Photo by Jack GouldStill new in his job as MC of the Republican Party bashes, Scott Baugh announced to an overflow crowd at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach late Tuesday, "It's morning in America—again!" He then turned the microphone over to longtime party official Jo Ellen Allen for a prayer. Four minutes later, Allen was still rambling about 1841, the Mexican American War, U.S. Senator Edward Hannigan (still dead after 150 years), statehood for Texas, statehood for California, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and the "ugliness of the election." Finally, Allen bowed her head and solemnly said, "We pray we are on your side, God, but also that you are on our side."
It was a sweet thought: Is the California GOP leading God or vice versa? What she mumbled next—something about national unity—was drowned out by the impatient drink orders at the nearby no-host bar. A twentysomething fellow drinking simultaneously from two cocktails shouted, "Fuck, yeah!" when a glassy-eyed Congressman Dana Rohrabacher grabbed the microphone. "That's Dana," the guy said excitedly to his buddy who was also drinking two cocktails. "Cool," his friend replied.
In politics, there are few images funnier than Rohrabacher; nothing—not even an angry Bob Dornan—tops an apparently intoxicated Rohrabacher wearing a red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam hat and a drunk's smile. He grabbed the podium with both hands and stared at the overflow crowd as if trying to focus. Before he hooted and danced around the stage, Rohrabacher screamed, "We just saved America! . . . Kick ass! . . . America is back! Bin Laden is history!"
Next up was a pale, unnaturally slim Newport Beach Congressman Christopher Cox, who flashed his famous upside-down smile and tried to be funny. "I heard that Michael Moore is filming a new documentary," he said. The crowd booed and then the nine-term congressman completed his joke: "And it's about how John Kerry won!"
People actually laughed.
"This is a great night for the future of America," Cox said. "Republicans are all about peace, prosperity and security."
Rather than grab his next beer, Rohrabacher wobbled back to the podium.
"What does this election mean?" he yelled. "The people of the United States don't care if the people of Germany and France are behind us. We are totally leading the world to a tremendous tomorrow! It means we're going to keep God in the pledge! People expect honest leadership, and . . . [he looked momentarily lost here] they know where they can go. George W. Bush is back to the White House! The people in Afghanistan are going to enjoy democracy! It's a peaceful world! Thank you for staying strong and giving hope to America! Orange County leads the way. We are leading the country!"
Rohrabacher turned to leave but had a second thought. Pounding his fist in the air, he chanted, "USA! USA! USA!"
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The crowd roared with him. Rohrabacher moved away from the microphone but decided once again on a final thought: "We're America's team! God Bless you for all being America's Team."
Rohrabacher then grabbed a startled Cox's hand, held it up triumphantly and screamed something inaudible.
The band tore into something by Led Zeppelin. Rohrabacher celebrated with well-wishers. Cox posed for more than a dozen photos. The elderly Reverend Lou Sheldon—head of the Orange County-based Traditional Values Coalition—walked to the front of the stage, smiled and shook his head.
"What a night!" said Sheldon while he swiveled his hips and bobbed his head to the rhythm of the rock song. "Weeeeeeeeeeee! "