Dana Rohrabacher does something right. Seriously.

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The seas have parted.

The skies have cleared.

Dogs and cats live in tranquility.

The original KISS lineup has reunited.

And Dana Rohrabacher, America’s craziest (and worst) congressman, did something right.

I’m being serious. Earlier today he was one of a small handful of Republican congressmen to vote against the House tax overall. His reasoning: It raised taxes on Californians.

If you’re sitting, stand. If you don’t smoke, have a cigarette. If you never play the lottery, play the lottery. Hell, buy 100 tickets.

Because today is a weird day.

That being said, don’t be fooled. If you know politics, you surely smell what this is: The desperate move of a man in a suddenly tight re-election bid. Rohrabacher is in trouble. Real trouble. And while you can march with neo-Nazis all you please, and praise Donald Trump all you please, and hide behind a door all you please … well, at some point you need to appeal to a wider range of voters.

That’s what this is.

Still, I’ll give him credit. He did the right thing.

Dana Rohrabacher finally steps up

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In case you missed this, earlier today the Washington Post broke the story of Roy Moore, the Republican Senatorial candidate in Alabama, having a history with underage women.

A solid number of GOP officeholders spoke up, insisting that, if the charges are true, Moore should immediately withdraw from the race.

To my great shock, no man or woman spoke with greater ferocity and strength than Dana Rohrabacher.

First, our congressman Tweeted: “I am disgusted by Roy Moore. For the good of America, and out of decency, he most leave the race immediately.”

Then, on Facebook, he wrote this eloquent post: “If there is one thing I believe about America, it is that we must both respect and love one another. Roy Moore, the Republican in name only, clearly violates this 1,000 times over. When I think of him, I think of a man who has no business serving the public, or running for office. We are nothing without our honor, and Roy Moore has none.”

Next, he went on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to bemoan Moore—and, again, demand his departure from electoral politics.

Bravo, Dana Rohrabacher!

Bravo!

Eh, I’m kidding.

He said shit.

But, on the bright side, two weeks ago he prepared Christmas stockings with some Brownies.

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Dana is too crazy for Republicans. Really.

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In case you missed this gem of gems, Dana Rohrabacher no longer has the trust of his fellow Republicans.

According to a report from Sarah D. Wire of the Tribune News Service, Rohrabacher’s congressional subcommittee is being “heavily monitored by GOP leaders” over concerns that out beloved congressman is in cahoots with Russia.

This makes sense—considering our beloved congressman is in cahoots with Russia.

Writes Wire:

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Earlier this year, Royce actually fired Paul Behrends, Rohrabacher’s pal and committee staffer, over concerns about his Russian connections. This infuriated the congressman, though he downplayed any anger to the media.

Sooooo … here’s the thing: If Democrats don’t like Dana Rohrabacher, and Republicans don’t trust Dana Rohrabacher, why is he in office?

Anyone?

Coffee with Omar Siddiqui

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Just had coffee with Omar Siddiqui, the attorney running to overtake Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th District.

At the start of the morning, pre-interview, my biggest issue with Omar Siddiqui is geography. In short, Omar doesn’t technically live in the 48th District. According to a Nexis/Lexis search (the exact same Nexis/Lexis search any opposition research team will use), Omar has resided in a house in Fullerton for years. He also had addresses in La Mirada and, back in the day, Riverside. This is a problem. Potentially a huge problem. Now, when I asked him about it, Omar was—I believe—up front. He’s had an office in Costa Mesa for years and years. It’s where he spends (his words) 99.9 percent of my time. He has a gray couch that he often sleeps on. He identifies with the 48th, he feels the 48th, he loves the 48th. This, from the opening paragraph on his website bio

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Now, does this matter as an actual ability-to-represent-my-interests issue? Eh, probably not. But does it matter in an election. Yes. Not only yes—a seemingly big yes. Were I Dana Rohrabacher, running against Omar, I’d hammer this home time after time after time. I’d pay for ads and flyers that say, in the boldest letters possible, OMAR SIDDIQUI DOESN’T LIVE IN OUR DISTRICT—SO WHY SHOULD HE REPRESENT US? And while Omar will fire back with his lifetime in Orange County, his love of Orange County, the “I spent 99.9 percent of my time here” reasoning … well, it’s a toughie to tackle.

