With one eye on world affairs and another on a possible U.S. Senate bid, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) begins a five-day stint as the vacation replacement on Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated radio talk show today.
“I couldn’t have picked a better week than this one to be on the radio,” said Dornan, a talk-show host on KTLA Channel 5, KHJ (now KCAL) Channel 9 and KGO-AM radio in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“This is the week that people will be most focused in on foreign policy since the second week in August when the President decided to send in the troops. With the Ides of January (the Jan. 15 United Nations deadline allowing the use of force to oust Iraq from Kuwait) and then the follow-up the next day of people giving their reactions to what we did or didn’t do, it should be fascinating,” he said.
This is the third time that Dornan has filled in for Limbaugh, whose show is heard locally on KFI-AM (640) and XTRA-AM (690) from 9 a.m. to noon. When Dornan first handled the show for five days in mid-July, his guests included President Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
“I may try for that again,” Dornan said late last week. “I don’t think I would want anything more than that. Maybe I’ll go after (Secretary of State) Jim Baker too.”
Dornan’s return to the radio was made possible by Ed McLaughlin, president of the Excellence in Broadcasting Network which owns and produces the Limbaugh program. McLaughlin had been general manager at KGO when Dornan worked there in 1970.
“The expression he used was, ‘Is the fire in the belly still there after 20 years?’ ” Dornan said. “He asked if I’d do the show, and he sat in the studio the first day. After that show, he told me, ‘The fire in the belly is still there. You don’t need me.’ ”
Dornan does not anticipate any conflicts between his congressional and radio duties.
“Because of the gulf debate, I luck out again,” said Dornan, who claimed that he missed no significant votes while hosting Limbaugh’s show in July. “The week will be a no-vote week. The House officially goes in on the 23rd of January. This is the quietest time of the year, when the Democrats are organizing committees and picking subcommittee chairmen.”
Limbaugh likes to boast that his show is the most-listened to in the nation, a claim that is difficult to prove because, unlike television, radio ratings are measured locally and not nationally. Regardless of the numbers, Dornan has noticed one particular benefit to hosting a national, rather than local, show.
“The quality of the calls goes up 1,000% because you don’t have the cat-in-a-tree calls or the water sanitation complaints,” Dornan said. “The bigots don’t seem to mind calling in to a city-oriented show, but they are loathe to make themselves sound foolish before a national audience.”
Sworn in for his seventh congressional term Jan. 3, Dornan has already constructed a detailed scenario for a 1992 U.S. Senate campaign. In 1982, after losing his Los Angeles County coastal congressional seat to reapportionment, Dornan finished fourth in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, receiving 7% of the vote in a race won by now-Gov. Pete Wilson.
In Dornan’s view, Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) will challenge newly appointed Sen. John Seymour in the 1992 Republican primary, forcing other Republican Senate hopefuls to seek the seat being vacated by the retiring Alan Cranston. Dornan sees former Rep. Ed Zschau, who lost to Cranston in 1986 by less than 105,00 votes out of 7.3 million votes cast, making another run.
“Right now it looks like Dornan or (KABC-TV and radio commentator) Bruce Herschensohn against Zschau,” Dornan said. “I don’t want to go into a race with Bruce Herschensohn because we’ll hurt one another and Zschau could sneak by again. These three- or four-way races, where you have all these conservatives and one moderate-to-liberal, they always win.
“When I get together with Bruce, what I’ll say is that Bruce has run once in his life and lost, and I’ve run in 15 congressional or Senate primaries or general elections and I’ve only lost one Senate primary, which I entered a year late and a million dollars short. It really seems to me to be very fair that Herschensohn should defer to me and run for one of the seven new congressional seats.”
However, when told of Dornan’s scenario, Herschensohn declined any interest in seeking a House seat.
"(Senator) is the only office I want,” said Herschensohn, who finished second to Zschau in the 1986 Republican primary. “I have at least the opportunity to influence more on television and radio than I would from the House of Representatives.”
Zschau, the chairman and chief executive officer of Censtor Corp., a San Jose electronics firm, said he is devoting his full time to the business, adding, “It’s really hard to know whether I will be able to be a candidate.”