Gov. Edmund G. Brown (Jerry) Jr. has touched off a statewide political furor by filling an Orange County supervisor's vacancy with a former Vietnam prisoner of war who made antiwar statements while a prisoner.
The appointment of former Marine Col. Edison Miller july 13 is already stirring recall efforts. Miller made antiwar tapes while a prisoner and met with antiwar activists and actress Jane Fonda during a controversial trip to Hanoi in 1972.
In fact, Miller's appointment to the board of supervisors of one of California's most conservative counties was made at the urging of Fonda and her husband, Tom Hayden, who also was an antiwar activist.
Since the appointment, other former POWs have visited the state capitol to denounce Miller and Brown. The entire Orange County legislative delegation held a press conference to denounce Brown's action.
Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Santa Ana), leader of the protest, likened Miller's activities as a POW to those of Tokyo Rose during World War II.
Charges were filed against Miller when he and other prisoners returned home by Rear Adm. James B. Stockdale, leader of POWs in North Vietnam. But the charges were dropped by then-Navy secretary John W. Warner following a three-month investigation, although Warner concluded there was enough evidence to warrant a possible court-martial.
Warner, now a Republican U.S. senator from Virginia, instead decided to censure Miller and retire him "in the best interest of the Navy" for "failing to meet the standards expected of officers."
In an interview after the appointment, Brown charged his legislative critics with "cynical, hypocritical attitudes that make me sick.
"I concluded that Ed Miller would do the best job," Brown said. "Orange County has had a history of corruption and politicians being sent off to jail."
He charged that there is an incestuous relationship between developers, campaign contributions and politicians and "an independent political force was needed in order to provide the fresh start the county needs."
In fact, the vacancy Miller is filling was created when Ralph Diedrich, the former board of supervisors chairman, was jailed for bribery.
Brown did not improve attitudes in Orange County when he reportedly responded to press questions by saying he made the appointment to "shake things up a little" in the county. Brown has been accused regularly of using appointments to play off competing political interests.
Robinson admits it is unlikely a recall movement will succeed against Miller because there is so little time to put one together. Ninety days must elapse before such a movement can be initiated.
Therefore, he said, circulation of petition probably could not begin until mid-October. Miller, he said faces election in June 1980 and "he is certain to be defeated at that time."
But Robinson and the appointment will cause Brown trouble in his budding presidential campaign.
"I expect that the more the public becomes informed of the consequences and the resulting controversy in Orange County, I believe Brown is going to have to defend this appointment for the presidency." Robinson said.
Assembly GOP leader Carol Hallett, also said Brown's action would cause him trouble. She pointed to the recent unanimous endorsement of a resolution calling July 18 "POWE/MIA Recognition Day." That seemingly innocuous resolution turned into a free-for-all during which assembly members from across the political spectrum jibed at Brown.
Assemblyman Louis J. Pagan, a Bay Area Democrat, said the appointment demonstrated that Brown was unfit to be commander-in-chief of the nation's armed forces.