"Getting to Know You" has been U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's theme song since new areas were added last year to the 48th District that he represents.
Last weekend, he lunched with the Laguna Beach Rotary Club on Friday at Aliso Creek Inn and brunched with the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn. on Saturday at Asada's.
"I am doing my best to visit areas that I had not represented before," Rohrabacher said Saturday "I want to give everyone a chance to ask questions."
Rohrabacher is not known for his reticence even when he is at odds with his own party.
"I have opinions, but I have been known to admit when I am wrong — but only a couple of times," Rohrabacher said with a grin Saturday morning.
He must be doing something right — the voters have reelected the native Californian 13 times.
"He rode the waves in Southern California and makes waves in D.C.," said Laguna Taxpayers Assn. President Martha Lydick, who introduced Rohrabacher at a brunch.
Before he ever stepped foot in D.C., Rohrabacher was a reporter for 10 years, including four years at the Orange County Register, which is how he got a job with then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.
"It was the last year of his governorship and he had decided to run for president," Rohrabacher said. "He needed an assistant press secretary and I was the only Republican they could find in the press corps."
Rohrabacher traveled the campaign trail with Reagan for six months and after the election joined the White House staff as Reagan's principal speech writer, a job he held for seven years.
With Reagan's second term ending, Rohrabacher and another young Republican were out of jobs.
"As Chris Cox and I were walking out to of the White House, we said maybe we should run," Rohrabacher said. "And we did."
It was a big decision for a penniless candidate.
"I had no money, but I had more than 50 pictures of myself with Ronald Reagan," Rohrabacher said. "That was worth more than money and I won in 1988."
He now sits on two of the most influential House committees.
Rohrabacher is the vice chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. And what he has learned in that position hits home in Laguna.
He announced that Lockheed has a design that would reduce the cost of desalinization by 50% to 75%.
Former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman, now a Laguna Beach County Water District commissioner, was intrigued. The district has been involved in a pilot desalinization project for five years, stymied by red tape, she said.
"We can't take the water without 22 governmental agencies' approvals," she said.
To which Rohrabacher replied: "Bureaucracy is the most efficient system to turn energy into solid waste.'
Also of local interest: He reported that reactors have been designed that cannot melt down and emit no wastes.
"But the Department of Energy raised holy hell and is looking at reactors based on old technology," Rohrabacher said.
However, he rolls his eyes at global warming, thinks environmentalists are off base to oppose off-shore drilling and complimented the Taxpayers Assn. on their opposition to the parcel tax to buy lots for green space.
Rohrabacher left no doubt at either event about his position on amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"We should not ever again legalize people who are here illegally," Rohrabacher said at the Rotary luncheon.
"[Supporters of amnesty] say there are 11 million illegal immigrants here — it will be 30 or 40 million and that is not in the interests of my country or my constituents."
Asked if there should be a fast track to citizenship for an illegal immigrant who has made a success of his business and pays $250,000 in taxes, Rohrabacher replied: "There is. It is called get in line first."
No one needs ever to apologize for American's emigration police in Rohrabacher's opinion.
"One million people immigrate here every year — that is more than the rest of the world combined," Rohrabacher said
He faulted Republicans as well as Democrats for the flood of illegal immigrants.
Republicans were in power before Barack Obama was elected and did nothing about the problem, he said. Now some of them are working together on a compromise.
"If it comes to a compromise, I might be willing to say that if an illegal is now able to invest money in a business the way we want, he might be able to stay," Rohrabacher said. "We want the wealth to stay."
Rohrabacher sympathizes with folks who want to come to the United States to better their lives.
"If I were in the same circumstances, I would be trying to bring his family here," he said.
"But my job in Congress is not to watch out for them — my job is to watch out for my constituents."
Rohrabacher said he doesn't hate illegal immigrants, but he does hate illegal immigration and resents being called a racist for his position.
Wearing another hat, Rohrabacher chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.
He is advocating a cooperative effort with Russia to battle "radical Islam." He announced his proposal at the rotary luncheon.
He also voiced his support for intellectual patent rights.
"Inventors, writers and artists should be able to control the benefits of their work," he said.
He is also working on a free trade treaty with the European Union.
"My motto is free trade between free people," Rohrabacher said.
Rohrabacher's District Representative Howard Hills, a Laguna Beach resident, joked that it is too bad that his boss is so ambiguous and never lets people know how he thinks.
Among those at the luncheon: John Campbell, Dr. David Cler, Laguna Beach School District Supt. Shereen Smith, Jerry Immel, Harry Bithell, Grapes for Grads Cochair Jeff Redeker and Zahide Lawrence.
At the brunch: Mayor Kelly Boyd, Councilman Steve Dicterow, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Chamber of Commerce President Michael Kinsman, Ara and Sandy Hovanesian and Frank Ricchiazzi.
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