But here’s the thing: Should Omar be able to overcome this, he’s a very impressive guy; and to sit with him is to be in the presence of someone who is smart, who is engaging, who would, undoubtedly, make a strong candidate (again, if he can overcome geography). I don’t need to list the man’s biography (it’s here), but he’s both the most multifaceted and politically connected person in the race. At first I thought some of his James Comey and Barack Obama name droppings were a bit much. But, as Nexis and newspapers.com searches show, they’re legit. He has conversed with the 44th president on multiple occasions. He has worked directly with the FBI. Those are true feathers in the cap; especially when juxtaposed against the image of Rohrabacher playing footsie with Julian Assange. We have several good candidates. Successful businesspeople; well-regarded professors. But Omar’s experience is … different.

We chatted for about, oh, 50 minutes, and the conversation ranged from his identification as a Reagan Democrat (he’s a former Republican who leans more fiscally conservative on some issues) to his dismay over the Trump presidency (Omar says this is the first time he’s woken up, middle of the night, thinking politics) to the complications of running as a Muslim man with the name Omar Siddiqui in a conservative neck of the woods (he thinks people ultimately vote for policy. I tend to agree. We’re not living in Kentucky). The strength of his message is a genuine desire to work with both sides without surrendering his ideals. Omar said that if, tomorrow morning, Donald Trump pledged to support abortion rights and set aside any talk of a Muslim ban, he would applaud the move. That doesn’t mean he’d like Donald Trump—that was emphasized.

It means he’s pro-ideas more than pro-party.

I dig that.

Again, can Omar Siddiqui overcome geography? I don’t know.

Would he have my backing if he winds up a general election candidate? Absolutely.

PS: Omar was accompanied by two employees—a campaign manager and an assistant.  That was an initial turnoff, in that it just felt sorta … corporate. But, to their credit, both were lovely. Plus, after the interview I retreated to the bathroom and noticed a Texas-sized zit atop my lip (I’m eternally 12). None of the three noticeably cringed during coffee. They get huge props for that alone. 🙂

Meet the Candidates: A crazydana analysis

So about an hour ago I returned from the Faith Episcopal Church in Laguna Niguel. That’s where the Aliso Niguel Democratic Club hosted a debate/forum to meet the seven people fighting to run in next year’s 48th Congressional District general election against Dana Rohrabacher.

On a whole, I thought it was a pretty solid event. The room was packed—which was awfully encouraging. People were polite, deferential, informed. The six men and one woman were given a full four minutes to speak at the start, which was probably a bit long (for some reason, folks running for office always feel the need to milk every second. It’s often a mistake), but ultimately fine. The Q&A session that followed was a mixed bag. An inordinate amount of time was devoted to a potential military draft (predictably, none of the seven want one), while precious little attention was spent answering the most important question of 2017: How do you beat a 28-year Republican incumbent in a district that still leans heavily toward the right?)

Anyhow, it proved to be a solid opportunity to size up the candidates. So here, based on my observations, lies the best-to-worst rankings from the night …

• 1. Harley Rouda: So I met Harley for breakfast several months ago, and came away with mixed feelings. I liked him, I thought his heart was in the right place. But I couldn’t tell how well versed he was on issues, and whether his background (Ohio, not California) would hurt. Well, he sorta owned tonight. Harley has a presence—a factual presence. He speaks clearly, he stands straight, he looks like the president of a bank. When he referred to Donald Trump as “a madman … a threat to world security,” people felt the rage. Is he liberal enough for far-left Dems? Maybe not. But do the optics work when he stands next to Dana Rohrabacher? Yes. Can he hold his own in a debate setting? Based on this evening—also yes.

