Mr. Fuentes: Letters to the Most powerful Republican in Orange County
April 28, 1999
Tait & Associates
701 N. Park Center Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
In January , you were re-elected as chairman
of the Orange County Republican Party for the 14th consecutive year.
the man in charge!
brings me to a small favor I'd like to ask: I'm collecting autographed
of famous Orange County
celebrities — you
Nixon, Joey Bishop, John Schmitz, Dennis Rodman, Steve Martin,
Diane Keaton, Tommy Lasorda. I'd like to include you in what
I call "my
own private pantheon."
might be asking yourself, "Why
me? Why Tom Fuentes?"
be so modest. As the local GOP chairman in the 1980s, you were
held every elected office
I can't name an organization in the free world with that
record of total domination! Of course, these days, we have a few
here — Loretta Sanchez-Brixey, Lou "The Puppet" Correa
and Joe Dunn. But I'm sure you're working on ways to punch
lights out in the next election.
You're the toastmaster,
the kingmaker, and the boss of one of the biggest and
most important Republican counties in
But enough about you. My name is Nathan Callahan.
I've lived in Orange County for 30 years, and I write for the OC Weekly. Don't
throw you, Mr. Fuentes. The Weekly is more
conservative than you might think. Have you read my
More Reason to Hate Bill Clinton"? You should.
I'm not claiming to have your conservative résumé,
but I actually shook hands with Nixon when I was 5 years
old. (He looked right at me.) And because my grandfather
was secretary of the Reserve Officers Association of
America, my family
welcomed guests like Strom Thurmond to our Southern
California home. Strom used to call me "Little
Anyway, if you could see it in your heart
to send me an autographed photo, I'd be delighted. You
it anyway you want.
If, however, you're drawing a blank on what to write,
To my buddy Nathan,Scientia est potentis. Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
case you're wondering, "scientia
est potentis" is Latin
for "knowledge is power." And you've got
plenty of both.
Here's to you, Mr. Fuentes. Congratulations
again. I'll be checking
my mailbox for your 8-by-10 glossy.
May 12, 1999
Dear Mr. Callahan,
you for your kind letter. . . .
While I do not have a photo to offer, I would
enjoy talking with you over lunch when your calendar permits.
Please call me at (714) 560-8200.
May 30, 1999
I've got some great news! After I received
your letter, I visited the Weekly offices
after-hours and snooped around.
Guess what? I found a great shot of you in their computer photo
I printed it out on some glossy
paper, and you look sharp. You're
in a silver-toned sharkskin kind of jacket-just the right
background to sign your name on. You'll find
it enclosed in this envelope. So
how about that autograph?
Mr. Fuentes, you ought to consider keeping a few photos of yourself
on hand for admirers. When I told
Mike — who's a political consultant — about your photo
situation, he laughed. Mike said that
maybe the Republican Party couldn't
Fuentes glamour shot. I thought he was just trying
to be a smart-ass, but, no, he was half-serious.
He said an Orange County Republican
Party splinter group — New Directions — is trying to unseat
you. Mike said they're
a bunch of fat cats who think
you're "a far-right-wing,
good old boy." Ouch!
of these New Directions kooks
withholding donations to your
party in an attempt to leverage
They'll never be successful.
You're too clever
for them. Mike told me a lot about
you. Catholic school. The 1960
Richard Nixon (Protestant) vs.
John F. Kennedy (Catholic). You
the only student at your Catholic
who wasn't a JFK supporter.
Nixon was the one for you. Boy,
could you separate church from
I bet you had mixed emotions
was elected the first Catholic
that takes guts. I told Mike that
he was 100 percent wrong
about you and the photo
and the money. I figure the demand
for Tom Fuentes photographs is
so high that you just ran out
But all this
got me wondering if you hated
the quote I picked out. Maybe
why you didn't send me a photo.
not be your favorite form
of expression. Not to worry. I
found another, more appropriate
me explain. Eight years after the Kennedy
victory, you went on
to become a renowned local political
fund-raiser, and Nixon went on
to become president. When he visited
County, you were master
of ceremonies at the Republican
Party Richard Nixon Presidential
Shebang. The event was a huge
Nixon loved your professionalism
style. "I have never had
an MC handle the occasion better," he
an inspiration he was for you. When you listen to Tom
Fuentes, the Los Angeles Timesonce
your eyes and you will hear precisely
the enunciated cadences of R.N."
