Archive for August 2010

Mufi and Neil make their case

August 30, 2010

Some quick impressions of the Mufi Hannemann/Neil Abercrombie debate:

  • The “showdown” hype, razzmatazz and cheering that Hawaii News Now favors in its debates is distracting and creates an annoying WWE atmosphere. Allowing booing and jeering by partisans in the audience without trying to control it until it was too late was unconscionable.
  • Hannemann’s delivery was smoother in constantly coming back to his themes of Hawai‘i values, collaboration and managerial experience. His gigs delivering extemporaneous patter on the radio clearly paid off. Abercrombie started off stiff, choppy and at times fumbling for notes in depicting himself as an agent of change and a fighter for the little guy, but he seemed to find more of a groove after the break.
  • The furor over Hannemann’s negative “Compare & Decide” ad is having a clear impact on the campaign. Both brought their indoor voices and a determination to play nice. The questions they asked each other and some of the answers were pointed, but they actually threw some compliments each others’ way and the seething hostility we’ve seen in the past wasn’t as evident.
  • Hannemann’s measured tone had some success in defanging himself after Ed Case’s description of him as a bully and “the most dangerous politician in a generation,” but it was partly undone by his supporters’ rude heckling of Abercrombie. Hannemann could have scored points by telling them to cool it when the moderators didn’t. Hannemann’s careful modulation gave Abercrombie an opening to outdo him on passion.
  • I’m always struck by how poorly candidates do when given a chance to directly question opponents. The question is usually more of a speech that often leaves the other guy an easy out or even a chance to turn the tables. With all the lawyers and ex-journalists these candidates have on staff, you’d think somebody could instruct them on how to build a Mike Wallace-style “gotcha” that nails the opposition.

Bottom line: Both candidates succeeded in underscoring their campaign themes for undecided voters, but there was little new ground broken, no defining moments and certainly no knockout punches.

Governor’s race goes to church

August 29, 2010

Republican Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai has launched an aggressive push to counter Mufi Hannemann’s courtship of Christian conservatives who support Republican James “Duke” Aiona.

In a lengthy message to the Hawai’i Christian Coalition, endorsed by coalition state chairman Garret Hashimoto, Ka’auwai accused the Hannemann campaign of acting “unethically, immorally, and far below reproach” in its efforts to get church-goers to pull Democratic ballots in the primary and support Hannemann over Neil Abercrombie.

The message is full of biblical references and exposes the strong religious undercurrent of the governor’s race that has received little public attention as Aiona and Hannemann battle for the Christian vote. The Ka’auwai message is being well-circulated online and could spotlight the issue for a broader audience. (You can read the full message here.)

Ka’auwai’s message, addressed to “Pastors and Brothers/Sisters in Jesus Christ,” accused Hannemann and his surrogates of making appearances in churches to persuade worshippers “that Christians should vote in September 18th’s primary election on the Democrat ballot for Mufi Hannemann to retard the chances of a Neil Abercrombie win rather than supporting Duke Aiona through both the primary and general elections.”

“For the Body of Christ to think Duke Aiona will lose to either Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann in the general election is not a church operating in FAITH but operating in FEAR,” Ka’auwai wrote. “The Hannemann campaign’s strategy is a trap of lies and baited deception and is being fueled by that very FEAR! DO NOT BE DECEIVED!!!”

Other excerpts:

When Ken Wong (of the Hannemann campaign committee) or Mufi approach or call you, you must probe, uncover their plans of conquest that have no righteous intent and rebuke them for trying to use your church as a platform for their deception and your personal influence to further unrighteousness.

Duke will win because the Church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS! We are the HEAD and not the tail; we are the VICTORS not the victims! If Duke Aiona does not win it will be the burden of the Body of Christ to bear so rather than preparing to have to deal with either Mufi or Neil winning the Church, we should be preparing for Duke to WIN. Neither Mufi Hannemann nor Neil Abercrombie is righteous and a vote for either in the primary or general election is succumbing to fear and advancing unrighteousness!

***

Galatians 5:22 tells us the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Has anyone seen that kind of fruit through Mufi Hannemann? Ask Ken why he endorses a man whose fruit shows no signs of righteousness or being controlled by the Holy Spirit. At many levels, Mufi is worse than Neil.