• 2. Michael Kotick: Throughout the early stages of this race, a solid 95 percent of the attention has been devoted to Rouda, Hans Keirstead and Laura Oatman. Among other things, that means guys like Kotick have sorta slipped beneath the radar. Well, tonight the 34-year-old Nestlé executive emerged. I found Kotick to be energetic, smart, extremely informed and articulate. Late in the evening the candidates were asked by a high school student to name what they considered to be the greatest threat to America. There were varied replies, most of them flat and predictable. Kotick’s statement, however, morphed into this poignant address on how we, as Democrats, need to stop bashing folks who voted for Trump, and instead work on wooing them. For my money, it was the moment of the night.

• 3. Laura Oatman: I met Laura for the first time earlier today, at Starbucks, and I walked away impressed. I thought she really soared through the first, oh, 40 percent of the event—then dropped precipitously. In particular, three of the candidates were asked a question related to the FAA, and planes flying inappropriate patterns as they leave Orange County. Both Rouda and Keirstead deftly offered their takes. Oatman, meanwhile, admitted she really didn’t know much about the problem. This was both honest and (to be blunt) unfortunate. People tend to hate politics because the practitioners are deemed full of shit. But sometimes you do (factually) have to bullshit your way through an answer. This was one of those moments.

Oatman also went on a bit of a riff on how, with women in charge, things work out better. Which may well be true. In fact, it probably is true. But those sort of lines, while good for quick applause, don’t fly in a general election when 50 percent of your voters are male.

Bright side: She owned climate change and spoke passionately about her desire to run out of love for Orange County. Those were stirring (and important) moments.

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• 4. Omar Siddiqui: Really interesting candidate with the most unique background of the bunch. Throughout the election I’ve repeatedly heard Siddiqui referred to as a “Reagan Democrat,” and (just being honest) I cringe. I mean, on the one hand, whoever runs against Dana Rohrabacher will have to be moderate. This is non-negotiable—you can’t win the 48th with a granola-eating, John Denver-quoting, Bernie Sanders-immitating uber liberal. I wish you could, but we’re not there yet. So perhaps “Reagan Democrat” is OK. But … well … um … when the phrase was uttered, you felt a cold shudder in the room. You just did. Stylistically, I also didn’t love his need to stand with every answer, as the other candidates sat. It felt rehearsed and inauthentic.

That all being said, Siddiqui has worked as a private advisor and consultant to the FBI, and he was the only person in the room able to name drop personal encounters with Barack Obama and James Comey. That kind of thing matters, especially when you’re running against a congressman who’s been around since the heyday of Juan Samuel and the Cabbage Patch Kid.

• 5. Hans Keirstead: So I’ve now seen Keirstead twice, and I’m increasingly confident that the Democratic National Committee—which seems committed to backing Hans as its candidate of choice—is making a mistake. Resume? Check. Money? Check. Turns invisible in a room? Check. I’m not trying to be mean, because he seems like a lovely guy. But Keirstead was barely noticeable, even though he sat in the front of the room. He also tends to answer in long, winding statements and sentences. When asked to name America’s top threat, he said, “Macroeconomic destabilization of the country.” And while this is, in fact, a valid thought, it’s also one that leaves 75.7 percent of the folks in any room collectively scratching their heads.

In short, he’s quickly becoming the Jeb Bush of this race. That needs to change.

• 6. Tony Zarkades: Of the seven people on the stage, this is the one I’d choose to have a beer with. That said, I’d also enjoy a beer with George W. Bush.

Zarkades goes by “Tony Z.” That’s mistake No. 1—it comes off amateurish. I’m selecting a congressman, not my son’s flag football coach. Mistake No. 2—he just didn’t seem to have a strong grasp on the specifics of issues. These sort of events can by dry and sleep-inducing, but they do serve to expose people who might not be ready for the majors. Tony Z was entertaining, sincere, dogged, funny. But I couldn’t imagine voting for him over the five other prime candidates.

• 7. Boyd Roberts: I mean … um … eh … I’ll just leave it with this: His stated goal is to have 100 percent of Orange County voting blue.

My stated goal is to fly to Jupiter in five minutes powered by Coca Cola and Thin Mints.

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Coffee with Laura Oatman

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So a few minutes ago I wrapped up an hour-long coffee chat with Laura Oatman here at the Starbucks in Laguna Niguel.