I found a quote for the photo
from Nixon's second term. It's
something I imagine Tom Fuentes
would say, too:
Nathan: Nixon said, "The tougher
it gets, the cooler I get." Stay
cool. Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
do you think? Go ahead. Pick up
pen. Be cool. Sign the photo.
Oh, by the way, thanks for the
lunch offer. I must apologize.
July 27, 1999
I looked at my calendar
today and realized that it has
been almost two months since I
the photo to autograph.
up with the U.S. mail!? Man, is
this another example of the government
incompetence you rail against
I bet they lost the package.
You'd think the post office would
be more careful, especially after
they raised the rates. I found
your photo again
at the OC Weekly.
This time, though, I Photoshopped
the pope in next to you and enclosed
two copies-one for me and one
My friend Tim gave me the idea.
Tim (he's Catholic, too) told
me that in 1977, you began a 12-year
stint as spokesman for the Catholic
of Orange (kind of like
the pope's PR guy for Orange County).
You had already been the president
of the Young Republicans at Chapman
and Santa Ana Colleges and an
assistant to an Orange County
By 1981, you
were serving as the local Republican
Party's vice chairman. Then, in
ran for the chairmanship.
you were a campaign monkey. Everyone
on the Republican Party Central
list got a phone call from
you. You must have really worked
the Reagan angle to persuade party
members that their presiding chairwoman,
Lois Lunberg (a moderate!),
should be replaced with Tom Fuentes
Just weeks away from Election
Day, you received an invitation
of Panama for an all-expenses-paid
trip to the Vatican to meet the
pope. Jesus, Mary and Joseph (can
that?), I'm not Catholic,
but I bet the chance to hobnob
with God's messenger on Earth
a real honor.
Your head must have
buzzing. You were ready
to bag the party leadership AND
go mano a mano with the pope-all
in the same week.
Then came the
news. It turned out that
the flight from Rome wouldn't
arrive in Orange County until
after the election. You were so
to lead the Republican Party
that you couldn't take a chance
on leaving town and coming back
So you blew off the pope!
turned out, your wife went to
Rome, and you kicked Lunberg's
whoopee cushion. Way to go!
made the right decision. After
all, what could the pope do for
your political career in Orange
County? Which brings
me to this photograph. I don't
if you've met the pope since,
but I thought you'd appreciate
a photo with the two of you together-even
if it is make-believe. (I scanned
the pope off a holy card.) As
of the photo, Tim
suggested you sign it:
Who's that guy standing next to
me? Your friend, Tom Fuentes.
Ha. Tim has
a serious case of corn.
Truthfully, whatever you write
will be great as long as you autograph
There's one more thing I've
to ask: you were a spokesman for
the diocese and the chairman of
the Republican Party at the same
time for four years. Did you ever
think you did. Do you remember the time you sent uniformed
security guards to Santa Ana polling
places on election day in 1988?
What was THAT about? You said
you wanted to protect the "sanctity
of the ballot" by
making sure there was no illegal
voting, but all you did was piss
off a whole
demographic of Latinos and give
Curt "Poll Guard" Pringle
(your candidate and the eventual
winner) a nickname. The only place
you stationed the guards was in
You're a sixth-generation
son of Mexican immigrants. What
were you thinking? Could it be
that you were still distracted
meeting with the pope?
worry. We all get distracted.
And even though the guard incident
one of the lowest points in Orange
Republican Party public-relations
history, you handled it like a
pro. A few months later, you resigned
as director of communications
in Orange and won your
re-election bid to chair the Republican
Party. Great recovery. But don't
ever let your mind wander like
that again. Just remember: NO
MORE POLL GUARDS. They tend to
emit the vibe of a dictatorship.
