Early in his political career, Dana Rohrabacher hailed himself as a term-limits champion for federal politicians and spoke passionately about the inherent evils of one person staying in power for an extended period of time.
Fast-forward 20 years: Rohrabacher, the conservative Republican seeking an eleventh term in Washington, D.C., is now mute on term limits.
Several election cycles ago—when the congressman still spoke to (okay, yelled at) me, I asked him for an explanation for his change of heart. It was a fair question. But not in Rohrabacher's view.
He was momentarily silent. Then rage seized his face. He squinted his eyes, began poking me in the chest with his finger and ranted about having "bled for this country."
Okay, I admit it: I laughed in his face. And reminded him that he'd evaded military service when the nation's armed forces needed young bodies during the Vietnam War.
Eventually—through what seemed an eternity of incoherent rambling that contained numerous (glowing) references to Ronald Reagan and something indecipherable but angry about a liberal media plot against him, he claimed he'd bled (apparently during a fact-finding trip) in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
What caused his wound? A bullet? A bomb blast? Dry skin? A hangnail? Or had he simply tripped over a rock while inebriated? He declined to say.
Of course, Rohrabacher's deceit on term limits and pathetic attempt to wrap himself in military heroics likely won't be hot topics for voters. That's a shame, because by any objective measure, he's become exactly the kind of entrenched, insulated politician he once derided.
Consider: Sure, he's occasionally bucked the GOP establishment but he routinely accepts campaign contributions from government contractors seeking lucrative federal contracts. He vouches for and parties with crooked lobbyists who operate flagrant con games that milk federal coffers. With a straight face, he blames global warming on dinosaur farts. He recently thought it was a priority to get Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted 1968 murderer of Robert F. Kennedy, to confess to him personally in a bizarre prison visit. He tells citizens who oppose the war in Iraq that he hopes "it's your families that die" in a future terrorist attack.
I don't know if Debbie Cook, Rohrabacher's Democratic Party challenger and the popular mayor of Huntington Beach, can win. She's got an energetic campaign crew that is trying to educate local voters in Huntington Beach, Long Beach and portions of Costa Mesa. But Rohrabacher enjoys a large Republican voter registration advantage in the gerrymandered district, which may help explain why he's so comfortable being a jerk so often.
Will an Obama tide lift her on Nov. 4?
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Who knows? Here's what certain though. If progressives don't open their checkbooks for Cook's campaign, her odds are lousy.
Disclosure reports filed this week at the Federal Election Commission show that Cook raised more money from individuals since July, but still lost the fund-raising war because Rohrabacher nabbed $43,000 from political action committees largely representing right-wing special interest groups.
There's an alarming number for anyone hoping for an upset. Going into the last weeks of the campaign, Rohrabacher reports having nearly $500,000 in cash on hand. Cook? Just $30,000.
—R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly