Archive for October 2010

Aiona can’t rise and shine while he’s ducking and running

October 21, 2010

James “Duke” Aiona is trying to turn lemons into lemonade by depicting concerns about his involvement in a conservative religious movement as negative campaigning by Neil Abercrombie supporters.

Aiona can quibble about the details, but he has been neck deep for at least five years in the International Transformation Network and its local offshoot, Transformation Hawai‘i, which stated a goal of introducing Christian values into all aspects of Hawai‘i society, including government.

His operatives have played the religious card to the hilt in the governor’s race, and it’s disingenuous of him to now throw a smokescreen around fair questions about his understanding of the line between church and state.

Aiona has promoted ITN events and had his way paid to the group’s Argentina conference in 2006. He’s been prayed over by the group’s founder as Hawai‘i’s salvation.

In a 2004 talk at a local Transformation Hawai‘i event, Aiona declared, “Our school will become God’s school, our community will become God’s community, our city will become God’s city, our Island will become God’s island, our state will become God’s state, our Hawai‘i will become God’s Hawai‘i.”

The “rise and shine” slogan used by the Republican Governors Association in its ads for Aiona has origins in scripture, and one ad emphasized Aiona’s support of the Power of Aloha program, in which he and Transformation Hawai‘i won Board of Education approval to distribute “Aloha Cards” promoting moral values in the public schools.

Critics charged that the project sought to get around the prohibition against proselytizing in the schools by substituting the word “aloha” for God.

Aiona’s Republican chairman Jonah Ka‘auwai, who described politics as his “ministry,” has aggressively worked conservative Christian churches during the campaign, questioning the faith of Democrats Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann while proclaiming Aiona to be Hawai‘i’s first “righteous” leader since Lili‘uokalani.

In one tirade against the Democrats sent to conservative Christian churches, Ka‘auwai said, “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!”

Aiona’s personal faith should be respected, and he’s right to object to specious attempts by his most extreme critics to tie him to religious atrocities such as the oppression of homosexuals in Uganda.

But it was the Republicans — not Abercrombie — who first introduced religion into the campaign, and itʻs reasonable to ask if Aiona could separate his religion from his duties as governor.

He can’t expect to use cries of negative campaigning to run away from an issue his side initiated.


Local Democrats weigh the Obama factor

October 20, 2010

Hawai‘i  Democrats are placing a heavy bet that President Barack Obama’s popularity remains considerably higher in his native state than in the rest of the country, where his fortunes are clearly sagging.

While Democrats in other states run from the president, local candidates continue to embrace him.

A large part of Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Charles Djou is built around supporting Obama’s stimulus program, health care reforms and tax proposals that Djou and the Republicans have denounced as costly failures.

Democratic candidate for governor Neil Abercrombie was ebullient when he received the president’s formal endorsement this week, saying, “I treasure President Obama’s friendship and I’m happy to have his endorsement. If I’m elected Governor, our people will benefit from his commitment to Hawaii, the place of his birth.”

One top Democrat told me he didn’t believe a poll showing Abercrombie and Republican Duke Aiona in a dead heat because the poll had Obama’s local approval at barely 50 percent, which he thought was too low and demonstrated a Republican tilt to the survey.

My gut feeling is that while Obama’s local approval has dropped from the 71.5 percent of the vote the got against McCain here in 2008, it’s probably still high enough to be a net plus for the Democrats.

Can the same be said for Democratic candidates supported by our senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye? I look at that a little bit in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Inouye might have a job for life, but it is not a royal appointment.”

Rove, Rove, Rove your boat

October 19, 2010

Hawai‘i is getting its first taste of mainland style political campaigning with the spate of national ads pouring into the 1st Congressional District race between Charles Djou and Colleen Hanabusa, and it’s not easy on the stomach.

The third-party TV spots are done independently of the campaigns and display little understanding of local sensibilities; you have to wonder if they do the campaigns more harm than good.

