend,
P.S. Will also told me that you can’t imagine anyone wanting a photograph of you. Don’t be so coy, Mr. Fuentes. You’re a good-looking, famous man. Get used to it.
Dec. 17, 1999
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
Boy, you must be busy. I completely understand why you haven’t sent me your autographed photo yet. You’ve been out registering new Republicans ever since that Sept. 24 Orange County Register story appeared! What a headline! REPUBLICANS DIP BELOW 50 PERCENT IN REGISTERED VOTERS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1984.
Who do you think is responsible for this decline: Clinton Republicans? They’d be first on my list of suspects.
I’m sure you remember Roger Johnson—that turncoat Republican CEO of Western Digital who endorsed Clinton in 1992 and then went on to be named director of Slick Willy’s general services administration. Johnson was the first domino to fall. In 1996, more Republicans—including Mayor Tracy Wills Worley of Tustin, ex-Orange County Supervisor Harriet Weider and Central Committee Member Bill Dougherty—endorsed Clinton for re-election. To top it off, Dougherty called the Orange County Republican Central Committee "an incestuous mob of fellow sycophants who are either on the public payroll as assistants to some Republican office holder or fat-cat corporate lobbyists." Dougherty even got personal when he said that "your leadership and your bigoted Right wing of the party has led us down the path of defeat." You got him back, though, when you called him a "Vichy Republican," comparing him to the French politicians who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
I’ve got hand it to you: first, you say that pro-choice Democrats are like "good Germans denying the existence of the Holocaust," and then you call Dougherty a "Vichy Republican." If I ever want to insinuate that someone is a Nazi, I’ll know who to call for the appropriate reference.
Which brings me to a great idea I had—one that will increase Republican-voter registration and make your job easier. Everyone knows that during World War II, the Nazis persecuted homosexuals. And everyone knows that today, there are oodles of gays in Orange County.
Put the two together, and you’ve got a voter-registration bonanza. Here’s what you do: target the gay community for a Republican-registration drive, and if anyone opposes you . . . call them a Nazi! I’m not talking about simply welcoming the gay lifestyle into to the GOP; you already have the Log Cabin Club acting as the GOP’s doormat. I’m talking about a Fuentes program that could shape the Republican Party into the No. 1 gay party in American politics—a party that really knows how to party! Right now, the Democrats have cornered the market on gays. Why? It doesn’t make sense. Bill Clinton didn’t have the guts to follow through with gays in the military when he was first elected; even his wife criticized that puny policy. Because of Clinton, the rule of law in the service is "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." That’s not Republican Tom Fuentes’ style. You’ve got balls. If you were president, I bet your policy would be "Don’t Even Bother Asking." I’m sure we both agree that being gay has nothing to do with being a Democrat or a conservative or a liberal or a libertarian or whatever. Look at Roy Cohn. He was a gay conservative staff adviser to Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and a member of the legal team that prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg—proof positive that gayness knows no political boundaries. From one straight guy to another, Mr. Fuentes, you could really have some fun embracing homosexuality in your party. Imagine a Republican drag-ball fund-raiser at the Pacific Club. You could call it the Brian Bennett Masquerade (in honor of ex-Congressman Bob Dornan’s gay chief of staff). You might even get into the spirit yourself—cross-dress as Daisy Fuentes (just kidding).
By next September, if you use my idea, the Fuentes Gay Voter Registration Drive will be making headlines in The Orange County Register. This time, they’ll be saying, "REPUBLICANS BACK ON TOP."
Whether you use my idea or not, though, have a wonderful holiday. I bet you can’t guess what I want for Christmas. An autographed photo? Well, if you’re not too busy, I’d love one. You can sign it:
To Nathan: Don’t even bother asking! Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
Merry Christmas and happy Y2K to you.
April 4, 2000
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
Way to go! It seems you’ve taken my advice and implemented the Fuentes Gay Voter Registration Drive. Yesterday, I saw R. Scott Moxley—the reporter from the Weekly. He said you were "extra-friendly" at the March 7 election-night party. Moxley said that as long as he’s known you, you’ve never been so charming or gracious. You even put your arm around him. Of course, you know Moxley is gay and a Christopher Hitchens liberal. He said, "It would take a bit more than one hug to lure [him] into [your] den." But who knows? Stranger things have happened. Either way, it’s a good start. Keep up the registration effort.
Your friend and adviser,
July 10, 2000
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
You can’t imagine how flabbergasted I was when R. Scott Moxley delivered a gift from you to me wrapped in red, white and blue ribbon. Thank you so much for the three books: Steve Forbes’ A New Birth of Freedom, Ann Coulter’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton and Bob Zelnick’s Backfire: A Reporter’s Look at Affirmative Action.
The first thing I did was fan through all the pages to see if you enclosed an autographed photo of yourself. I guess it must have fallen out. Could you send me another?
