Over the years, Orange County has carved out a reputation as the homeland of right-wing wackos. From naming an airport after John Wayne to "B-1" Bob Dornan, who would recommend bombing Tahiti if he thought it would get him on Larry King, the O.C. is widely known as the capital of yee-haw California conservatism.
But San Diego's North County is challenging the bad-ass, Wayne Newton-loving white boys of the O.C., staking out its own reputation as a hotbed of the state's right-wing nut-job movement.
It is the North County, after all, that thrust Darrell Issa upon the world, the powermeister of the Gray Davis recall campaign. Republicans decided, upon closer inspection, to pass on Mr. Issa's kind offer to serve as governor, but no one questions the Vista multimillionaire's ability to stick a blade into any issue these days.
The North County is also the motherland for the latest star of the white-toast-and-milk set, Howard Kaloogian, the man behind a newly minted organization called Move America Forward.
Kaloogian, who has the personality of warmed-over broccoli, is best known as a poster child for term limits. He was sitting comfortably in a North County state assembly seat until the law kicked him out, presumably under the idea that now he would have to go out and get a real job.
Instead he ran for Senate, apparently under the impression that California was eager to support a new version of "Fighting Joe" McCarthy. Screeching about the scourge of immigration and the evils of homosexuality, Kaloogian managed to scare even the foaming-at-the-mouth zealots of his own party and was soundly trounced in the primary, grabbing an embarrassing 11 percent of Republican votes.
The voters appeared to send a clear message that it might be time for Kaloogian to start putting in his résumé for that assistant manager opening at Taco Bell. Instead, he moved on to the next stop for failed wacko politicians-talk radio.
Kaloogian now spends his time "leading campaigns" as a self-proclaimed "taxpayer hero," setting up websites and doing whatever he can to get his face on TV. He was one of the first to move to recall Davis, although Issa's better-funded effort eventually received the lion's share of credit.
Undaunted, Kaloogian then set his sights on CBS for daring to air what he labeled "a smear campaign" against Ronald Reagan. When CBS executives whimpered under his onslaught and decided to ship their bland TV biopic off to Showtime, Kaloogian declared victory, crediting himself for smiting Satan's Pawns with his thunderous e-mail campaign.
Kaloogian's zeal and clear absence of shame apparently caught the eye of some of Sacramento's real power brokers. He was soon set up in Move America Forward, which was established as a nonprofit in June with the Big K Man as chairman.
MAF is widely regarded as a front for the Republican lobbying and campaign outfit Russo Marsh and Rogers; firm partner Sal Russo sits on MAF's "board of directors." Both Democrats and Republicans are using these shell groups-a remarkably simple way to avoid new campaign finance laws-although few are as blatantly smarmy as Move America Forward. MAF proclaims itself a "nonpartisan" organization "committed to supporting America's efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces."
The group's first public push to support "the brave men and women of the Armed Forces" was an attack against Asian-American legislators, who had invited scandalized Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee to a luncheon. The subsequent flurry of stories did little to squash the spread of Al-Qaeda, but it did get Kaloogian quoted in a shitload of newspapers.
Next up was the big one, the grand enchilada for a simpleton party toady looking to break into the big-time pundit game-Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Kaloogian jumped in with all his energy and skill, declaring to anyone who would listen that the film was specifically designed to "undermine the United States' war on terrorism," which is, of course, bad-very bad.
Kaloogian kicked it up a notch by accusing Moore of "recruiting" for Al Qaeda and sent out a press release linking the film to the terrorist group Hezbollah, which "would also rally behind this film," Kaloogian proclaimed, calling forth the dogs of Heaven to smite Moore.
God apparently has a sick sense of humor, considering that Fahrenheit 9/11 has earned $100 million at the box office, despite Kaloogian's many appearances on TV and radio. But the campaign was still an unquestioned success, at least for Kaloogian.
It was a bold move. Although there are many ways "to support the brave men and women of the Armed Forces"-say, for example, raising money to buy them more body armor-Kaloogian stepped forward to lead the fight against dangerous movies and testimonial dinners. His efforts must buoy the spirits of the troops, who are likely sitting in their foxholes right now rooting for Kaloogian to become the next Pat Buchanan, in between mortar attacks.
Kaloogian has shown he's ready, willing and able to fire off a quick, spastic, controversial sound bite on demand. Like any brave soldier, he's waiting by the phone, hoping for a call-up to the frontlines of the media war on terror-maybe, dare to dream, even his own show on the Fox News Channel.
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com.