There have been bad and misleading ads on both sides, but a spot that stands out to me as one of the worst of the breed is the latest attack ad on Hanabusa by American Crossroads, a group led by Karl Rove that is dumping more than $100,000 into the race in the final weeks.

It’s an amateurish, generic cartoon presentation barely tailored for Hawai‘i, showing a poorly drawn and stereotypical figure of an Asian female sitting on a yacht called the “Big Spender” and tossing around greenbacks.

There’s no mention of local issues as it attacks Hanabusa with GOP buzzwords about “Nancy Pelosiʻs tsunami of spending,” the “trillion-dollar health care program” and “cap and trade.”

These preach to the converted and do nothing to speak to voters who still may be undecided. I wouldn’t be surprised of the cheesy come-on costs Djou a couple of points in the polls.

Rove, who was the chief political adviser to President George W. Bush, is supposed to be one of the smartest GOP strategists in the fight to regain control of Congress. If this bush-league production is an example of his work, I don’t get it.

Don’t do it, Mufi

October 18, 2010

I’m hearing more rumblings that former Mayor Mufi Hannemann has been asking supporters if they think he should run for the West O‘ahu City Council seat being vacated by Todd Apo.

Most of those I’ve heard about have advised him not to run, and I hope he listens to them; it wouldn’t be good for him or the city.

The beating Hannemann took from Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor — he got only 35.8 percent of the vote on O‘ahu — was the harshest voter repudiation of a sitting elected official not involved in in a major scandal that I’ve ever seen.

He could conceivably lose a council race against a credible opponent, and that would likely end his political career. But even if he won, it would gain him little unless he’s desperate for the pay check.

After all the work he’s done to build up his credentials as a chief executive and a heavy hitter in local politics, it makes no sense to throw himself back to the bottom of the political food chain in a legislative role that didn’t suit him well the first time around.

In his previous service on the council from 1994 to 2000, either he was in charge or he was a disruptive dissident. When he was in charge, he disrupted the administration to the point that his colleagues felt they needed to depose him as chairman.

If Hannemann started the cycle again in the current environment with a new mayor and five new council members coming in, he would most likely wreak havoc and voters would say “same old Mufi.”

If his aim is to run for mayor or Congress in 2012 or have another try for governor in 2014, there would be no advantage in running from the council. It would just look like he was abandoning another job to serve his ambition. He’s an established player who doesn’t need a manini base like the council.

The primary defeat had to be bitter for Hannemann, but voters said pretty loud and clear that they don’t want him right back in their faces.

If he hopes to revive his political career and again contend for Hawai‘i’s  highest offices, he needs to take some time to properly reflect on why things went so wrong for him and how he can persuade voters that he learned something from the loss.

It’s an essential step that Hannemann couldn’t take from the war zone the council would likely become with him on it.

flASHback alert

October 16, 2010

Todayʻs “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “In island politics, pigs fly, D.C. buys, homeless left to fry.”

Path of least resistance

October 15, 2010

I’m tired after parrying with commenters yesterday when I was supposed to be working on my flashbacks column, so I’m going to buckle down on that and avoid writing anything provocative today.

Let’s just say, Go ‘Bows! … er, Warriors!

Hooser rips Aiona, bucks for state job

October 14, 2010

Former state Sen. Gary Hooser has moved his blog to and promises to update it more often now that he has time on his hands in the wake of his unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor.

He comes out firing, with his first post calling Republican candidate for governor James “Duke” Aiona “a right wing religious zealot” who “believes that everyone who does not agree with his particular theology is going to hell.”

You see, Duke is the “righteous one”. Duke has been chosen by God to save Hawaii from burning in hell. Visit the churches hosting the Duke signs out front and they will tell you this. They will tell you that God has sent them a sign, and that Duke has been chosen by God to lead us all down the path to righteousness.