Laura, for those who might not know, is running for the 48th congressional seat. By the relatively meaningless crazydana.com rankings of likely Democrats to unseat the awful Dana Rohrabacher, she’s hanging a strong third, behind (but not all that far behind) Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda.

Were I breaking it down (which I suppose I’m about to do), it’d go something like this:

Pros:

• The only serious Democratic candidate who has lived her entire life in Southern California. If I’m Oatman, I milk that and milk that and milk that. It matters. It’s what representation is supposed to be about. This isn’t a gig for the person with the most dough. It’s a gig for the person with the most love and interest in his/her community. Harley isn’t from here. Hans isn’t from here. Laura is from here. This is her turf. She raised her kids here. Built a business here. She can make that pitch—convincingly.

• Self-made businesswoman who, after losing her architecture job during the economic downturn of the mid-2000s, started her own firm from scratch. Which she still runs. Generally speaking, people relate with the “self-made” designation. As they should.

Extremely personable. And that’s not code for “She’s a woman” or “Only female candidate.” Laura has a natural warmth to her that shines in one-on-one conversation. It’s easy to see her owning a room. It’s easy to see her as a striking contrast to the ornery, awkward, somewhat-senile-and-odd Rohrabacher.

• Very strong on environmental issues.

• Seems willing to slug it out with Dana Rohrabacher, need be. This is a major weakness for Keirstead, who seems reserved and a bit guarded. Oatman projects a certain toughness. Not a “fuck you” toughness, but a “I don’t need to take your shit” toughness.

Cons:

• Dough. Or lack thereof. Which doesn’t mean Laura hasn’t succeeded in raising campaign money. No—it means she’s not as independently wealthy as Keirstead or Rouda. And while it sucks that this is a factor, well, it’s a factor. Races that once cost $75,000-to-$100,000 to run now cost (bare minimum) $750,000-to-$1 million. Can Laura raise that? Certainly possible. But it does help to know certain folks already have it in pocket.

• Very strong on environmental issues: Weird, right? Because I just listed this as a pro. But here’s the thing—environmental issues are the ultimate double-edged sword. To win the 48th a candidate will have to (100% have to) steal Republican/right-leaning votes. And, generally, Republican voters focus on business before trees, air, water. So while one can be pro-environment, she/he also has to be pro-business and sound pro-business. There’s an awkward crossover there.

• Vegan: Laura is vegan. Which I applaud. And this might sound like a dumb criticism. But there’s an imagery Democrats have to overcome, especially in right-leaning areas. And it’s the whole granola, “Free to be You and Me,” let’s-all-hold-hands-and-hug mojo that (stupidly) causes some Republicans to say, “Uhg, enough with this touchy-feely shit.” I’m not sure if I’m being clear here, but it’s true. What Dana Rohrabacher does well is speak plainly, boldly, Republican-ly. “We need to stop immigrants! We need to build up the military! Force! Bluster! Bluster! Force!” It’s maddening, but the simplicity of message and tone resonates. So … there’s a line to walk.

•••

My conclusion: Right now, Laura Oatman is the Ross Perot (circa 1992) of the Democratic field. Would I bet my house on her win? No. Would I feel comfortable betting my house that she doesn’t win? Also no.

She’s a potentially strong candidate whose local ties stand out. She has yet to break through.

But I think she might.

And can.

 

Dana and Nazi sympathizers

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A symbol that doesn’t much seem to bother our congressman

Crazy—and true—new report from forward.com.

Dana Rohrabacher, the same man who attended a Huntington Beach march with Neo Nazis, recently brought Charles C. Johnson, a well-known Holocaust denier, to a meeting with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

This, from the article:

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To be clear: I don’t take Nazi symbolism lightly. I would never throw it around, use it to exaggerate, pretend someone has leanings they don’t. For example, I think Donald Trump is a crumb and a nightmare. Do I think he admires Nazis? No.

This, however, is different.

This is Dana Rohrabacher.

There are things worth using in 2018.