***

Duke Aiona’s Campaign for Governor is the Body of Christ’s opportunity to operate in the AUTHORITY and to be proactive. The Primary Election is the first step to bringing back a righteous leader to the highest office in this State which has not been seen since Queen Lili’uokalani. Over 100 years ago! With more than 400,000 Christians in the State of Hawaii, WE are responsible no matter what the outcome of Duke’s race because we have been given the POWER and the AUTHORITY in the NAME OF JESUS!!!!

Ka’auwai makes an exception to his warnings against crossovers in House District 33, where he urges Christian Republicans to take Democratic ballots and vote for civil unions opponent Gary Okino against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444.

UPDATE: Duke Aiona issued the following statement:

“While faith is a central part of my life, I’m running for Governor to serve all the people of Hawai‘i – regardless of their religion.

“The goal of our grassroots campaign is to connect with every citizen in every community of this great state, and Chairman Ka‘auwai’s personal comments are seen by many as divisive.

“Our campaign is focused on families, friends and neighbors of all backgrounds, and we’re going to continue to reach out to all the citizens of Hawai‘i.”

I also asked Jonah Ka’auwai for clarification of what he meant when he said Aiona would be Hawai’i’s first “righteous leader” since Lili’uokalani. He sent this response:

“This letter was sent out as a private email to Christian Pastors not intended for publication. Upon reflection, I can see that some of my words carry implications which I did not intend. I did not intend to make a broad-brush judgment about all of Hawaii’s Governors, Republican or Democrat.”

flASHback alert

August 28, 2010

My flASHback column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “2010 campaign’s characters spice up political potpourri.”

Carlisle and GOP agree: He’s not a Republican

August 27, 2010

There’s a strange feud going on between the Hawaii Republican Party and mayoral candidate Peter Carlisle, a former Republican who quit the party when he began looking at the nonpartisan race for mayor.

After Carlisle made passing reference in a Midweek interview to a supposed GOP poll that showed him well ahead of Kirk Caldwell and Panos Prevedouros, Republican executive director Dylan Nonaka issued a harsh statement that there was no such poll, that Carlisle could have made up the numbers and that Prevedouros was the only Republican candidate.

(A subsequent Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll showed Carlisle with an even bigger lead than he claimed in Midweek.)

When Carlisle diminished his previous ties to the Republicans in a TV interview, it was party chairman Jonah Ka’auwai’s turn to fulminate, noting that the former prosecutor chaired two GOP conventions and emceed a major fundraiser.

Ka’auwai griped that Carlisle “never believed in the principals of our party, especially the principal of fiscal accountability.”

There’s no question that Carlisle was involved with the GOP for a couple of years and flirted with running for Congress under the party’s banner, and that there were sore feelings when he ditched the party after deciding to run for the nonpartisan office of mayor.

But you have to question the GOP’s judgment in working so hard to turn a race voters have said they want to be nonpartisan into a partisan contest — especially when its candidate is running a distant third in the polls.

You’d think the Republicans would have more important priorities, like trying to keep the governorship and congressional seat they hold or improving their pathetic numbers in the Legislature.

Abercrombie enters mailer wars

August 26, 2010

Neil Abercrombie’s latest campaign mailer landed in the box yesterday and it couldn’t be more different from opponent Mufi Hannemann’s controversial “Compare and Decide” shot at Abercrombie’s mainland birth, haole wife, UH degrees and record in Congress.

Abercrombie’s piece makes no mention of his opponent. It features a picture of him in a nice suit with well-trimmed hair and beard, seeking to neutralize opposition attempts to paint him as an anarchistic hippie from his younger appearance.

It promises a leadership style based on respect for others, courage, commitment and common values and briefly highlights his policy proposals for energy, agriculture, education and government transparency.

Abercrombie ends by politely asking residents for their votes and thanking them for their consideration.

It’s the kind of vanilla effort that normally wouldn’t get much attention except for the earlier Hannemann piece; in that context, it reads like an Abercrombie salvo asking voters to “compare and decide” on personal style.

Many political consultants favor negative ads because they think they deliver more votes. This race could shape up as an interesting test of that.

Inouye vs. Case — George Lucas style

August 25, 2010

If coherence is lacking in Hawai’i politics, it’s more than made up for with entertaining theatrics. The latest little drama:

ACT I

Hawai’i U.S. Rep. Ed Case runs against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka without the blessing of senior Sen. Daniel Inouye and is trounced after a furious Inouye rallies the state’s Democratic establishment against him.

