If GOP Fails, 3rd Party Will Rise

OCT. 28, 2010


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, has taken a long, strange journey to veteran status in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he could soon be heading the House Committee on Science and Technology. He’s campaigning for easy re-election in the heavily gerrymandered 45th Congressional District, which snakes along well-off coastal areas from Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach up to Rancho Palos Verdes.

Stopping by the Orange County Register for a editorial board meeting recently, he touched on many issues, foreign and domestic, including several raised by me. He has been known as the “Surfer Congressman” because of his love for riding the the board since he was a child growing up here in California’s Golden Age in the 1960s. Back in those heady days he was a near-anarchist politically. In the 1970s, he became an editorial writer at the Register.

Striking up a friendship with Reagan family, he joined Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. When the Gipper won in 1980, Dana followed him to the White House as a speechwriter. In 1988, he ran for Congress, won, and has been re-elected ever since. His interests have included Afghanistan, where he supported the “freedom fighters” back in the 1980s, and science and space exploration. His district,  includes large aerospace facilities, including Boeing in Huntington Beach,

He told me he still surfs every morning he’s in California. And he said his view of the world changed six years ago when his wife gave birth to triplets.

GOP takeover of Congress

Dana, as everybody calls him, said that the neighboring congressional race in the 47th District, pitting incumbent Democrat Loretta Sanchez against Republican challenger Assemblyman Van Tran, “is the race to watch” nationally. “If we win there, we will likely take over the House” of Representatives. “This is the quintessential district that was Republican here” until Sanchez won it in 1996, beating incumbent Republican Bob Dornan, who spent much of the year out of the district on a quixotic campaign for president.

“The Asian community and blue-collar Democrats are potential Republican voters” that could win the district for Tran, Dana said.

He said that, if Republicans do take over the House, when their new majority is seated in January they will gain “subpoena and hearing” powers to investigate the administration of President Obama. “The corrupt Chicago machine will be held accountable,” he promised.

I pointed out that the last time Republicans ran the House, from 1995 to 2006, they didn’t exactly follow their promises to cut government; and that, when they were joined by a fellow Republican in the White House, George W. Bush, they even went on a wild spending binge. “Either we will have to perform,” he warned, “or a third party will emerge and both Republicans and the third party will lose in 2012 and the Democrats will be in charge for decades.”

The congressman’s fears are real. Famed forecaster Gerald Celente for a year has been predicting the rise of a “Progressive-Libertarian” third party to respond to the failures of the two major parties to solve America’s problems.

If Republicans stick to their principles, Dana said, “We certainly wouldn’t be bailing out all these industries,” through Bush’s TARP bailout and Obama’s Wall Street bailouts. Striking a populist note, he said, “It’s the greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the financial elites in history.” The massive debts from these bailouts, part of the $13 trillion U.S. government debt, “will be paid for by middle-class kids, who will be working it off for decades.”

I mentioned that his fellow Republicans, Rep. John Campbell of Irvine and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, among others, both had defended the TARP bailout as preventing a global financial collapse. “A lot of people were taken in by it,” Dana said. “I’ve heard it all before. ‘The climate is changing, so we must give the economy to the United Nations.’ Every time they try to do something that is wrong, they try to scare you into doing it.”

He said that “the level of cooperation among Republicans is the highest I’ve ever seen.” And Republicans in Congress now understand that “George W. was taking us in the wrong way in a lot of ways.”

Global-warming hearings

Rohrabacher said that, if Republicans take charge in the House, he has a good chance of becoming chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. If that happens, hearing topics will include, “global warming; how we develop technologies to produce more wealth; and the infrastructure for commercial space exploration.”

Rohrabacher has been in the forefront of building the legal structure for private space exploration, such as his proposal for “zero gravity, zero tax,” under which any profits made outside the earth’s gravitational pull are tax free.

The wars

Both in the White House and Congress, in the 1980s Rohrabacher was a major backer of the Afghan “freedom fighters” as they kicked the Soviets out of that country. Some of the “freedom fighters” then became the Taliban, whom the U.S. now is fighting. Although Dana initially supported the American wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, he since has become skeptical, putting himself at odds with most of his GOP colleagues (as well as with Commander-in-Chief Obama).

