Rohrabacher's 'Wild' '60s Songs Surface : Counterculture: 'That was then, this is now,' the conservative congressman says of anti-Establishment lyrics being published by Spy magazine.


You can't legislate my morals,

Or anything I do

I can have my pot, or have my girl

Because I'm not screwing you.

No, it's not the coffee-stained text of a long-lost Dylan song, unearthed by a curious janitor.

Nor is it a forgotten outtake from a 1960s leftist manifesto.

Instead, the somewhat strained diatribe against rampant authoritarianism comes from the songwriting archives of Dana Tyrone Rohrabacher, Orange County's own conservative congressman.

The tune--and others of equal note--were written twenty-odd years ago, but captured on tape in 1980 during a freewheeling "greatest hits" performance that Rohrabacher staged for an audience of ex-libertarians and rabble-rousers.

Now Rohrabacher's old lyrics have surfaced in, of all places, Spy magazine, the New York journal of quips, quotes, put-downs and pastiche. In the magazine's October issue, Spy writer Alan Pell Crawford, who obtained a copy of the tape, lays out the early Rohrabacher oeuvre, inviting readers to relive the dawn of the Revolution in words and music.

I'm Jack Webb and I patrol the gay bar

I trap 'em in the act, and show 'em my star.

So if you get robbed while I'm on my beat

At least you're not being bothered by a queer in the street.

The young Rohrabacher's choice of targets--the police, the military and politicians--may seem ironic to those who know him as a right-wing representative who has strongly supported the Gulf War, drug testing of congressional staffers and tough new crime statutes.

But the 45-year-old congressman, who still keeps a guitar in his Capitol Hill office, said Friday that it's simply of case of "that was then, this is now."

"I wrote some pretty wild-eyed songs back in the late '60s," an unruffled Rohrabacher said. "I don't have any apologies. . . . That's the time when you're supposed to be wild, when you're in college and young."

A 1965 graduate of Palos Verdes High School, Rohrabacher attended what is now Cal State Long Beach. In 1967, Rohrabacher served as California chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, and became an active libertarian. Some former acquaintances have said he flirted with the philosophy of anarchy.

"Let me put it this way," the congressman said Friday. "I was opposed to all government authority. People associate violence and chaos and all these other words with anarchy, so I think it would be better to call myself a wild-eyed libertarian."

By the late 1970s, Rohrabacher had gone to work as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register. "I was maturing," he said, "and I became a very patriotic person again." A longtime supporter of Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher took a job in 1981 as a speech writer in the Reagan White House. He was first elected to Congress in 1988.

Rohrabacher is expected to defeat Democrat Patricia McCabe in the new 45th Congressional District.

It's the politician's job to watch his flock

With FBI, IRS, with drug laws and no-knock

You must obey the laws, yeah that's democracy

And all of this would pass away, if we had anarchy. This is not the first time that a national magazine has probed Rohrabacher's past. Two years ago, the New Republic quoted former acquaintances, only one of whom was identified, as saying that Rohrabacher used marijuana, hashish and LSD as a young man. One of the magazine's sources, Gene Berkman, later repeated the allegations to The Times, adding that he was present when Rohrabacher and others took LSD at Disneyland in 1970. Berkman said Rohrabacher stopped using drugs in the early 1970s.

Rohrabacher has never admitted nor denied past drug use, saying in 1990 that "I don't think any mistake I made in my personal life as a young person is anybody's business but my own."

When the New Republic article was published, Rohrabacher blamed the attack largely on the strong position he had taken against federal funding, through the National Endowment for the Arts, of art projects that he and others considered indecent.

There's bureaucracy,

It takes a lot of generals to keep us free

With shiny shoes and medals on their chests

They're protectin' us from behind their desks.

Oh a million dollars is a damned cheap plane

But it still gets me to my golf game

Oh, I need a caddy, I know what I'll do

I'll ask Congress, and they'll draft you.

If Rohrabacher was a Pentagon basher in the 1960s, he had certainly changed his tune by the 1980s. A more recent composition, penned during the days of the Iran-Contra scandal, was a deeply sympathetic appraisal of then-Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North, who worked for the National Security Council. It was called "White House Blues."

I work at the White House, at NSC

Why is everybody pickin' on me?

I just tried to help the Contras while on a Mideast cruise

And now I'm sitting in the White House, singing the White House blues.

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