ACT II

Case tries to return to Congress by running for the House seat that Neil Abercrombie vacates to run for governor, and a vengeful Inouye endorses state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa against him and harshly attacks Case in what the Honolulu Advertiser describes as “unusually personal terms.” Basically, Inouye says Case represents maverick politics, can’t be trusted and is “not my kind of guy.”

ACT III

The Democrats lose the House seat to Republican Charles Djou in the special election to finish Abercrombie’s term, and Case dramatically announces at the state Democratic Convention that he’ll drop out of the primary election to give Hanabusa a clear shot at Djou in the general. Inouye pronounces Case a good Democrat.

ACT IV

Case opposes Inouye’s favored candidates for governor and Honolulu mayor, Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell, in unusually personal terms, basically saying they represent “machine” politics that must end, can’t be trusted and aren’t his kind of guys. (For those rusty at reading between the lines, Case sees Inouye sitting atop the machine.)

ACT V

Inouye, missing the ironic similarity between Case’s attack on Hannemann and Caldwell and his own earlier screed against Case, accuses Case of “mean spirited comments and negative statements” against good Democrats that “walk a very fine line between ‘fair’ and ‘foul.’ “

I applaud Inouye’s efforts to clean up this election, but the referee has to honor the rules more than anyone else on the field.

***

My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Ill-timed negative ad a step backward for Hannemann.”

Caldwell, Hannemann smarting from Kalihi tax flap

August 24, 2010

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell is struggling to get on top of the stealth rezonings that have raised the property taxes of 250 O’ahu residents, mostly in Kalihi, by more than 300 percent.

The outcry could affect the Sept. 18 election chances of both Caldwell and former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who handed his former managing director the mayor’s job — and the tax problem — when he resigned to run for governor.

The issue is the surprise reclassification of apartments and homes from residential to commercial and industrial. In one case cited by the Star-Advertiser, a Stanley Street resident saw his bill go up from $2,335 last year to $10,552.

Many of the residents are elderly and some have lived in their homes more than 50 years; with all the confusion and payments already due, they have few options.

It’s disturbing how Caldwell and Hannemann have deflected responsibility for the hardship these people are suffering, saying it was a decision by anonymous tax assessors and not a policy call by the administration.

The last time I looked, the mayor and managing director had oversight authority for city bureaucrats, and either they were asleep at the wheel or chose not to head off this disaster for the homeowners to squeeze out a few more property tax dollars at their expense.

City Council members say they were never notified of the changes by the administration and certainly would have done something to provide relief if they had known.

What the administration is missing with its technocratic tap dancing — and council members and others in the community are seeing clearly with their outrage — is that you just don’t treat people this way.

Affected residents apparently have no recourse this tax year except to ask the city for a “structured tax payment plan” and have only until September 1 to apply for a waiver next year.

Both Caldwell and some council members are floating bills to refund the excess taxes, but homeowners would have to pay now and hope to get their money back later.

That’s just plain chicken, and creative leadership would have found a fair resolution before it became a crisis for these folks.

The LG candidates: From bright beacons to space cadets

August 23, 2010

The latest fundraising letter for Norman Sakamoto declares that he’s not running for lieutenant governor to get in line to become governor, but to be “focused on the job he’s running for — lieutenant governor.”

It raises the question of what the heck the LG’s job is, with few real responsibilities other than to be ready to stand in if the governor decides to summer in China or spend the fall on the presidential campaign trail.

Sakamoto’s letter says the job “can be as important as (the occupant) makes it,” but the fact is that few Hawai’i LGs have managed to make it important because few governors have been willing to share power in any meaningful way.

I thought it would be interesting to see how the six major Democratic candidates describe the job, and here’s what I gleaned in order of how they finished in the latest Hawaii Poll by the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now:

