Posted tagged ‘Daniel Inouye’

It’s already hold-your-nose time in the Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senate race

August 5, 2011

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a couple of bizarre statements this week in Hawai‘i’s much anticipated 2012 U.S. Senate race, which so far has U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case competing on the Democratic side for a likely match against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

In one missive, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil scolded Case for publicizing his campaign poll that purported to show him leading Lingle while Hirono trails the Republican.

“I don’t believe Mr. Case is being honest with this poll,” Cecil said. “It exaggerates support for him and for Lingle. It also contradicts polling we have done in this race that shows Hirono leading Lingle by 19 points.”

Who knows if Case’s poll was right or not, but it was done by an established pollster in Hawai‘i and the sample was taken months apart from the DSCC survey.

In any event, using polling data to underline your message is a standard campaign tactic, and since when does the national party get involved in an intramural squabble this early in the game?

It makes you wonder how the statement came to be issued. Did Hirono go crying to the DSCC for protection? Was it U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime Case antagonist, keeping his promise to remain neutral by having a surrogate do the dirty work?

Establishment Democrats don’t seem to get it that they shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of carping.

The more Hirono seems to need the protection of “the boys,” the weaker she appears. The more the party establishment acts afraid of Case, the more moderates in the party and independent voters like him.

Equally nonsensical was a separate statement by the DSCC’s Matt Canter attacking Lingle after she dipped her toe further into the race.

“Hyper-partisan Linda Lingle is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Republican agenda that would end Medicare and give tax breaks to oil companies,” Canter said.

Over-the-top rhetoric may sound good in Washington’s overcharged political environment, but it just doesn’t play in Hawai‘i. This was proven beyond any doubt in last year’s race in the 1st Congressional District, when similar ultra-nasty and factually dubious attacks by national Republicans against Colleen Hanabusa helped her more than hurt her.

Lingle has an eight-year record as governor that’s fair game for criticism, but trying to portray her as a bomb-throwing GOP extremist won’t resonate with most Hawai‘i voters who know better.

She has a long-established record as a moderate within her party and has been derided as a RINO — Republican in name only — by conservative advocates of the extreme-right agenda locally and nationally.

Hardly a bomb-thrower, many of her failures as governor could be traced to an excess of caution.

The more the national parties involve themselves in our 2012 Senate race, the more Hawai‘i voters will hold their noses — and last year’s CD1 race showed that’s not a good thing for the side emitting the most odor.


Case apology to Inouye pays off

April 13, 2011

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s apology to Hawai‘i senior Sen. Daniel Inouye for the bad blood between them didn’t win him an endorsement in his new campaign to succeed the retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, but it did apparently persuade Inouye not to actively oppose him.

In an interview with Politico, Inouye said he won’t take sides in the Democratic primary and will support whichever candidate the party’s voters select to run against the likely Republican nominee, former Gov. Linda Lingle.

“I’m a good Democrat, and I want to see a Democrat win that seat,” Inouye was quoted as saying. “Although some may characterize me as a political boss, I am not a political boss. I will not force anyone to run for this or that, and I will not take sides in the primary.

“This is for the voters to decide,” he said. “If the people of Hawaii decide Ed Case is going to be the nominee, I’ll vote for him. But most importantly, we need a Democrat to replace Dan Akaka.”

Case is the first Democrat to announce for the seat, but he’s likely to end up with a lot of company in the primary; also looking at the race are former U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz.

Inouye has held a serious grudge against Case since he ran against Akaka in 2006 against the wishes of the party’s establishment.

In last year’s special election to replace Neil Abercrombie in Congress, Case was the early Democratic frontrunner, but Inouye propped up Hanabusa to run against him and ultimately knocked Case out of the race.

Case returned the favor by campaigning against Inouye’s favored candidates for governor and Honolulu mayor, Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell.

Before he announced for the Senate over the weekend, Case visited Inouye in his Honolulu office to apologize and attempt to bury the hatchet.