Thanks in advance for your autograph.
I hope you enjoy your copy of
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
weeks ago, I talked to Will Swaim,
editor of the OC Weekly. He
told me you sent him a letter
— about me! According to Will,
it was "awkward" to
address a photo to me as a "friend" and "respectfully
declined" my request. In
other words, pass the word along: "Adios,
Boy, was I disappointed.
I know we haven't formally met,
but what's wrong with being pen
Writing is more refined
than a phone call or a quick lunch.
It can help organize your ideas
and prevent misinterpretations.
I can't tell
you how many times I've
had second thoughts about what
I've said in a conversation.
can relate. In August 1985, you
told the Los Angeles Times, "I
simply cannot fathom how even
well-intentioned Democrats can
remain naive about
the evils their party has wrought
across the great American
political landscape. It's a little
like good Germans
denying the existence of the Holocaust."
bet you had second thoughts about
saying that! Democrats
may be stupid, but I'm sure you
didn't mean to say that they've
edged the U.S. toward the Third
Later on, you said that the quote
was "taken very
much out of context," that
it was part of a long conversation
about the Democratic Party's position
Do you see what I
mean about conversation? If you
written your thoughts, I'm sure
Hitler wouldn't have
made it to the final draft.
how about when you were talking
to the Times about
political-party registration? "I
can tell you the registration
of the people in the house by
the neatness of the lawn and
what cars are in the driveway," you
said. I can't imagine that's what
you meant. That's like saying
you could discern a homeowner's
religious beliefs by looking at
there's the incident with Judge Judith
who opposed Bob Dornan in the
primary. Ryan said you tried to
stop her from entering the race
by threatening to ruin her family's
That's got to be a misunderstanding.
Again, my friend-may I call you "friend"?-if
you had composed a note to her,
I'm sure she would have understood
whatever it was
you were trying to say.
after Will told me about your "Adios,
Nathan" letter, I sulked
for a couple of weeks. I'm always
of you by that blank space on
my office wall where your autographed
picture should be hanging. Then
last Sunday, I saw the
movie Braveheart on NBC and remembered
that it's one of your favorites.
You once said
it reminds you that-like the Scottish
rebels-the Republican Party is
against the odds. And you know
what? Call me William Wallace
and paint my face blue, but I
decided right then that
I'm not going to give up either.
Just to show that I write in good
faith, I've enclosed
a photo of myself. As you've probably
already noticed, I signed it:
Mr. Fuentes: "It's our
wits that make us men." Your
friend, Nathan Callahan.
father said that — at least he
did in the movie.
You can never have
friends, Mr. Fuentes. Write
me if you'd like. And how about
that autographed photo?
told me that you can't
imagine anyone wanting a photograph
of you. Don't be so coy, Mr. Fuentes.
You're a good-looking, famous
man. Get used to it.
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
you must be busy. I completely
understand why you haven't sent
me your autographed photo yet.
You've been out registering
new Republicans ever since that
Sept. 24 Orange County Registerstory appeared!
What a headline!
DIP BELOW 50 PERCENT IN REGISTERED
VOTERS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE
Who do you think
is responsible for this decline:
Clinton Republicans? They'd be
first on my list
sure you remember Roger Johnson-that turncoat Republican
CEO of Western Digital who endorsed
Clinton in 1992 and then went
on to be named director of Slick
Willy's general services
administration. Johnson was the
first domino to fall. In 1996,
Mayor Tracy Wills Worley of Tustin,
ex-Orange County Supervisor Harriet
Weider and Central Committee Member
Bill Dougherty-endorsed Clinton
for re-election. To top it off,
Dougherty called the
Orange County Republican Central
incestuous mob of fellow sycophants
who are either on the public payroll
as assistants to some Republican
office holder or fat-cat corporate
even got personal when he said
leadership and your bigoted Right
wing of the party has led us
down the path of defeat." You
got him back, though, when you
called him a "Vichy
him to the French politicians
who collaborated with the Nazis
World War II.
got hand it to you:
first, you say that pro-choice
Democrats are like "good
Germans denying the existence
of the Holocaust," and
then you call Dougherty a "Vichy
I ever want to insinuate that
someone is a Nazi, I'll know who
for the appropriate reference.
