Govern your mouth, Mr. Governor

Geez, we we’re just talking about Gov. Neil Abercrombie blathering semi-coherently about homelessness and now he’s at it again — this time with a barely articulate rant against the state paying $4 million to the NFL’s wealthy owners and players to bring the Pro Bowl here.

Among his statements reported by the Star-Advertiser:

• “This happens to be an easy target because it is so stupid. You can’t do things like give $4 million to a $9 billion football industry and not give money to children.”

• “Right now you have this spectacle of these multimillionaires and billionaires arguing about how they are going to divide it all up and they come and ask us to bribe them with $4 million to … scrimmage out here in paradise.”

• “This is a values question. I am not really that concerned with what multimillionaires or billionaires or whatever they are, are able to — what do they do with all that? I mean, how many sandwiches can you eat?”

The governor’s unexpected tizzy fit totally distracted attention from what he called his press conference to promote — his early childhood education initiative.

And it reflected an immature prejudice that anybody who has money is inherently suspect (unless, of course, they’re giving their money to his campaign).

The Pro Bowl seemed an unlikely target of such over-the-top ire. It’s a quality event and local people enjoy getting to see their favorite football stars up close as much as the tourists do.

It seems to have a decent return on investment as far as such promotions go. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, this year’s Pro Bowl brought in $28.15 million in unique visitor spending and generated $3.07 million in state taxes, not to mention the promotional value of putting Hawai‘i on national TV in the middle of the mainland winter.

It’s disingenuous and simplistic to suggest that booting the Pro Bowl would result in $4 million more going to education.

Which isn’t to say there’s no room for discussion about whether the Pro Bowl is a good investment for Hawai‘i.

But you don’t change policy by wildly shooting off your mouth; you do it by seeing what your constituents think and having an adult discussion with the various stakeholders who have devoted much effort to bringing the Pro Bowl here in the sincere belief that it’s good for business and good for Hawai‘i.

It’s difficult to tell sometimes whether Abercrombie is reprising the loudmouthed campus rabble-rouser he once was or channeling Frank Fasi without the charm, but either way it isn’t playing.

He won’t be taken seriously as governor of the state until he learns to govern his mouth.

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30 Comments on “Govern your mouth, Mr. Governor”

  1. WooWoo Says:


  2. MynahBlog Says:

    You missed the best part. Neil said that one weekend of civil unions would make up for the whole pro bowl. Really, he said that.

    Neil is in a death spiral.

  3. Cute Lunatic Says:

    I’m speechless.

  4. hipoli Says:

    Anyone else thinking this might have something to do with Mufi?

  5. hipoli Says:

    I should add that the Govs tourettes syndrome aside, most of what he says is rooted in truth. We DO pay up $4m as a bribe to the NFL. That is $4M that we absolutely could ‘invest’ elsewhere. And let’s be ‘truthful’– it’s $4M the state spends to get thousands of people drunk–because no one actually watches the game.

  6. cloudia Says:

    actually, Civil Unions will bring visitor dollars. What’s funny about that?

  7. WooWoo Says:

    What is a super bowl commercial? $2M for 30 secs? We front $4M for a 3-hr commercial called the Pro Bowl. No brainer. If Neil’s comments chase this thing away… (you don’t think Florida is making phone calls right now to the NFL?)

  8. Richard Gozinya Says:

    This could be one of those defining moments that forever colors the way we will look at the Gov.

    It’s gonna take a strong set of prescription beer goggles to make Neil look like anything other than an anti-business, economically confused codger.

    As the young’uns say: “awkward”.

  9. zzzzzing Says:

    You must be wondering WTF he’s smoking… geez.

  10. zzzzzing Says:

    I apologize for the double-post; just saw this:

    “actually, Civil Unions will bring visitor dollars. What’s funny about that?”

    @cloudia –

    First off, no one said it was funny.

    Secondly, I’d rather have the Pro Bowl and I don’t even watch football.

  11. WooWoo Says:

    Today’s article on this in the SA has no mention of the fact that the press cinference was about the early childhood initiative. His rant completely overshadowed the purpose. I expect a damage control statement before 9am.

  12. Karen Says:

    The incoherent ranting of Neil took place during the governor’s race. Where were you Dave?? The deep dislike for Mufi distracted you and other writers from properly reporting that neil’s responses never made sense. None of you challenged his rants because were fixated on the big bad muf and his sensational flyer. Now we are stuck with him.