“I came to ask whether we can put the past behind us and have a fresh start,” Case told Politico. “I think he accepted my [apology] graciously.”

I look further into Case’s Senate run in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Tea leaves no easier to read after Case makes early entry.”

Wrestlemania, Washington style

April 8, 2011

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for contrived political melodramas like the fight in Washington over the federal budget.

President Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate and the Republican House have been playing brinksmanship for weeks over how much to cut, with the threat of a federal government shutdown looming in the background.

The closer they seem to get, the further apart they seem to be as the national political debate resembles the WWE more every day, with clownish men and women bulked up on partisan steroids playing to the gallery with intentions that have more to do with drawing political blood and ducking blame than setting national spending.

Writing a budget is one of the main responsibilities of Congress and six months into the year they don’t have a budget for this year, much less an orderly process underway for drafting next year’s.

It’s hard to disagree with our own Sen. Daniel Inouye that this is no way to fund a government, and the unbecoming circus puts me in a “wake me up when they make a decision” state of mind.

I fully realize that tuning out the foreplay can be a dangerous thing. I paid little attention to the chest-thumping leading up to the Iraq war because deep down, I didn’t believe George W. Bush would be stupid enough to start dropping bombs.

Eight years later, I still don’t believe it.

Akaka leaves a political void

March 3, 2011

Give U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka credit for a graceful announcement of his retirement after getting a less-than-gentle shove from his Democratic colleagues.

Akaka announced months ago that he planned to run for re-election in 2012 at 88, but he’d raised a paltry $66,000 for a likely formidable challenge from former Gov. Linda Lingle in a race that could cost $3 million to $6 million.

Fellow senators gave him their first hint that they didn’t think he was their best chance at beating Lingle when they dropped him as chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee, which embarrassed him and cost him political capital at home.

Then a week ago, fellow Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye said pointedly that Akaka shouldn’t expect the outpouring of financial and and moral support he received from colleagues in 2006 when he faced a primary challenge from former Rep. Ed Case.

Now that Akaka has gotten the message and announced he’ll step down after finishing his term, the big question is whether the Democrats who nudged him out were right that they can find a stronger candidate to take on Lingle.

Though his age and failure to pass his signature Akaka bill for native Hawaiian political recognition were becoming liabilities, Akaka has been one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in politics during his more than 30 years in Washington and enjoys a deep well of aloha among local voters. He hasn’t lost an election since 1974.

The four Democrats most likely to run for the seat — U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Case — all have spotty records with voters and have lost as many or more big races as they’ve won.

In listing potential candidates, Inouye mentioned a couple of intriguing younger and fresher possibilities in Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Tammy Duckworth, a McKinley grad who is assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but a crowded primary might be politically problematic for either.

Don’t count out Inouye

January 6, 2011

Many assume that Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye’s influence will wane in Washington and at home if Republicans follow through on their threat to block earmarks, or porkbarrel spending.

That’s not necessarily so. Lawmakers will find creative ways to direct federal spending to pet projects in their home states whether it’s called earmarking or not. As Senate Appropriations chairman, Inouye will be in the middle of the deal-making.

But more than that, Inouye, who was sworn in yesterday for a ninth term and could become the longest-serving U.S. senator in history, remains important because of the senatorial values he represents.

Inouye is in many ways the last of his kind, from the old school of courtly senators who believed in collegiality, bipartisanship, and most of all, the Senate’s elaborate rules that have enabled the body to provide stability in trying times.

Senators including Inouye acted in a statesmanlike and bipartisan manner to prevent a constitutional crisis after Watergate. More recently, a Republican-led Senate refused to go along with dubious attempts by House Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton.

Inouye has joined bipartisan efforts to prevent sidestepping of Senate rules for short-term political gain, and every committee he’s led has tried to move legislation that the minority as well as the majority could support.

But the Senate has become more partisan and ideological with every recent election, and this Congress will be the biggest test ever of whether the values of compromise and statesmanship represented by Inouye’s generation still rule.