“After 9/11, everyone wanted to be part of the team,” he said. “They gave George W. Bush more power than if we had known him longer. He obviously didn’t have a strategic plan in Iraq. It has cost us trillions after trillions of dollars. The same thing in Afghanistan. So I quit voting for funding for Afghanistan. I voted against it last time.”

As he explained in a speech before Congress:

Yes, there are snowballs in hell. I rise in support of amendments 4 and 5. I do so with a heavy heart, as I deeply appreciate the Americans whose lives are in danger in Afghanistan. They are there to protect us against the radical forces of Islam, which used Afghanistan as a base of operations that led to the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, which is almost 9 years ago. After that vicious attack on our civilian population, yes, we cannot let down our guard. However, that does not mean rubberstamping any military operation, even if it does not have a chance of success.

I have been engaged in Afghanistan since the 1980s, and I can state emphatically that if we continue our present strategy in Afghanistan, we will not succeed, and America will eventually be weakened by loss of lives and the expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars.

What works in Afghanistan is what has worked in Afghanistan: Let the Afghans pay the price. Let them do their fighting. Putting American boys in their place is contrary to our national interests, and will not lead to success. Trying to foist upon the Afghan people a corrupt centralized government in Kabul will not work. We need to change strategy instead of putting our people into a meat grinder in the place of Afghans themselves.

Repealing Obamacare

Rohrabacher said the Obamacare medical plan is strongly opposed by Republicans. “But there’s no way we can repeal the health care plan in toto until Obama is gone,” because “the president still has the veto power.” His veto would be sustained in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans, even if they gain a majority on Nov. 2, still won’t have the 60 votes necessary to sustain a Democratic filibuster. “Anything to put in its place would take a three-year period. But we can tweak it as part of independent bills.”

He added, “Health care is such a mishmash of public and private now. It’s so muddled. We’re negating market forces.”

Tax cuts

Congress recessed to campaign for the election without passing a budget for fiscal year 2010-11, which already began on Oct. 1. Unless the lame-duck Democratic Congress passes tax reform before the year ends, taxes will rise sharply on January 1, not just on the rich, but on almost everybody. Dana is optimistic that the new group of “Tea Party”-backed Republicans that will take office in January — assuming Republicans take over the House — will be a major force for cutting taxes.

“The new group of people arriving from the hinterlands will be much more populist,” he said. “If our party doesn’t present an agenda, there could be a split” in GOP ranks. He said what Republicans should do — again assuming they take control — is pass comprehensive tax cuts, “then let Obama step up to the plate and veto it. Let him be the President of No.”

Audit the Fed?

I brought up my favorite issue: currency reform and a return to the gold standard. I asked if he supported Rep. Ron Paul’s call to audit the secretive Federal Reserve Board, which has devalued the dollar from $275 an ounce of gold on 9/11 to more than $1,300 today. “I’ll support it,” Rohrabacher said. “But I’m probably not as focused on that as a big and important goal.”

On the gold standard, he said, “I’m supporting Ron Paul’s position,” but that he also likes another idea, linking the dollar to “a broad spectrum” of commodities, not just gold. In addition to currency reform and tax cuts, he added, “we need to bring down spending both overseas and domestically.”

Horse races

On the statewide races, he said that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiornia “both represent candidates that are better than the Democratic alternative. They both have a shot to win. Both know what they are getting into. They’re coming at this from a different approach than Arnold” Schwarzenegger, the outgoing, putatively Republican governor.

On Whitman’s opposition to Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32, the global-warming bill, Dana said, “That doesn’t speak very well of her. Global warming is one of those frauds foisted on the American people.”

Arnold’s failure

Like a lot of us, he has regrets over the 2003 recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. “I supported Arnold in the recall,” he said of Gov. Schwarzenegger, who won the replacement election during the recall. “It would have been better to let Gray Davis stay in, and let the Democrats take control. Republicans haven’t had any power” in California’s state government “for at least 10 years. If Davis had stayed in office, by now Californians would be ready to turn to a Republican” for governor.

“Arnold needed more depth of understanding, more commitment. He found out what was popular and attached himself to it.” Of Arnold’s seven years in office, Dana said, “It’s a total failure.”

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 20 years, is a reporter and analyst for CalWatchDog.com. His email: [email protected].

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