Did I ever tell you about the time…


Most people living in the 46th Congressional District have their very own Bizarre Dana Rohrabacher story—not something they heard somewhere, but something they experienced themselves. Myself I have several. Browsing through my laptop today I was reminded of one of them, an incident from last summer.

The Congressman had agreed to meet with a few of us to talk about the war in Iraq. We decided, five of us, since the Walter Reed and other related scandals were fresh in the news, to spend at least half our time advocating for better veterans’ healthcare, as Dana had been in the forefront of cutting VA funding.

Also present were Kevin Stendl, a Marine just back from Iraq and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW); fiery young anti-recruitment activist Thu-Trang Tran; the very urbane Jackie Bunnell of Seal Beach Leisure World’s “Senior Patriots Against the War”; and Matthew Holcomb, a young intellectual and screenwriter with anger issues. Matthew had if anything shown up ridiculously over-prepared, with fat spiral binders of material for each of us, and wearing a nice suit.

But, as I could have warned him, Dana only likes to hear himself talk, and he will talk at length on whatever topic pops into his undisciplined mind; he even snapped at us, “I called this meeting, not you!” And he infuriated Matthew with one of his usual tricks: discovering that we hadn’t heard about an obscure vote that had taken place three days earlier where he had approved a measly few million dollars of veterans’ benefits, he bellowed at us, “You people are unprepared! You need to do your homework before you come here!”

Another thing you should be prepared for if you ever talk about the war with Rohrabacher is he will have some hulking bodyguard-looking guy sitting at his side, whom he will introduce as “so-and-so just back from Baghdad.” And whenever Kevin would start describing what he’d been through in the field, Dana would turn to his companion and say, “It didn’t seem so bad to you when you were out there, did it?” and the answer would always come back “No sir, Mr. Rohrabacher, not that bad at all.” (At that point we didn’t realize quite how symbiotic Dana’s relationship with Blackwater was, so it struck all of us after the fact—this was some pampered mercenary who got paid ten times more than Kevin to play cowboy inside the Green Zone, while Kevin was out “rolling and patrolling” the streets of Fallujah watching his buddies get killed. My blood boils even now thinking about it.)

At this point you’re saying, “So what, Vern? Thus far it could be any Republican politician! Where’s the Wacky? Where’s the Demented? Where’s the Dana? We want to laugh, we want to marvel!” And so glad you asked, I was just getting to it: All of a sudden, apropos of nothing, he launched into a five-minute reverie (5 minutes—I was checking the clock!) on how “handsome and good-looking” Bush’s generals are, and how that’s a sure sign of their incompetence. “Have you SEEN how good these guys look?” he continued at length. “Of COURSE they’re just hired for their looks—no wonder the war is going so bad!”

Dazed, none of us could think of a response. Various things went through our minds—the question of which general or generals, exactly, was so great-looking; the question of is it really that uncommon to be both handsome and competent; memories of Vietnam-draft-avoider Dana’s own cameo as a Naval officer in Robert Duvall’s film Gods and Generals, leading to memories of President Bush’s own military-drag escapade on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln; all mixed with the unproven but long-lived and stubborn rumors about Dana’s sexuality.

It is observed that different sorts of people react to traumatic experiences each in their own way. In this case, Jackie took ill for a time, I went back to drinking for a few weeks, Thu-Trang threw herself into her highschool anti-recruiting efforts with redoubled energy, and Kevin we didn’t see again for several months. But I think Matthew reacted most healthily and creatively, going home to create this Photoshop encapsulating his experience:

Matt, if you are out there,
perhaps raging up and down the Los Angeles freeways,
maybe cursing your chronic bad luck with women,
could you please re-do this Photoshop with “Rohrabacher” spelled correctly?

PS. Vote for Debbie Cook! And contribute here!

(or, if you’ve really got some kind of visceral allergy to Democrats,
vote for the clean, mean, Green Tom Lash – you’ll feel good in the morning!)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.