So how can it be possible that 48% of Hawaii residents are ready to elect him as Hawaii’s next Governor? Are people so shallow, so busy and so uninformed that they will vote for him just because he’s young, he’s Hawaiian and he’s pretty? Is it the religious dogma and tea party frenzy of the “new right” that drive his numbers? Has our democracy become so broken and so driven by money, marketing and media that substance matters not at all?

It is on days like this that I wonder. I wonder about the wisdom of our forefathers. I wonder if perhaps our system is broken and in need of radical perhaps revolutionary change.

Hooser’s post drew the ire of Republican spokesperson Erin Kealoha, who e-mailed: “I know you’ve written about Jonah’s now infamous letter to Christians and the role of religion and politics in Hawaii, especially so I had hoped you might be willing to share the other side of the story, especially with some inflammatory, loaded words coming from a former State Senator and LG candidate to criticize a candidate for their faith.”

Noted, but to be honest, I was more interested in one of Hooser’s final posts on his old blog in which he appeared to be encouraging a Kaua‘i group that’s promoting his appointment as chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources in a Neil Abercrombie administration.

The Kaua‘i environmental blog Island Breath provided sample letters to be sent to Abercrombie lobbying for Hooser to be given the job. A publisher’s note suggested Hooser was down with the idea:

After his defeat in the primary we spoke with Gary on this issue and he was interested in the idea. He said it would be like taking the lemon of losing to Shatz and turning it into lemonade. So many of Hawaii’s problems go back to the mishandling of our resources by the DLNR. On Kauai that includes PMR, GMO and Kokee land leases as well as Kalalau and Napali Trail land management (just to name a few). We hope that Malama Kauai, the Sierra Club, Surfriders organization and others will join in urging Neil Abercrombie in appointing Gary to lead the DLNR.

In his own blog, Hooser said he appreciates the confidence and is “willing and open to serving wherever our Governor may need me, but for now he needs me and everyone else working very hard to make sure his election is successful.”

If Abercrombie is elected, we’ll see if he thinks it a good fit to put a guy with little administrative experience and a tendency to bash the opposition in charge of one of the state’s largest and most multi-tentacled agencies that runs by necessity on diplomacy.


Another interesting new local blog worth noting is FreeCatholic808, a personal expression  by PR executive Dawn Morais Webster that explores “the intersection of religion and politics” and gets in the face of the Catholic hierarchy on policies she finds authoritarian and repressive.

It’s thoughtful, provocative and well-written; one recent post described a gathering of LGBT Catholics celebrating Solidarity Day Mass in an Episcopal Church and another took the Hawai‘i Catholic Herald to task for refusing to run a letter from the parents of a gay man.

Talking stink with Charles and Colleen

October 13, 2010

The race in the 1st Congressional District is sinking fast with Democrat Colleen Hanabusa and Republican Charles Djou exchanging accusations that the other side is “smearing” them with negative ads.

Hanabusa called a news conference yesterday to condemn a Djou ad predicting a storm of GOP negative advertising against him in the final weeks of the campaign, which she called “one of the worst negative ads that I have ever seen.”

I’m sorry, but not even close.

Equally disingenuous was the Djou camp’s response through the state Republican Party to the effect of “she started it first.”

If this contest is to be decided by which side has the most pilau ads, it’ll be a tie. Between the two campaigns, the state parties and the Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees, my e-mail inbox is filled with new loads of fresh garbage every day.

The “storm” spot that Hanabusa found offensive was actually quite similar in its formula to an earlier Democratic ad attacking Djou as a Republican lackey because he voted with his party most of the time.

The tried-and-true formula of negative political advertising, which both sides employed, is to get the most unflattering photo of the opponent you can find, edit it to look as dark and sinister as possible, and then massage a few sketchy elements of the opponent’s record to appear similarly sinister.

This race, which has been going on and on and on since Neil Abercrombie announced he was stepping down in the winter, long ago ceased producing any new or useful information for voters.