What did fall out was your business card. It makes a cool bookmark:
I had no idea you were a director of a publishing house.
All three Regnery books were very entertaining, even though I usually don’t read political propaganda. I was wondering: Are they supposed to be funny? In her book, Coulter writes, "We have a national debate about whether Clinton ‘did it,’ even though all sentient people know he did. . . . Otherwise there would only be debates about whether to impeach or assassinate."
I didn’t know whether to laugh or call the Secret Service.
Zelnick’s book convinced me that Regnery must be an open-minded place. They hired you, the chairman of the OC Republican Party, as their director, and yet they can still publish Zelnick’s book against affirmative action, even though your party’s presidential candidate, George W. Bush, received a form of affirmative action himself when he was accepted to Harvard and Yale—with below-average grades! It’s nice when the rich get a helping hand.
By the time I finished Forbes’ book, I was so jazzed that I went to Borders to look for more Regnery titles. You sure work for a unique publishing company, Mr. Fuentes. Did you know that one of Regnery’s books, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, says the Oklahoma City bombing was a botched FBI sting directed by the Justice Department under the supervision of Bill Clinton with the goal of turning America into a police state? In another, Unlimited Access, I found a section on lesbian love in the Clinton White House’s basement showers and a paragraph on Hillary ordering miniature crack pipes to hang on the White House Christmas tree.
Does Regnery consider any of its titles humor? You should tell them that would be a great cross-over market.
Anyway, I figure you sent me these swell books because you’ve been in an exceptionally fine mood after defeating the New Directions Republicans that night you put your arm around Scott Moxley. If I haven’t already told you, congratulations. What a sweet victory. USA Today said your critics raised $500,000 in an "attempted hostile takeover" of your Orange County Republican Central Committee. The two groups claim you’re an old-school conservative who alienates women. But when I looked at the membership of the New Majority Committee, they’re all guys! With an oversight like that, it’s no wonder they lost. My friend Tim told me that these guys are mostly Irvine Co. people who want Irvine Co. chairman Donald Bren-clone, neo-Republican candidates in charge of Orange County politics. Since you’re old-school and don’t always see eye to eye with Bren, they hate your guts.
I bet it still pisses you off that they wasted their money trying to beat you when they could have spent it reaming Al Gore.
Tim says they’ll try to unseat you again. I say bring them on.
Thanks again for the interesting books, and don’t forget to send me a replacement autographed photo of yourself.
Your friend and adviser,
July 20, 2000
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard you were going to interview for a position on the South Orange County Community College District board. But I was absolutely stunned when you accepted the job.
You’re the king of Orange County politics. You not only took a small-time college job, but you also replaced Steve Frogue, who had just resigned after seven and a half years of proving that lack of smarts is no deterrent to holding a school-board position in Orange County.
I asked myself, "What on Earth would you, Tom Fuentes (the man in charge of Orange County politics), want with an elected trustee’s position overseeing the disgruntled populace of Saddleback and Irvine Valley Colleges?"
Then I saw the simple brilliance of your strategy. Of course you maneuvered for the school-board seat. Here’s why (as if you didn’t know!): in November, George W. Bush is elected president. Then, since Orange County will play a major role in Bush’s victory and you will have directed the troops, Bush is sworn in and Tom Fuentes is given an appointment in the new administration —secretary of education?
There’s just one problem. If Bush wins the presidency in November but loses the local vote, chances are you’ll be out of the appointment loop.
Not to worry. Nathan has it covered.
Consider this: many people I’ve spoken with think you’re gay—and not just vicious, dim-bulb liberals, but Republicans, respected journalists, doctors and lawyers. I’ve often wondered why this whispering campaign persists in the complete absence of evidence. I know you’re not gay, Mr. Fuentes—not that there’s, you know, anything wrong with that.
In fact, it can be a real plus. Which brings me to my plan: in order to snag your appointment, you need to turn up the volume on the Fuentes Gay Voter Registration Drive.
How, you ask? You should leverage unsubstantiated speculation about your sexuality into something positive. If you act a wee bit gay, you could attract new votes and swing Orange County toward a Bush victory in November. Wear a pair of Dolce & Gabbana white jeans. If anyone asks whether you’re gay, follow Ricky Martin’s lead—or Michael Stipe’s —and say something like, "Questions about my private life should not be the subject of public speculation." That’ll MAKE it the subject of public speculation. Be seen on dinner dates with good-looking men. Campaign in Laguna Beach. Do whatever you can reasonably get away with. In November, you’ll be glad you did. Then, since Bush has said that he’ll consider minority appointees in his administration, a straight Mexican guy like you with a little bounce in his step would be a perfect appointment choice. Before you know it, you’ll have a nameplate on an office overlooking the White House lawn. I’m sure of it.
Good luck, Mr. Secretary!
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Your friend and adviser,
P.S. If you ever have time from your busy schedule, could you please send me that autographed photo?