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Lingle backs away from 2002 comment that Bush was 'greatest president'

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 05:20 p.m. HST, Oct 18, 2012

Former Gov. Linda Lingle has flatly denied ever describing President George W. Bush as the “greatest president,” but she acknowledged making the statement in an email a decade ago.

Lingle’s assessment of Bush was reported by David Shapiro in a column in the Honolulu Advertiser in May 2002 about Lingle’s appearance at the state GOP convention. Shapiro wrote that Lingle calling Bush “the greatest president ever” was “an overstatement that makes even some Republicans cringe.”

Lingle sent Shapiro an email the day the column appeared in the newspaper. “Thanks for covering my speech at the convention and the generally upbeat piece,” she wrote. “You would have to pick up on the `greatest President ever’ line that I misspoke. It was not in my notes and I meant to say a great president. It was fair comment nonetheless, and I appreciate your continued interest in the race.”

Lenny Klompus, the deputy campaign manger for Lingle’s Republican U.S. Senate campaign, said Thursday that Lingle would have no immediate comment. “The email speaks for itself,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, Lingle’s Democratic opponent, had asked Lingle at a debate on Tuesday whether she still believed Bush was the “greatest president” given his administration’s handling of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Lingle challenged Hirono to produce a citation for the statement.

“I would ask that Congresswoman Hirono cite where that was said, because it’s not a statement I ever made,” Lingle said. “Certainly, after 9/11, when President Bush faced an attack on our nation, I thought he did an outstanding job of stepping forward, of uniting the nation, of developing a plan.”

But Lingle insisted that the “quote she mentioned, never happened.” Hirono said she was “astounded” by the denial.

Democrats have used Lingle’s “greatest president” assessment of Bush against her for a decade, mostly to undercut her image as a moderate and independent not beholden to national Republicans. 

Asked by Big Island Now, an online news site, about the Bush comment, the Lingle campaign responded in September by saying that by all accounts Lingle made the reference in 2002 in the context of Bush’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Bush reference was not reported by the Honolulu Advertiser or the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in news coverage of Lingle’s remarks at the state GOP convention in 2002, but appeared a few days later in Shapiro’s column.

“As far as I know, I was the only media type to quote it and my column was the source of subsequent Democratic citations of what she said,” Shapiro said in an email Wednesday.

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allie wrote:
Lingle is so dishonest about who and what she represents. What a joke. And Bush was the worst American president ever. By far as he actually hurt the country in a huge way.
on October 18,2012 | 03:19PM
Paulh808 wrote:
The worst President ever is in office right now, the apologist in chief. Star Advertiser again showing their bias, why is this a news story?
on October 18,2012 | 04:23PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Perhaps becaus Ms. Lingle once again got caught "stretching" the truth?
on October 18,2012 | 05:29PM
hapaguy wrote:
Really? The worst President ever is in office right now? Worse than the last President that lied us into a useless war in Iraq that cost us untold billions of dollars and over 4400 american lives? Worse than the last President that drove our economy into a ditch and caused the worst recession in US history only surpassed by the Great Depression? Worse than that President?
on October 18,2012 | 05:39PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Absolutely. Not nearly as bad as this president who is trying to change our nation into a socialist clone of many European countries.
on October 18,2012 | 08:37PM
hapaguy wrote:
wow. to believe that it was alright to lie our country into a war that cost us so many young american lives just because that President was a Republican....absolutely staggering in how blinded you are by your right wing ideology....
on October 18,2012 | 08:48PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on October 19,2012 | 06:44AM
hawaiikone wrote:
You've really warped facts to promote your concept of reality.
on October 19,2012 | 07:26AM
NITRO08 wrote:
on October 19,2012 | 06:43AM
Naloboy wrote:
Lingle's been a liar for so long she can't remember what she said to who or when....or even why. She said a lot worse than the Bush remark when she was out on the road campaigning for the lunatic, moronic 2008 GOP V.P. candidate ....that Palin woman. Her entire history has been one of disavowing her past statements while looking for any future opportunities to sell out Hawaii and promote herself. Shameless....and and her very core, simply dishonest.
on October 18,2012 | 04:20PM
Naloboy wrote:
And I love it when a perfectly honest, well constructed comment gets "sent for approval." That's your Star-Advertiser at work trying its best to control the conversation in Hawaii.
on October 18,2012 | 04:21PM
false wrote:
Lingle's support of Bush, McCain, Palin, and now Romney fly in the face of her so-called "bipartisinship." She's Republican to the core and supports Republican candidates and Republican issues. If she's elected Senator from Hawaii, you can expect her to do the same in Washington. She'd support Joe McCarthy if he was running, as long as he's a Republican. In her commercial, she says, "You know me..." Yes, Linda, we certainly do, no matter how much doubletalking you do.
on October 18,2012 | 04:23PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Didn't realize Hanabusa, Akaka, Hirono, Inoye, or any other Democrat supported Romney. Thought they all supported Obama, just like good little demos everywhere. Or are you applying a double standard here, implying that no demo has ever advocated bipartisanship in their campaigns? If so, this country is in worse trouble than I thought.
on October 18,2012 | 04:36PM
hapaguy wrote:
Can't you just accept the fact that Lingle was caught in a lie? She LIED in the debate period
on October 18,2012 | 05:33PM
hawaiikone wrote:
My comment is in response to the idea that a republican supporting another republican is a bad thing, as was implied by the previous poster.
on October 18,2012 | 08:40PM
awahana wrote:
I already sent it my absentee. No black square for Lingle or Romney.
Doesn't really matter anyway. A done deal for most (D) races.
Anyone who blacks out those (R) squares in this little electoral state, has no effect whatsoever.
Don't like it? You have to either move to another state, or repeal the electoral college.
on October 18,2012 | 04:43PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
They won't take you up on either one of those options, but they will continue to make excuses and whine about "sheeple" instead of admitting their views are out of touch with the vast majority of the people in Hawaii.
on October 18,2012 | 05:28PM
hawaiikone wrote:
But certainly not "out of touch" with the majority of the nation. Which actually counts.
on October 18,2012 | 08:42PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
We'll see on election day.
on October 18,2012 | 10:19PM
entrkn wrote:
Lingle flip-flops just like Romney... two rotten apples in the barrel stinks it up twice as much.
on October 18,2012 | 05:32PM
hapaguy wrote:
Here is a link to Dave Shapiro's column from May 8, 2002 where he quotes Linda Lingle as saying Bush "was the greatest President ever"...lol http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2002/May/08/op/op04adavid.html
on October 18,2012 | 05:44PM
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