Archive for October 2010

GOP wins cheap shot contest

October 31, 2010

Supporters of Neil Abercrombie and James “Duke” Aiona are circulating a lot of garbage about the opposition online, but the Republicans win the prize for the most odious piece of opala officially issued by the candidates or parties in this campaign.

A Republican Party ad in today’s newspaper calls Abercrombie “a loud-mouthed hippie” and includes a 40-year-old photo.

The dubious facts and offensive tone are reminiscent of the “Compare & Decide” mailer that helped sink Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the primary — and I have a sneaking suspicion that it shares some of the same origins.

GOP chairman Jonah Kaʻauwai was boasting about it in advance on a Republican-friendly website that features National Enquirer-style headlines throwing everything from Nazis and slavery to marijuana and birthers at Abercrombie.

Between this cheap late hit, the GOP’s use of a pilfered photo of Colleen Hanabusa doctored to make her look like Darth Vader and Kaʻauwai’s screed that Abercrombie and Hannemann weren’t righteous enough for the body of Christ, there are legitimate concerns that the current Hawai‘i Republican leadership just doesn’t know where the boundaries are.


UPDATE: B.J. Reyes at the Star-Advertiser has an interesting blog post noting that the GOP altered the Bob Rosehill letter in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that the ad was purportedly taken from. While Reyes doesn’t specify the changes, he links to the letter, in which Rosehill actually called Abercrombie “a loud-mouthed, haole hippie.” (Emphasis mine)


flASHback alert

October 30, 2010

Today’s “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “TV preacher, inquiring ads and saimin join campaign high jinks.”

Begging for Barack

October 29, 2010

E-mail can be either highly entertaining or mind-numbing around election time, depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person.

I’ve been getting so much e-mail from Joe Biden lately that he’s starting to address me by my first name.

In what apparently is his last and final offer, the vice president’s latest missive hits me up for $3 (I shook my iPad and no zeroes fell out) to support President Barack Obama’s agenda. Is he kidding? For that kind of money, you’d think he’d call me Mr. Shapiro.

“Dig deep, David,” he implores. “There’s only one way to wake up the morning after an election — with no regrets.”

I’m afraid I started having regrets a long time before election day. Does this strike anybody else as more like panhandling than politicking?


To pick on Republicans a little, I got another email, indirectly, from H. William Burgess, the attorney who’s led local conservative opposition to the Akaka bill for native Hawaiian recognition.

He’s threatening to withhold his coveted endorsement from Republican gubernatorial candidate James “Duke” Aiona and congressional candidate Charles Djou unless they withdraw their support for the Akaka bill.

He’s asking friends to send short e-mails to the candidates backing his position and suggested some wording. One of his suggestions, in a “corrected” version of the email, no less: “Ask the people first before before considering the Alala bill.”

I suppose  that’s one way of saying he thinks the legislation is for the birds.

If I send $3, will the the Aiona and Djou campaigns tell me how many folks actually sent them e-mails with the typo pasted in?

Gay unions continue to divide

October 28, 2010

I was a little surprised that public support for the civil unions bill passed by the 2010 Legislature failed to break 50 percent in the latest Star-Advertiser poll.

The poll found that 48 percent favored HB 444, which passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle, while 44 percent opposed the bill and the rest were undecided. The poll had a 4 percent margin of error.

Even among those who identified themselves as Democrats — a party where the sun rises and sets by civil unions these days — only 61 percent supported the measure. Republican support was a minuscule 20 percent.

I didn’t expect overwhelming support for gay unions; voters rejected same-sex marriage by a 2 to 1 margin just 12 years ago.

But I thought that giving gays the legal rights of marriage without calling it marriage would be enough of a middle ground to win over a majority in our socially liberal state.

Lawmakers will take note of the continuing sharp divisions in public opinion, but they’ll take more note of the general election results.

Rep. Blake Oshiro says he’ll introduce the bill again if he’s returned to office, and if Neil Abercrombie is elected governor and Democrats maintain their overwhelming majority in the Legislature without serious fallout from HB 444, there’s little question that a civil unions bill will be passed and signed into law early next year.

But if James “Duke” Aiona, a wins the governorship and any Democratic legislative losses are attributed to civil unions, Democrats will again have trouble rallying enough votes to override Aiona’s promised veto.

Long political campaigns getting even longer

October 27, 2010

I used to think Hawai‘i’s general election season was a bit too short — about six weeks from the primary election on the second to last Saturday of September to the general on the first Tuesday of November.

But this year’s campaign seems too long — way too long — even when you chop off a couple of weeks of having to pay attention by voting absentee.

In the 1st Congressional District race, Charles Djou and Colleen Hanabusa have been going at it since Neil Abercrombie announced he was stepping down way back in December, and with nothing new to say, they’re just saying it nastier.

In the governor’s race, the candidates have been sounding like Rain Man impersonators lately.

Everything Abercrombie says, James “Duke” Aiona accuses him of bringing Washington-style politics to Hawai‘i. Everything Aiona says, Abercrombie accuses him of not getting it done during the eight years of the Lingle-Aiona administration.

The absentee voting is part of the problem; candidates have to time their campaigns to peak when the first ballots are mailed, and they seem at a loss on what to do after that in a game of diminishing returns with fewer votes still up for grabs every day.

If this yearʻs campaign seemed long, wait until 2012, when Hawai‘i’s primary will be moved up to the second Saturday in August, making the general election campaign six weeks longer,  to comply with federal rules on mailing military and other overseas ballots.


If you’re tired of the real thing, AARP is pitching  its votersʻ guide with a funny spoof on negative campaigning at


Or for reading that is less light, my column in todayʻs Star-Advertiser, “Government needs to pay up to fix hot-water system now.”

