O.C. Congressmen Cheer--and Jeer : Politics: GOP delegation speaks well of Clinton inaugural, except for Dornan who stays home.

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What does the politically correct Orange County congressman do on the day that William Jefferson Clinton, acknowledged Democrat and suspected liberal, becomes the 42nd President of the United States?

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), usually one of Clinton’s toughest critics, bit the bullet. He not only attended the swearing-in ceremonies at a Capitol awash in winter sunlight and 250,000 spectators but opened his office to constituents, mainly Democrats, who were in town for the inaugural.

And with apparent effort, he held his tongue. “I don’t want to be in the paper saying negative things about (Clinton) the first day,” Rohrabacher allowed. “All the Republicans, including yours truly, Dana Rohrabacher, were applauding Bill Clinton and wishing him well.”


Well, almost all the Republicans.

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) was at the Capitol, sitting behind Clinton and outgoing President Bush during the hourlong inauguration ceremonies. So were Reps. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), who represents Yorba Linda, and Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), whose district includes South County.

But one member of the Orange County delegation didn’t make it downtown. In fact, he didn’t even watch Clinton’s 14-minute inaugural address on television.

“I’m sitting here getting an early jump on my income taxes,” Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) said from his suburban Virginia home.

“As much as I love history, I could not physically watch a decorated Navy combat carrier attack pilot passing on the torch to a draft dodger,” Dornan said of the transfer of power from Bush to Clinton. “I just couldn’t watch it live. For historical purposes, maybe I’ll watch it in the next day or so.”

Dornan, who served as a peacetime fighter pilot in the Air Force in the 1950s, was one of Clinton’s harshest critics during the presidential campaign. Shortly before the election, he made a series of late-night speeches on the House floor in which he attacked the Arkansas governor for a trip he made to Moscow as a student in 1969, suggesting that Clinton had been used by the Soviet secret police.

Clinton returned the favor during the campaign, at one point telling reporters: “Every time I see Dornan, he looks like he needs a rabies shot.”


Not that it’s anything personal, Dornan said: “I think the world of George Bush and I think a lot less of Bill Clinton.”

But at least some of the conservative Republicans who listened to Clinton’s inaugural address said they came away impressed.

“It was an American speech rather than a partisan speech,” Cox said. “The (new) President was very gracious to the outgoing president, and for a Republican, that was very moving.”

Cox himself has sniffed the spirit of bipartisanship. Either that or he has concluded that mad-dog tactics may not get Republicans very far in the 103rd Congress.

In any event, the Newport Beach congressman was instrumental in helping Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Howard Adler nail down swearing-in tickets for many of the 75 local Democrats who traveled to Washington this week. Each member of Congress was given 21 tickets for seats, and 177 tickets for the standing sections. Demand far outstripped supply.

“This is, after all, the inauguration of a Democratic president,” Cox said. “And while people of all stripes are making the trek back here, without question the overwhelming majority are partisan Democats, and it’s my job to represent them too.”


Royce, who is beginning his first term in Congress, said he also thought Clinton gave a good speech. “It didn’t touch on some of the specifics,” Royce said, but added, “It was uplifting. He focused on home and the future. . . . Whenever a new President is inaugurated Americans are always hopeful.”

Kim liked the speech, but he was less sanguine about the way some of the new President’s staff members have handled inaugural planning.

“There are a lot of parties going on these last couple of nights, but Republicans aren’t invited,” Kim groused. He finally landed an invitation to a reception Wednesday night for Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), who oversaw congressional inaugural activities, and said he would use the opportunity to have a chat with Ford.

“I’ll tell him I’m a little disappointed (about) all the other parties. . . . I hope they quit playing partisan games, (and) invite us to a fancy dinner party.”

The guest list blues didn’t afflict Royce. He had vowed that he and his wife, Marie, would not attend any Democrat-sponsored events that carried a price tag. So when the Clinton supporters fanned out across Washington Wednesday night heading for the $125-a-ticket inaugural balls, where were the Royces?

At the Fourth Reagan Inaugural Celebration, of course, an event sponsored by misty-eyed Reaganites who call themselves the Committee for the Restoration of the Presidency.