Akaka gets no respect

The decision of U.S. Senate Democrats to dump Hawai‘i’s 86-year-old Sen. Daniel Akaka as veterans affairs chairman and move him to the less prestigious Indian Affairs Committee is a political surprise.

Senators seldom make such moves for age alone, unless there is a feeling that the member isn’t up to the job anymore. That’s how senior Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye rose to appropriations chairman over the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

A hint that Akaka is starting to slip is a heck of a message to send Hawai‘i voters as he gears up for a potentially tough re-election campaign against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, with Democrats fighting an uphill battle to hold their two-vote Senate majority.

If the Democrats are sending Akaka a message that they want him to step aside and let a younger Democrat take on Lingle, it would be interesting to know whom they have in mind.

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case would likely jump at the chance, but they could turn out to be seriously damaged political goods after their big losses in 2010 — Hannemann for governor and Case for Congress.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa would be pushing it with voters to start campaigning for the Senate halfway through her first term in the House, and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono is a light achiever who could be a tough sell as the heavy lifter Hawai‘i needs to get ready to pick up the load after Inouye passes from the scene. Would former Gov. John Waihee eye a comeback at 66?

If the Democrats want to move past Akaka, their best bet would be to persuade him to step down sometime this year and let Abercrombie appoint a replacement who could run against Lingle as an incumbent.

But Akaka has resisted such pushes for 20 years, and the fight among Democratic factions over who gets the appointment could become ugly.

Update: If you want to learn how to spin like a pro, check out this press release that just came out.

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8 Comments on “Akaka gets no respect”

  1. Hawaiino Says:

    Has he truly earned any?
    His career defining, eponymous Akaka Bill lies in tatters. Misunderstood, misbegotten, or just mishandled, it reflects his career, the Senate is no place for a placeholder. Clinging to the status and trappings of office is all that’s left for a gracious gentleman well past his prime.
    Retire and allow our State to better cope with the future. Thats the message from his brethren, no doubt.

  2. wayne wisecarver Says:

    politics. don’t you feel like Field Marshall Zhukov, up all night in a tent trying to figure out the German’s next move?

  3. Michael Says:

    Senator Akaka is a very likeable person, unfortunately one gets old. Senator Akaka should
    retire with grace and enjoy life. I think Senator Akaka considered the People of Hawaii as his Ohana. Trying to bring Lokahi (unity) with Akahai (kindness). I guess that what makes a true Politician. Regardless of accomplishments, his Heart is in the right place. Persistent for the People of Hawaii.

    I admire how Native Hawaiians of Class grow older with their Dark Skin and White Hair, they look so distinguished.

  4. Guido Sarducci Says:

    I will always be grateful to Sen Akaka for failing to get the Akaka Bill passed. Great job Senator!

  5. charles Says:

    You are basing your column on the assumption that Senator Akaka will run for re-election.

    Time will tell.

  6. WooWoo Says:

    Wow, that press release was certainly big-league spinning.

  7. ppcc Says:

    When Obama visited Hawaii, they filmed him leaving Air Force One and behind him was Akaka. As soon as Akaka exited the plane door and attempted to go down the stairs, he looked so frail and weak, Obama turned around and with the help of Hirono, both had to help Akaka down the plane stairs. I mentioned this in a post which was subsequently deleted. Others have rumored issues of Alzheimers or other form of Dementia has afflicted Akaka and given his advanced age, this is not unexpected. From his removal as chairman, seems his colleagues realize he currently is not physically and/or mentally able to perform his duties as Senator, and like the late Patsy Mink, will continue to maintain his seat, even after he is longer of this world.

    As for who will take his place, Waihee with his RightStar legal and late mortgage payment(?) problems is damaged goods and both Mufi and Case are easily labeled as losers from the last election. Lingle, with he veto of Civil Unions and alignment with narrow minded religious groups, and allowing unions to improperly pin all of the blame on her for student furloughs, left office on a real low note.

  8. Will Says:

    If Mr. Akaka has Hawaii and the U.S.’s best interests at heart, he should step down and graciously allow someone else to vigorously carry Hawaii’s senatorial torch. Brett Favre hanging on is nothing compared to what Mr. Akaka is doing.

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