Which brings me to a great idea
I had-one that will increase Republican-voter
and make your job easier. Everyone
knows that during World War II,
persecuted homosexuals. And everyone
knows that today, there are oodles
of gays in Orange County.
the two together, and you've
got a voter-registration bonanza.
Here's what you do: target the
community for a Republican-registration
drive, and if anyone opposes
you… call them a Nazi! I'm
not talking about simply
welcoming the gay lifestyle into
to the GOP; you already have the
Club acting as the GOP's doormat.
I'm talking about a Fuentes program
that could shape the Republican
into the No. 1 gay party in
American politics-a party that
really knows how to party! Right
Democrats have cornered the market
gays. Why? It doesn't make
sense. Bill Clinton didn't have
the guts to follow through with
gays in the military when he was
even his wife criticized
that puny policy. Because of Clinton,
the rule of law in the service
Ask, Don't Tell." That's
not Republican Tom Fuentes' style.
You've got balls. If you were
president, I bet your policy
would be "Don't Even Bother
Asking." I'm sure
we both agree that being gay has
nothing to do with being a Democrat
or a conservative
or a liberal or a libertarian
or whatever. Look at Roy Cohn.
a gay conservative staff adviser
McCarthy's House Un-American
Activities Committee and a member
of the legal team that prosecuted
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg-proof
that gayness knows no political
boundaries. From one straight
guy to another, Mr. Fuentes, you
really have some fun embracing
homosexuality in your party. Imagine
a Republican drag-ball fund-raiser
at the Pacific Club.
You could call it the Brian Bennett
Masquerade (in honor of ex-Congressman
Dornan's gay chief of staff).
might even get into the spirit
yourself-cross-dress as Daisy
By next September, if
you use my idea, the Fuentes Gay
Voter Registration Drive will
be making headlines in The
Orange County Register. This
time, they'll be saying, "REPUBLICANS
BACK ON TOP."
use my idea or not, though, have
holiday. I bet you can't guess
what I want for Christmas.
An autographed photo? Well, if
you're not too busy,
I'd love one. You can sign it:
Nathan: Don't even bother asking! Your friend,
and happy Y2K to you.
April 4, 2000
to go! It seems you've taken my advice and implemented
the Fuentes Gay Voter Registration
Drive. Yesterday, I saw R.
reporter from the Weekly.
He said you were "extra-friendly" at
the March 7 election-night party.
Moxley said that as long as
he's known you, you've never been
so charming or gracious. You even
put your arm around him. Of course,
you know Moxley is gay and a Christopher
Hitchens liberal. He said, "It
would take a bit more than one
hug to lure [him] into [your]
who knows? Stranger things
have happened. Either way,
it's a good
start. Keep up the registration
Your friend and adviser,
July 10, 2000
You can't imagine
I was when R. Scott Moxley
delivered a gift from you
to me wrapped in red, white and blue
ribbon. Thank you so much
for the three books: Steve Forbes' A New Birth of Freedom, Ann
Coulter's High Crimes and
Misdemeanors: The Case Against
Clinton and Bob Zelnick's Backfire: A Reporter's
Look at Affirmative Action.
The first thing I
did was fan through all the pages
if you enclosed an
autographed photo of yourself.
I guess it must have fallen
you send me another?
What did fall out was your
business card. It makes a cool bookmark:
I had no idea you were a director
of a publishing house.
three Regnery books were very entertaining, even
though I usually don't read political
I was wondering:
Are they supposed to
be funny? In her book, Coulter writes, "We
have a national debate
about whether Clinton 'did it,' even though
all sentient people
know he did… Otherwise there would only
be debates about whether
to impeach or assassinate."
didn't know whether
to laugh or call the Secret Service.
me that Regnery must
be an open-minded place. They hired you, the chairman
of the OC Republican
Party, as their director, and yet they
can still publish Zelnick's
book against affirmative
action, even though
your party's presidential candidate, George
W. Bush, received
a form of affirmative
action himself when he was accepted to Harvard
and Yale — with below-average
nice when the rich get
a helping hand.
