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Focusing on Family Values, Dornan Enters 1996 GOP Presidential Race

By Gebe Martinez
Los Angeles Times

Positioning himself as the conservative who can best defend America against "moral decay," California Rep. Robert K. Dornan Thursday formally entered the race for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination.

Flanked by his family, Dornan, 62, called on his Republican opponents to focus on social issues because "moral decay is rotting the heart and the soul of our country."

Dornan's rambling announcement speech was delivered before the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to symbolize the "war on crime," a key plank of his campaign. Society's increasing violence, he said, is linked to a "cultural meltdown," and he is intent on steering the Republican debate to the hard right on "pro-family" social issues.

But as he highlighted a conservative social agenda, the nine-term congressman - long known for his attacks on the House floor against abortion, gay rights and President Clinton - tried to downplay his bombastic image.

"Here's one congressman that has never yelled at his staff; tried to motivate my children by example, not by harshness; that has never in subcommittee or committee or at a press conference ever showed anything but passion," Dornan said.

"On the floor of the House yes, I've been tough I apologize for nothing," conceded the congressman, his voice, soft at first, growing more forceful as he continued.

"But I will tell you that if somebody is not publicly indignant and saying, Stop this,' with our cultural meltdown and moral decline, then I'll show you somebody who doesn't understand the facts," Dornan added. "I'll show you somebody who's a bystander watching the destruction of our country.