Daniel Inouye-war hero, Medal of Honor recipient, political heavyweight,
beloved U.S. senator in Hawai’i-showed up Monday where sovereignty advocates
suspected he and other federal lawmakers feared to tread.
He was surrounded
by some of his biggest fans in the Kaua’i Marriott room for a meeting of Hale
‘Opio Kaua’i Inc. It was a far cry from the grumbling that would have met
congressional committee members if the all-day hearing they’d scheduled in
Lihu’e had gone ahead.
But don’t tell Inouye, who followed through on his
speaking engagement with the Hale ‘Opio group despite having to fly over from
Oahu, that the lawmakers ducked out from the controversy.
actually said it was a conspiracy,” mused Inouye, referring to media reports of
comments by Hawaiian-sovereignty backers who were upset by the last-second
cancellations of congressional hearings on their hot-button issue everywhere in
the state except Oahu.
Ideally, he agreed, the hearing at Kaua’i Community
College and all the others around the state this week should have gone off
without a hitch. Then everyone would have felt they’d had a true audience with
the congressional committees.
But Hawaii’s other Democratic U.S. senator,
Daniel Akaka, he of the recent hip replacement, couldn’t jet from island to
island. Doctor’s orders. He could, however, make it to Honolulu.
Friday, in a shockingly ill-timed public relations gaffe, the lawmakers and
their representatives told the people who’d planned to testify that the only
way they’d be heard was if they bought an airline ticket to Honolulu, paid for
a long-distance phone call or wrote down their thoughts and mailed them
Unfortunate, but unavoidable, Inouye said in defense. He insisted that
no one was intentionally slighted. A man’s health was at issue. And Akaka,
being the sponsor of the proposed federal bill, shouldn’t miss any of the
hearings, Inouye said.
Inouye also didn’t see any reason why Akaka should
be inconvenienced instead of the citizens, maybe watch videotapes or read
transcripts from hearings rather than make Native Hawaiians jump through the
hoops. No, if there are to be hearings in Hawai’i on this volatile issue, Akaka
should be present, Inouye said.
“I hope people understand. We tried our
best to accommodate all,” he said.
They got the matter of Akaka’s recovery
from surgery. But who can blame them for not warming to the slap in the face,
as many considered the cancelled hearings?
Inouye is an influential
senator, an icon. He’s a good politician. Among friends and supporters at the
Hale ‘Opio meeting, he gave an inspiring speech about the benefits of the
group’s efforts to help troubled children. The audience alternately nodded in
agreement and laughed at his quips, and gave him two standing ovations.
Afterward, he patiently answered reporters’ questions about the aborted
hearings, clearly wishing the subject was something else.
And then he was
gone. Back to Oahu went the only senator or representative to set foot on
Kaua’i on a day when its most outspoken pro-sovereignty inhabitants had to be
satisfied with preaching to the choir at an impromtu gathering at Lydgate
This was not how it should have been.
TGI editor Pat Jenkins
can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) and [