Inouye made his pitch for the old values at his swearing-in yesterday, saying, “After nearly half a century of service in the Senate, I can assure you with great confidence that meaningful change is most often the product of bipartisan effort.”

The question is whether his colleagues from the younger generation will see him as a guidepost or a relic.

Inouye comes up smiling

November 3, 2010

General election 2010 was a very good night for Hawai‘i’s senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

After a dubious poll circulated by Republicans showed their candidate Cam Cavasso closing to within 13 points of him, Inouye ended up pulling 72 percent of the vote and beating Cavasso by more than 50 points.

While Republicans routed his party nationally in House and Senate races, the Democrats managed to retain control of the Senate, meaning that Inouye will stay on as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee for at least two more years.

He’ll also continue as the Senate’s president pro tempore, a position that puts him third in line for the presidency.

Inouye averted a major political embarrassment when his favored candidate in the 1st Congressional District, Colleen Hanabusa, took the seat back from Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou.

Inouye was criticized for handing the seat to the Republicans in the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie, when he created a Democratic split by encouraging Hanabusa to run against Ed Case.

Inouye is on track to make history in his ninth term by passing the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia as the longest-serving U.S. senator ever.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Obnoxious TV political ads can feel like a home invasion.”

Democrats: Rules made for ignoring II

September 13, 2010

Our discussion about Democratic Party rules and their enforcement (or lack thereof) takes an interesting new turn with the party’s move to discipline Gary Okino with expulsion, censure or reprimand for supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming election, including Cam Cavasso over U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Okino, a Honolulu councilman, is running in the Democratic primary against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444, and Democrats have every right to be up in arms that he’s endorsed a long list of Republicans who share his opposition to gay unions.

But the Democrats also have a pesky little problem: Two years ago, Inouye committed essentially the same infraction when he went against the party’s fight to gain a filibuster-proof Senate majority by campaigning for the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in Alaska.

There were huge issues of national interest at stake in terms of the Democrats’ ability to enact their programs, but we heard not a peep of reprimand or hint of censure against Inouye.

It’s more than a little hypocritical for the party to now come down with both feet on Okino for doing the same thing to Inouye (and others) that Inouye did in 2008 to Alaska Democrat Mark Begich.

If rules don’t apply equally to everybody, a party can hardly call itself “democratic.”

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:


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.


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.”


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.


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.)


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.”

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.”

Can the Akaka bill survive legislative ineptitude?

July 7, 2010

The Akaka bill for Native Hawaiian political recognition is complex  legislation that has the potential to change life in Hawai’i in the most fundamental ways.

That’s why I always took comfort that for most of its life, the bill had the support of virtually all of the state’s political establishment from nearly every ideological stripe; I figured if something was terribly wrong, somebody would blow the whistle.

For the same reason, it made me uncomfortable when our Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye pulled out major last-minute amendments without bothering to inform Gov. Linda Lingle, costing them her support.

It was highly suspicious that the senators and the Obama administration felt a need to sneak around behind the back of a Republican governor who for seven years had been a solid ally in lobbying for the bill against the grain of national GOP opposition.

The secret changes they made to give a Hawaiian governing entity a high level of immunity from state laws before any negotiations took place were never satisfactorily explained.

Today’s announcement that Akaka and Inouye are amending the bill again to satisfy Lingle’s objections and bring her back on board restores the original political comfort level.

It’s long past time to start resolving festering Hawaiian grievances stemming from the overthrow of their monarchy, and hopefully it’s not too late to get the Akaka bill on the busy Senate calendar and overcome a threatened Republican filibuster before Congress adjourns for the election.

Akaka and Inouye entered this Congress with an early filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the support of a new president born in Hawai’i and the best chance they’ll ever have to pass this bill.

If they end up blowing it because of their inept overreaching, it’ll amount legislative malpractice.


I look at another kind of political pyrotechnics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Short of banning fireworks, at least pass a decent law.”

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