By the time I finished
Forbes' book, I was
so jazzed that I went to Borders to look
Regnery titles. You
sure work for a unique publishing company,
Mr. Fuentes. Did you
know that one of Regnery's
books, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton,
says the Oklahoma
City bombing was a botched
FBI sting directed by the Justice
under the supervision
of Bill Clinton with the goal of turning
into a police state?
In another, Unlimited Access, I
found a section on lesbian
love in the Clinton White House's basement
a paragraph on Hillary
ordering miniature crack pipes to hang
on the White House Christmas
consider any of its
titles humor? You should tell them that
would be a great cross-over
I figure you sent me these swell books
because you've been
in an exceptionally
fine mood after
defeating the New Directions
Republicans that night you put your arm around
Scott Moxley. If I haven't
already told you, congratulations. What
a sweet victory. USA
Today said your critics
raised $500,000 in an "attempted
hostile takeover" of
your Orange County Republican
Central Committee. The
two groups claim
you're an old-school
alienates women. But
when I looked at the
membership of the
New Majority Committee,
they're all guys! With
an oversight like
no wonder they lost.
My friend Tim told me
that these guys are
mostly Irvine Co. people
who want Irvine Co.
chairman Donald Bren-clone,
charge of Orange County
Since you're old-school
and don't always see
eye to eye with Bren,
I bet it
pisses you off that
they wasted their
money trying to beat you
when they could have
spent it reaming
Tim says they'll try
to unseat you again.
I say bring
again for the interesting
books, and don't
forget to send me a replacement
Dear Mr. Fuentes,
couldn't believe my
ears when I heard you
going to interview for
a position on the South
County Community College
District board. But
I was absolutely stunned
when you accepted
king of Orange
County politics. You
not only took a small-time
also replaced Steve
Frogue, who had just
resigned after seven
and a half years of
that lack of smarts
is no deterrent to holding
a school-board position
asked myself, "What
on Earth would you,
Tom Fuentes (the man
in charge of Orange
want with an elected
trustee's position overseeing
the disgruntled populace
of Saddleback and Irvine
I saw the simple brilliance
of your strategy. Of
course you maneuvered
for the school-board
Here's why (as if you
didn't know!): in November,
George W. Bush is
president. Then, since
Orange County will play
a major role
in Bush's victory and
you will have directed
Bush is sworn in and
Tom Fuentes is given
an appointment in the
— secretary of education?
just one problem. If
Bush wins the presidency
in November but
vote, chances are you'll
be out of the appointment
Not to worry.
Nathan has it covered.
Consider this: many
with think you're gay-and
not just vicious, dim-bulb
but Republicans, respected
and lawyers. I've often
why this whispering
persists in the complete
absence of evidence.
I know you're not
gay, Mr. Fuentes — not
that there's, you
anything wrong with
In fact, it can
be a real plus.
Which brings me to my
plan: in order to snag
turn up the volume on
the Fuentes Gay Voter
you ask? You should leverage unsubstantiated
speculation about your
into something positive.
If you act
a wee bit gay, you could
attract new votes and
swing Orange County
toward a Bush victory
in November. Wear
a pair of Dolce & Gabbana
white jeans. If anyone
asks whether you're
gay, follow Ricky Martin's
lead-or Michael Stipe's
— and say
about my private life
should not be
the subject of public
MAKE it the subject
of public speculation.
Be seen on
dinner dates with good-looking
men. Campaign in Laguna
Beach. Do whatever you
can reasonably get away
In November, you'll
be glad you did. Then,
since Bush has said
in his administration,
Mexican guy like you
with a little bounce
in his step
would be a perfect appointment
Before you know
it, you'll have a nameplate
on an office overlooking
lawn. I'm sure of it.
Good luck, Mr.
P.S. If you ever
have time from
your busy schedule, could
send me that
— Nathan Callahan,
Aiugust 17, 2000