Repeated associations with Nazi sympathizers is one of them.

A big one.

Dana Rohrabacher on health coverage

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Marvin Hagler (right) treated Tommy Hearns like Dems need to treat Dana on health care

Now that Donald Trump has gone all in into dismantling Obamacare, it’s time for people to pay attention—close attention—to Dana Rohrabacher on the issue.

For the most part, ol’ Dana has stayed out of the debate. He talks tons about Russia and  surfing and surfing and Russia, but few are the statements from our congressman that concern overturning the health care law.

Why? Simple. Because, for him, it’s a big loser. The vast majority of Californians like Obamacare. Poll after poll shows this. So the worst thing Rohrabacher can do is dive headfirst into a debate he loses.

Which is why we need—need need need—to force his hand.

There are winning issues and losing issues in the 2018 election. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about town halls. Why? Because the vast majority of denizens don’t really care. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about Donald Trump’s personality. Why? Because while most people don’t enjoy Trump’s in-your-face antics, that (in and of itself) has little to do with Dana Rohrabacher. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about taxes. Why? Because he’ll just brag about tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. And people like the language, even if the implementation stinks.

So where are the vulnerabilities? Well, there’s certainly his lack of bills. There’s certainly his weird obsession with Russia. There’s certainly his kooky and erratic behavior. There’s certainly his stupidity over the environment.

And there’s health coverage.

As people start to lose protections, Rohrabacher will stammer and shrug and try to distance himself from the fray. Well, that can’t happen. In boxing (to use a sports metaphor), you don’t let an opponent breathe. You hit him, you charge forward, you hit him again. You slug the ribs, then the gut, then the ribs again. You don’t let him regain his footing.

That’s Dana Rohrabacher. Health care is a slippery slope.

Push him.

I don’t feel great about Hans Keirstead

Earlier tonight I attended a meeting of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club. It was my first time at their gathering, and the scene was fantastic. Mostly filled seats, free snacks and an uplifting optimism in the error era of Donald Trump.

What had most of the attendees jazzed was a scheduled appearance from Hans Keitstead, considered by many to be the person who will offer the greatest challenge to Dana Rohrabacher in next year’s District 48 congressional race. Keitstead is a smart, successful, handsome scientist who is known to many as one of the world’s leading innovators in stem cell research. His bio is impressive; his individual wealth important. Even though there are nearly a dozen men and women running to snag Rohrabacher’s seat, the Democratic National Committee had already deemed Keitstead its brightest hope. That’s why they are putting a good chunk of money behind his candidacy—and none behind any of his opponents.

I digress.

Keitstead had to cancel a live showing tonight because he’s in Washington, D.C. So he Skyped in, apologized and spoke to the assembled folk for, oh, 20 minutes.

And he was bright.

And he was devoted.

And he was overflowing with conviction.

And he was …

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

… so boring and uninspired.

I know. I know. This sounds awful, and we need to support our own. But Hans Keitstead was making a first impression to most of us in the room, and it was dry as toast; dull as cardboard; flat as Velveeta. After introducing himself, he spoke at length about the value of health insurance, and told the inspiring story of someone who can now walk after being certain he never would. The tale was plenty fantastic, but (again, being honest) I kept thinking, “What the hell does this have to do with winning my vote?” I can’t speak for everyone, but a whole bunch of folks looked to be paying more attention to their phones than Keitstead. No good.

This is a big problem, because to overcome Rohrabacher (a man as cagey as he is nutso) one must come armed with more than an inspiring story and a smooth stump speech. Nope—he must arrive with a sword. A big sword. He must be willing to chop Rohrabacher to bits; to show (repeatedly) that our congressman is equal parts crazy and unaccomplished; batshit loco and callously indifferent. It sucks, but we won’t win this thing solely on the basis of better ideas. No, no, no. We need better ideas mixed with nonstop reminders that Rohrabacher belongs inside a straight jacket.

Hans Keitsetad struck me as polite and kind. Those are virtues I want in a friend, in a relative, in a representative. But, in a candidate in 2018, I need more.

Much more.

Right now, I’m not convinced he has it.