Photo by Jack GouldIt wasn't easy to miss Dana Rohra bacher at the Republican Party's election-night shindig at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach. His shiny gold tie accentuated the congressman's gray pants, gray windbreaker and white button down shirt. When the beaming Rohra bacher wasn't posing for pictures with adoring GOP housewives, he shook hands with men who wore crests on their blue suits or with gangly, pimpled kids sporting YAF buttons. "We just saved America," Rohrabacher told the Weekly. "And the party's on!"
That was about 11:30 p.m., and the TV networks had, in their on-again-off-again declarations, named George W. Bush the next president. The mostly Cau casian crowd burst into a chant: "Bush! Bush! Bush!" An elderly gray-haired man drinking a Heineken jumped up on a table and repeatedly punched his right fist into the air. Two screaming women dressed in red stood on chairs and shamelessly wiggled their massive rumps. Red-faced local Republican Party chairman Tom Fuentes waved a Bush-Cheney placard and winked at several people in the crowd. A prematurely balding yuppie—who had earlier spilled Merlot on his khakis—yelled into his palm-sized cell phone, "I'm at Orange County Republican Headquarters, and it's fucking crazy." A strikingly handsome boy —who couldn't have been older than 15 but who wore an expensive, perfectly tailored Armani suit—hugged his girlfriend and revealed braces when he howled, "This is way cool."
Onstage, Rohrabacher had a message for the "liberal Left," but the band cut him off with a slightly off-key rendition of an anti-establishment 1970s rock song. He tried again: "Just in case the liberal Left thinks . . ." The band continued, oblivious. The music abruptly stopped, however, when an uptight GOP official gave the finger-across-the-throat signal. Rohrabacher shrugged his shoulders, laughed and said, "Uh, surf's up, America!"
Rhonda—the Huntington Beach congressman's wife who is now performing community service for past election crimes and apparently has no say in her husband's wardrobe choices—stood nearby receiving hugs and high-fives from other young Republicans. "Inauguration party, baby!" she said in a deep voice oddly reminiscent of a girls' high school PE coach. "Inaugura tion baaaaaaaaaaaaby!"
Nearby, Darrel Issa, the San Diego car-alarm magnate who will replace retiring Congressman Ron Packard, was near speechless. All he could think to say was, "You ain't seen nothing yet." He could have said, "Tastes great, less filling" and this crowd still would have applauded.
However, the local man of the night was undoubtedly Newport Beach Con gress man Chris Cox, who sailed (as expected) to easy reelection. Surrounded onstage by dozens of GOP candidates and officials, Cox stood at the microphone, licked his cosmetically enhanced white false front teeth and accepted applause without saying a word.
"This is the first time since 1954 and Dwight Eisenhower that we are going to have a Republican government in Wash ing ton," said the seven-term congressman before giving his wife, Rebecca, a 1950s-style peck on the ear. "We are going to have an incredible session of Congress."
Many in the crowd raised their wine glasses and beer bottles and cheered wildly.
"Tax relief," shrieked Cox, adopting the fractured speech style of Bush and his daddy.
Glasses and bottles went up vigorously again.
"Tonight, 275 million Americans have been admitted in the top 1 percent," said Cox, who, throughout his congressional career, has pushed for colossal tax breaks for the multimillionaires who live in his coastal district but has seen no reason to reduce suffocating payroll taxes on the middle and working classes. "There will be tax relief for everyone."
Earlier in the evening in the hallway outside his hospitality suite, Cox feasted on the local daily press corps. Reporters tossed him inane questions. A straight-faced Martin Wisckol—political reporter for The Orange County Register—asked, "Does George W. Bush in the White House help California Republicans, and how so?" The question drew a smile on Cox's face, and he replied with all the seriousness he could muster, "Oh, yeah." Wisckol dutifully jotted down the answer.
Another Wisckol question with a laughably incorrect premise: What are your thoughts on the Republicans being outspent four to one by the Democrats?
"Well," said Cox slowly. "It's not helpful to be outspent."
And finally from Wisckol: "Do you have any other thoughts on the future of the Republican Party in California?"
Cox began another banal answer and seemed relieved when former Register editorial page editor Ken Grubbs walked by and gave the congressman an excuse to flee.
Later, as the Republican Party's Policy Chairman readied himself from a live interview with OCN, I approached.
"Congressman," I said.
Cox turned my way, walked over and beamed that famous smile. "Yes," he said anticipating another lame question.
"Is there any validity to the rumor that you are interested in vacating your congressional seat to join the Bush cabinet?'
Cox put both hands in his pants pocket and cocked his head to the left. "Well, this is the first Republican Congress in a long time that will have a Republican president," he said. "I can't think of a better job."
I told him that I was sure he liked his job but wanted to know if the rumor was true.
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"Well, I was on the phone today and we are all very excited about what we can do in Congress now," he replied.
I asked the question a third time.
Clearly peeved, but still able to employ that smile, Cox said, "I'm just telling you what my intentions are right now."
Several feet away, four men in suits huddled at a big-screen television and watched ABC News repeat its declaration that Republicans would control the House, Senate and the Presidency. One turned to the others and said triumphantly, "The Democrats are out. Now we're finally going to get an honest government."