  • Brian Schatz (27 percent) is offering “a bright beacon of hope for Hawaii’s future” and promising “to work with the governor, the Legislature and the public to implement common sense approaches to the challenges ahead.” No real specifics on how the office would make him a player.
  • Sakamoto (21 percent) focuses on his experience as Senate education chairman and   “would like to take on education as his prime responsibility, if the next governor sees fit to use him that way.” No clear hint of what he’ll do if the governor doesn’t see fit.
  • Robert Bunda (11 percent) presents himself as an experienced hand as former Senate president who can act as a “working link between the governor, the state Legislature and the public.” Again, only if the governor sees fit.
  • Gary Hooser (10 percent) wants to use the office for “the power of the soapbox, the power to convene and the power to shine a light,” but if we’re being honest, he could have done all of those things with more real authority by staying on as Senate majority leader. Hooser talks the most openly about using the office as a steppingstone to governor or Congress.
  • Lyla Berg (7 percent) pushes her experience in education, but she’s also the only candidate to prominently cite an actual duty of the LG, saying she’d use her oversight of the Office of Information Practices to open up state government.
  • Jon Riki Karamatsu (2 percent) says his short-term goals are to make Hawaii a top 100 economic power, grow 40 percent of our food, produce 10 percent of our energy and reduce violent crimes by 40 percent. He also lists “long-term and far-fetched goals for the world” that include reducing the violence in the world by 75 percent, uniting 90 percent  of the world’s countries and expanding space exploration beyond our galaxy.

I guess if there’s any elected official who could spend a few years on a space mission without being missed, it’s the lieutenant governor.

Compare and Decide II

August 20, 2010

A couple of days ago I raised the question of whether Mufi Hannemann blundered with his “Compare and Decide” mailer that denigrated Neil Abercrombie’s mainland birth, haole wife, UH education and congresstional record — and the answer appears to be a clear yes.

Hannemann spent much of tonight’s televised debate, which may be the most important of the campaign, defending the mailer and expressing “regret” to those it may have offended.

Earlier in the day, the former Honolulu mayor took hits over the piece from both Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Linda Lingle in interviews on KITV.

Inouye expressed disapproval at targeting an opponent’s wife that way, saying, “To say that my wife is Japanese and yours is something else, that’s not nice.”

He said making haole vs. non-haole comparisons can backfire, noting, “You have to keep in mind that some people might resent that.”

Lingle said, “I think the stuff Hannemann did step over the line by saying, ‘Vote for me because I look like you.’ “

The Inouye rebuke had to be stinging for Hannemann, who has traded heavily on the fact that the senator encouraged him to run.

Inouye, who expresses a strong preference for positive campaigning, deserves credit for taking a leadership role in trying to get this election that is so vital to the Democratic Party and the state on a more productive track. He’s hosting a unity event Saturday at Washington Middle School, with Hannemann and Abercrombie both invited.

The controversy has clearly given the Abercrombie campaign a lift, and it’ll be interesting to see if it changes Hannemann’s plans for the last month of campaign, when he’s been expected to use his big lead in funding to launch a major advertising blitz, including a fair amount of negative advertising.

***

Today’s “flASHback” in the Star-Advertiser: “Candidates count on plans to win the state’s top job.”

Anonymity doesn’t have to mean deceit

August 20, 2010

My column in Wednesday’s Star-Advertiser, “Politicians need to get over the plantation-era bigotry,” set off a spirited discussion of race and politics, with nearly 150 comments posted on the newspaper website.

I was skimming through them and came across this comment by somebody going by the alias of publius808, a localization of the  name associated with the Federalist Papers :

A white rich guy, from a line of white rich guys telling us brown people that we need to be color blind. Are you serious? Count the number of CEO’s in Hawaii and people who control wealth or any socioeconomic indicator and you’ll quickly see that Hawaii is rife with institutionalized racism. White people historically used and abused brown people in Hawaii for their own economic gain. When a brown guy says he can feel other brown people’s pain, he means it, right down to his grandparents and parents before him who either slaved in a plantation or were overthrown by white folk.

If this is the same publius808 who has posted on my blog — and the substance and tone suggest it may be — it’s somebody who has posted from the same IP address as a city hall employee I know can’t be counted among “us brown people” unless he’s been spending a lot of time at the beach.

Folks who post here anonymously defend the use of aliases as a valuable element of public policy debate, and I’ve respected that and appreciated the worthwhile  contributions many of you have made.

A commenter who’s been associated with the publius name once posted this:

Anonymous commentary is a time-honored American tradition. The Federalist Papers, one of America’s most important political manifestos was written under the assumed name of Publius. The reasons to adopt a pseudonym remain basically the same. Make the words important not the person who is writing them.

I understand the sentiment, but become concerned if anonymity is used to deceive and misrepresent — especially in fanning the flames of racial mistrust to advance a political agenda.

I welcome comments on the general issue, but would discourage turning it into a flame war attacking specific individuals.


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