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Robinson, Dornan Act in Hayden Drama : Both Deny Upcoming House Race Helped Shape Their Roles

Times Staff Writer

Democratic Assemblyman Richard Robinson of Garden Grove, a bit peeved at the question, said emphatically Monday that his vote on a move to oust Tom Hayden from the Assembly had “nothing at all” to do with the fact that his November congressional opponent was in town.

Republican Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), who is gearing up for what is expected to be a bruising battle against Robinson this fall, said that his appearance in Sacramento to observe the Hayden vote had nothing to do with politics, either.

Still, the two politicians found time Monday to assail Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), a frequent political target in conservative Orange County--and also give a hint of their forthcoming political contest.

The occasion was an unsuccessful attempt by Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) to oust Hayden from the Legislature on grounds that he had acted “traitorously” by supporting the Communist government of North Vietnam during the U.S. military involvement.

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Dornan, who said he had been asked to watch the Assembly vote after being named Man of the Year during the state convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars here Sunday, was on hand to cheer on Ferguson’s effort.

Meanwhile, Robinson was one of four Democrats who bucked the party leadership on the controversial issue. He voted to allow a roll call on the question of whether Hayden could be removed from the Legislature under a state constitutional provision prohibiting a person who “advocates the support of a foreign government” during “hostilities” from holding a public office.

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) allowed Ferguson to make his case and Hayden to respond, then ruled Ferguson’s motion out of order on grounds that it was based on conduct 20 years ago.

Robinson said his vote Monday was the first time during his 12 years in the Assembly that he had voted against Brown on a parliamentary question.

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A former Marine fighter plane crewman, Robinson said he has felt strongly for years that Hayden’s broadcasts over a Hanoi radio station during the Vietnam War were “demoralizing publicity stunts.”

Robinson declined to label his Democratic colleague “a traitor,” as both Ferguson and Dornan have. But he said Hayden “is guilty at the minimum of giving solace to the enemy.” Not to be outdone, Dornan--who was reportedly restrained by state police when he tried to barge into a Hayden press conference following the vote--used much stronger language.

“He is a traitor, a liar and a coward,” said Dornan. ". . . He counseled with the enemy in every Communist capital in the world.”

Asserting that Hayden had spent two weeks in Hanoi during one of his four trips there, Dornan asked reporters, “Do you think he was playing golf while he was there?”

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Dornan said Hayden never cared about American servicemen who died in Vietnam nor about the hundreds imprisoned there. He said that Hayden had brought the first American war prisoners home after pleading with the North Vietnamese that it would give him “credibility.”

But he said Hayden “never lifted a finger” to aid hundreds of others left behind.

Dornan, who was introduced in the Assembly to the cheers of Republican Assembly members and spectators in the gallery, made his comments during a morning press conference with Ferguson and an appearance before several hundred veterans at a rally outside the Capitol.

The Orange County U.S. representative also made a stir when he tried to enter the Hayden press conference after the vote. As Hayden and Vietnam veterans who support him were talking, Dornan pounded loudly on a wood door, shouting, “I am a member of Congress.”

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Dornan said later that he wanted to attend to see what Hayden had to say and to make sure he was truthful.

For his part, Hayden gave an emotional defense of his Vietnam-era radicalism during the Assembly debate but had little to say during the news conference.

Instead, he introduced 11 Vietnam veterans, who expressed their support of Hayden and denounced his detractors as “right-wing fanatics.”

Among the veterans were Steve Edelman, past state commander of the Jewish War Veterans and regional director of the Orange County chapter of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Charles Liteky, a former Army chaplain and Medal of Honor winner; Peter Cameron, state chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and James Jackson, a former war prisoner released to Hayden in 1967.

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