  13. zzzzzz Says:

    @karen, one of the things Neil and his campaign handlers did best was rein him in and avoid rants like this.

    Looking back, he fooled a lot of people, in part because he’d been gone so long in Washington that many of us hadn’t had a chance to see these rants for a while, but we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s reverting to form now.

    I think many voters were really looking for a reason to vote for Neil because they didn’t like Mufi, and his (apparently temporary) restraint made Neil more palatable.

  14. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Lost in the discussion is the simple fact that the Pro Bowl deal is simply the way the industry operates. Not much different from cities bidding for the Olympics – it’s money plus facilities plus infrastructure plus ambiance and a whole bunch of other criteria.

    The real shock to me was how dismissive of business the Gov’s words were. Demonizing the NFL instead of partnering with an ally in the goal of raising revenue. Setting a stage where the choices are children’s education or the Pro Bowl is a patently false dichotomy. As to which one I want, the answer is BOTH.

  15. MynahBlog Says:

    They were more than “fixated” on Mufi’s flyer. They were actively spreading misinformation about it. Their “interpretation” of the contents of the direct mail piece was a tour de force in misdirection propaganda. For example Mufi was portrayed as a “racist “because he used his wife’s middle name which is Japanese juxtaposed to Neil’s wife, who has a caucasian-sounding surname. Of course in Hawaii, a surname doesn’t necessarily indicate your ethnicity, so the media had to “tell you what to think” so you would come to the conclusion they had predetermined for you. Do your really think Mufi was trying to say “his ‘local” wife is better than Neil’s ‘haole’ wife.” Really? Ditto the innocuous listing of their academic history, which became an “overt” insult to the “proletarian” University of Hawaii from the “elitist” Harvard grad. This is class warfare 101 stuff. Where all the “insults” intended, or manufactured after the fact to create a controversy, and reinforce the negative labels that were prepared for Hannemann months before?

    In the end, enough people bought this nonsense: that the indigenous, success story from Kalihi, was the racist and elitist, and the Washington insider from New York represented Hawaiian Values. And that’s how you got Neil Abercrombie as your governor….enjoy it.

  16. Teddy Freddy Says:

    Me thinks that rethinking is now rampant. But at the end of the day so what? Bloggers can/will rant but to no avail. We have a governor who is governor and will continue to be governor for 3 more years. He and his people were smart enough to know that to win the campaign he had to look like a governor, act like a governor and become a leader we could all believe in. They did an exceptional job in accomplishing this task and he won a resounding victory. Now, yes perhaps there has been some slippage 🙂 These same smart people that drove the election, plus the governor himself you can be sure, have realized or at least are beginning to realize that “things are going off track” in terms of communcations, image, confidence etc. So, we will see now some “self correction” and no doubt the communications, image stuff will now get back on track. The big question politically speaking is – so what? Does anyone really expect a contested Democratic Primary in 2014? Furthermore, the Republican bench is so weak, there really is no credible challenger on the horizon. IMHO

  17. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Although I am deeply disappointed with Abercrombie’s behavior yesterday as well as his general positions concerning Aloha Stadium, I would never vote FOR Mufi Hannemann under any set of circumstances. I have watched him and followed him since 1986 and would vote for anyone else be in whatever office for which Mufi is running.

    Fortunately, there have been quality candidates – especially the late Duke Bainum – so I wasn’t forced to support the “less worser.”

    I have no idea what drove Neil to do what he did yesterday. He’s not stupid nor does he not get the relationship between increasing the well-educated visitor count and increasing revenues both for the state and for the private sector.

    NOTE: For the past 15-plus years, I have been working with a wide variety of groups and local businesses on enhancing alternative tourism opportunities, including sports tourism. These attractions bring in somewhat older but not retired, better-educated & more affluent visitors who are more likely to get out of Waiiki and do service projects, go on hikes, and learn.

    Also, as a six-sport UH season ticket-holder plus a strong supporter of UH Wahine softball, I take the time to speak with visiting fans to find out what brought them to Hawai`i to support their team. The weather, the outdoor environment, the culture, and the opportunity to learn new things & meet new people are the main drivers after supporting their teams.

    About six months ago, I read a report stating that sports fans – whether running a marathon or going to a football game or the Sony Open generally spend about 25% more than the budget traveler who comes here for five days and four nights from Nowhere, Nebraska.