Lingle: Out of favor, but not out of ambition

October 26, 2010

I agree with analysts who say that Gov. Linda Lingle’s low public approval rating is mostly the result of the crushing recession and its side effects such as furlough Fridays.

If you look at the eight-year fever chart of her popularity in the polls, it soared when the economy was up and sank when Hawai‘i’s economic fortunes dipped — just like Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano before her.

I don’t necessarily agree with those who think Lingle’s standing with voters will swing back up once she leaves office and is out of the line of fire, which is a key factor in how credibly she could contend for Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in 2012.

We’re a politically contentious state and Hawai‘i governors, who are in the middle of it all, tend to wear out their welcome after eight years. And the lost favorability doesn’t always come back with the passage of time.

Waihee was interested in running for the 2nd Congressional District seat after Patsy Mink died in 2002, but polls showed that his favorability with voters was still so low eight years after he’d left office that the race wasn’t feasible.

Lingle, whose approval rating was a dismal 44 percent in the latest Star-Advertiser poll, would be trying the turnaround in only two years if she follows through on her expressed interest in looking at the Akaka seat.

A candidate’s approval rating is relative to the opponent’s, of course. Akaka’s favorability was solid when he defeated Ed Case in 2006, but it remains to be seen if it’ll hold up with his age even more of an issue this time.

It’s a delicate matter, but there are legitimate concerns that having two 88-year-old senators sets up Hawai‘i  for a punishing nosedive in federal spending here when they pass from the scene and leave Hawai‘i with no senator of any seniority.

If Akaka steps aside, Democrats who likely would run against Lingle such as Case and Mufi Hannemann are coming off big losses and have favorability problems of their own.

The lost generation in Hawai‘i politics

October 25, 2010

The A line that stuck with me in an AP analysis of the governor’s race described the 72-year-old Democratic candidate, Neil Abercrombie, as “one of the last remaining major Hawaii politicians who was an adult when statehood was achieved in 1959.”

His Republican opponent, James “Duke” Aiona, is relatively young at 55, but it’s not really young at all by Hawai‘i gubernatorial standards. If elected, Aiona would join Ben Cayetano as the oldest person to become governor since statehood.

It serves as a reminder that Hawai‘i’s roster of elected officials is aging even faster than our population — and there’s not much of a crop of young leaders coming up behind them.

One of our U.S. senators, Daniel Inouye, is running for reelection this year at 86 and the other, Daniel Akaka, says he’ll run again in 2012 at 88. Rep. Mazie Hirono is the baby on the Democratic side of our congressional delegation at 63.

If either senator steps down, the leading candidates to step up are hardly spring chickens — Linda Lingle, 57; Ed Case, 58; Mufi Hannemann, 56; and Hirono. Not exactly a lot of prime years left to build the kind of seniority that Inouye put to our advantage in nearly 50 years of service after being elected to the Senate at 38.

U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, at 40, is by far the youngest person holding one of Hawai‘i’s highest offices, and he’s under serious challenge by Colleen Hanabusa, 59.

The only statewide office that’s guaranteed to have a relatively young occupant is the mostly ceremonial post of lieutenant governor; Democratic candidate Brian Schatz is 38 and Republican Lynn Finnegan is 40. There are few others in the younger age bracket in the legislative ranks who seem good candidates to move up.

Whether it’s because our brightest young prospects have been squeezed out by a logjam at the top or because our special-interest driven system breeds followship more than leadership, political leadership seems to have skipped a generation here and is becoming one of Hawai‘i’s biggest sustainability problems.

flASHback alert

October 23, 2010

Todayʻs “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “Gubernatorial candidates busy beating around bush over budget.”

Hannemann returns to campaign trail

October 22, 2010

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann made an appearance at a Neil Abercrombie-Brian Schatz rally on Maui Wednesday and delivered an enthusiastic endorsement of the ticket.

The campaign released a video:

Pols go wee, wee, wee all the way home

October 22, 2010

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own

– John Prine

Is anybody out there still paying attention to the deluge of political ads running hot and heavy on the TV news?

I usually start the news 10 minute late so I can TiVo through the ads, and I go through stretches blissfully free of the political noise. The ones I need to know about for news purposes, like the Karl Rove spot I wrote about the other day, always find their way to my e-mail inbox.

But sometimes like last night, I feel a need to experience the full gamut and let the news run with my finger off the fast-forward button.

The negativity isn’t as bad as I’ve seen in other states, but the endless petty carping by candidates and their third-party supporters casts a pissy tone on the campaign, leaving an unpleasant taste with viewers who see the attackers looking as bad as the attackees.

It breeds disrespect for both the candidates and the system, and I’m beginning to understand why so many see it all as pointless and just tune it out and don’t vote.

The rat-a-tat repitition of the same spots for weeks tends to grate on the viewer, as does the proliferation of similar ads from different sources.

A Charles Djou ad attacking Colleen Hanabusa for supporting the 36-percent legislative pay raise loses impact when it’s immediately followed by a Republican Congressional Campaign Committee spot making the same point.

President Barack Obama’s ad saying he needs Hanabusa in his corner doesn’t look so special when it’s followed a minute later by an almost identical spot saying he needs Neil Abercrombie.

I voted absentee the day the ballots came out and don’t feel I missed a shred of useful information by sparing myself the final two weeks of this noise.

It gives me time to ponder the sobering thought that the special interests who put up the dough for the grossly expensive onslaught will expect to be paid off by the winning candidates with public favors.


OK, if I’m going to grumble about ads I don’t like, I should point out one I do. This spot — entitled “On my knees!” — was sent in an e-mail to supporters by OHA candidate Peter Apo, musician, community activist, former legislator and all-around good guy. Brilliant combination of social media and sign-waving.


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