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Dornan Ducks Gorbachev Welcome to Attend Demonstration

December 10, 1987|CLAUDIA LUTHER | Times Political Writer

Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) made it all the way to the east entrance of the White House for the welcoming ceremonies for Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Tuesday. But then he looked across the street into Lafayette Park at the demonstrations against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Instead of entering the White House grounds, Dornan said, "My feet just started moving toward the demonstrations."

Dornan, who had returned to Washington from his district on an overnight flight to attend the ceremonies, said he had been thinking on the ride to the White House about author Elie Wiesel. In what Dornan interpreted as Reagan's most painful moment of his presidency, Wiesel gently rebuked Reagan on the occasion of the President's 1985 visit to West Germany's Bitburg Cemetery, where members of an elite Nazi military unit are buried.

"I kept hearing those words of Elie Wiesel's: 'Your place is with the victims,' " Dornan said.

Dornan said he decided as he approached the White House that his place was with the victims of the Afghanistan conflict.

"Elie Wiesel has great power over me," Dornan said. "I hear him in my sleep, no kidding."

In the meantime, Dornan said he has been invited to Gorbachev's departure ceremonies today.

"I may go to that, I don't know," Dornan said, reiterating his support of the intermediate-range nuclear forces--or INF--treaty signed Tuesday by Reagan and Gorbachev.

"I'm serious about wanting him (Gorbachev) to visit here, and wanting to sign treaties with him," Dornan said.

Spurning the welcoming ceremonies, he said, "was just a personal decision of mine that morning."

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