    I wish that Neil would step up and apologize, but that’s not going to happen; however, I think we will see others in the Abercrombie Administration stepping forward to help reduce the negative impacts of his statements.

  18. David Shapiro Says:

    Mynah, Abercrombie won so big because voters heard one of his opponents saying you don’t matter if you don’t look like me and the other saying you don’t matter if you don’t worship like me. Dan Inouye called you out on Compare & Decide. You were done in by your own boneheaded tactics. Own it already.

  19. Jim Loomis Says:

    What we’ve got is a governor who is passionate about the issues and lets us know exactly what he thinks. Horrors! I gather many of the above contributors would prefer someone who only speaks to the masses through carefully worded statements and only after every possible political ramification is carefully considered? Gee … where’s Lenny Klompus when we really need him??

  20. MynahBlog Says:

    The winners write history.

  21. MynahBlog Says:

    Dave, do you have a link to any backup where anyone said, “you don’t matter if you don’t look like me,” or “you don’t matter if you don’t worship like me?” Or are they your own interpretations of what you think your political adversaries were thinking, presented as pseudo quotes so as to reinforce your hypothesis?

  22. hugh clark Says:

    I am not ready to fire Niel. We all know his tendancy to sound off. And it’s time someone did. The NFL is no sacred thing as owners have demonstrated most of this year.

    I have watched the regular season product my entire adulthood. The league unilaterally dismissed Honolulu for Miami in 2010, when we needed the income allegedly generated the most.

    They came back this year like a bad spouse but with an altered format that was not negotiated as best I know. Sports experts rate it the worst of all-star pro games and I tend to agree. Maybe better to send NFL on tgheir way, even if they dion;t like the givernor;s rant.

  23. David Shapiro Says:

    Mynah, Hannemann’s “I look like you, you look like me” speech to the Carpenters and Kaauwai’s appeal to the “Body of Christ” about Aiona being the only “righteous” candidate are among the things that made voters feel as I described.

  24. David Shapiro Says:

    Here’s what Cayetano had to say about the matter in today’s S-A. This is how an adult governor analyzes an issue — and I mean the thought process more than the conclusion. It’s a business decision, not a battle against demons.

    (Abercrombie’s) statements suggest he is unaware of the Pro Bowl’s value — direct as well as indirect — to Hawaii. First, the NFL provides nationwide television coverage of Hawaii — nearly five hours of direct television as well as pre-bowl advertising of the Pro Bowl during the NFL playoffs that money can’t buy. Second, the game brings in thousands of visitors including many vendors and corporations that do business with the NFL. Third, the NFL contributes and supports local charities and other community activities. Finally, past administrations have done studies of how Hawaii’s economy has benefited from the game. The governor may find them worth reading.

    These are some of the reasons Hawaii’s partnership with the NFL has lasted more than 30 years. Other states would love to have the Pro Bowl but Hawaii has had it because the players prefer our state over others. It would be penny wise and pound foolish to dismiss the Pro Bowl as some kind of escapade for benefit of billionaires and millionaires and throw more than 30 years of goodwill down the drain!

  25. David Shapiro Says:

    Jim, touché, but in order to say what one thinks, one has to think before one says.

    I agree with him 100 percent on the importance of early childhood education and it pains me that he totally botched a chance to build some momentum for it.

  26. el guapo Says:

    Neil should have had Mike McCartney quietly go to the bigwigs of the visitor industry and get them to put up part of the $4 million.

  27. Karen Says:

    @Jim.. Neil is our governor- he should speak and act like one. Keep your emotions in check neil! Leading by emotion is for the inexperienced.

  28. Harsh Reality Says:

    Abercrombie: “You don’t matter if you don’t think like me.”

  29. David Shapiro Says:

    Cloudia, nobody questions that civil unions will being visitor dollars to Hawaii. The issue is the guv’s numbers. He said one weekend of civil unions will bring in as much as the $30 million the Pro Bowl generates. Actually, a UCLA study cited by civil union advocates last year estimated that CUs will attract $22 million to $50 million in visitor spending over four years.

  30. Jack Bates Says:

    If Neil really feels this way about the Pro Bowl, there are ways to communicate with the league, rather than slap them in the face while grandstanding before the media. As a result, Hawaii received vast negative exposure around the world. Talk about ill spent money, what about the money that will be spent to do damage control because of these unfortunate statements?

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