Blessed are the early absentee voters, who will soon be to hold their noses, mail in their choices and put the unpleasantness in the rear-view mirror.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Few votes in primary show appointed BOE is necessary.”

Carlisle makes the train his own

October 12, 2010

O‘ahu rail opponents won’t be happy with new Mayor Peter Carlisle’s strong endorsement of the $5.5 billion project on his first day in office, but they shouldn’t be surprised after his consistent support of the commuter train during the campaign.

To show the high priority he gives rail, Carlisle will travel to Washington, D.C. with City Council members in his critical first few days to assure the Federal Transit Administration and Congress that Honolulu’s commitment to building the 20-mile line from Kapolei to Honolulu is fully intact.

The new administration faces major challenges in moving the project forward. The state hasn’t completed its review of the environmental impact statement, and oppenents threaten to sue over the way the EIS was conducted as soon as it is filed.

Gov. Linda Lingle continues to insist on a financial review, which she says won’t likely be finished before a new governor takes over. Sen. Daniel Inouye has said the delay could threaten federal funding. And the political dynamics are in flux with five of the nine council seats soon changing hands.

Those who generally favor rail but have been worried about the execution will be interested to see if Carlisle changes the management of the project by tightening contracting, making it more transparent and cutting back the number of high-paid PR people hired for rail.

A less hostile city attitude toward citizens with contrary ideas would be welcome, as would an effort to forge a more collaborative working relationship with the state.

New governor, same old Legislature

October 11, 2010

Since the primary election, the Star-Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge has been writing Sunday pieces on the top issues in the governor’s race, and he’s doing a good job of helping voters understand where Neil Abercrombie and James “Duke” Aiona differ.

My eye is drawn to the part at the end where he solicits the views of key legislators. As you’d expect, the Democrats who control the Legislature don’t think much of the Republican Aiona’s proposals. But it’s interesting that they’re not exactly lining up either behind the ideas of Abercrombie, their own party’s candidate.

In yesterday’s piece on energy policy, Senate energy chairman Mike Gabbard wouldn’t commit to Abercrombie’s centerpiece proposal to establish a new state energy authority, and his House counterpart, Rep. Hermina Morita, suggested it was downright unwise.

Similarly, in the story a couple of weeks ago on education policy, House education chairman Roy Takumi said he doesn’t see much appetite in the Legislature for another Abercrombie centerpiece — a new Department of Early Childhood Education.

It’s a reminder that the possible return of a Democrat to the governor’s office is no guarantee of smooth sailing or an end to the gridlock that has existed between the Legislature and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

We should remember that the last Democratic governor, Ben Cayetano, didn’t have much better luck with the Legislature than Lingle, failing to win approval of his key initiatives on economic revitalization, civil service reform and rebuilding infrastructure such as public schools and prisons.

When I interviewed him toward the end of his term, Cayetano expressed contempt for the Legislature as harsh as anything Linda Lingle has ever said.

“Very few things today, in my opinion, are … decided by philosophical or ideological basis,” he said. “The people I served with (during his years in the Legislature) had more life experience. The Legislature is different today, which, in a way, is why I’m kind of glad I’m going to be leaving. I’m not sure there’s a lot of people there who really stand for anything.”

The point is that the Legislature marches to its own drummer, and the beat is most often played not by party leaders, but by the special interests in whose pockets many legislators reside.

It’s way too early to declare Abercrombie’s proposals DOA before he even has a chance to make his case to the Legislature, but if he’s elected, his fate will depend on whether he’s more effective than Cayetano and Lingle at selling his ideas to change-resistant lawmakers and their special-interest benefactors — and using the power of the office to leverage agreements.


Speaking of DePledge, if you haven’t already done so, check out his blog item on the latest theory of where Duke Aiona’s “Rise and Shine” theme came from, which amused me while greatly entertaining my granddaughter. Diabetics beware.

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