POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 17, 2010
Why would you invite Rod Tam to a debate?
The same reason you'd put Paul Lynde in the center square or have Paula Abdul as a talent judge or book Dennis Rodman and his dress for an awards banquet.
Same reason you'd write a column about him.
He's a sideshow. He's a clown. He's for entertainment purposes only. You can count on Tam to sprinkle the goofy powder on an otherwise bland event.
The question is, why would anyone vote for him?
(Well, because he shows up at a lot of community events, funerals and fundraisers with a donation envelope in his hand and he takes a lot of friends to lunch.)
Tuesday night's mayoral debate on KGMB featured front-runner Peter Carlisle, acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell and last election's spirited underdog, Panos Prevedouros.
Rod Tam was just there for laughs. And, like he always does, he came through for the crowd.
When asked about his infamous efforts in the Legislature to provide naps and snacks for state workers, he actually blamed the media for making the snack part up, saying reporters spotted a refrigerator in his office and thus the legend was born.
Funny, Tam. You're a funny little liar on that one. In 2002, he proposed budgeting $623,750 a year to pay for coffee makers, coffee, water and snacks for government workers "to increase the morale of state employees." Here's a link to Richard Borreca's story in which Tam talks about his snack idea. Read it for yourself.
Then there were the magic moments when Tam used his rebuttal time to ask questions of his opponent rather than, you know, rebut. Or when he held up a folded piece of paper saying it was a letter from a Beijing investor thanking him for telling him about Hawaii opportunities (and probably for picking up the lunch tab). Or when he said he believes in "taking it on the head, and that's why I'm called Lightning Rod Tam."
Yeah, he's taken it on the head all right.
There was an awful moment when Tam, who campaigns heavily on being a multicultural kind of guy, asked Prevedouros, who also touts himself as culturally sophisticated, what he would do as mayor about Honolulu's homeless problem. Prevedouros started talking about Hawaii's problem with Micronesians and the Compact of Free Association and how at Kuhio Park Terrace, the state's largest public housing complex, all 2,000 units are 100 percent filled with Micronesians. No Hawaiians. No locals.
Tam's multicultural alarm didn't go off. The answer just sailed by into the night. Somehow, whatever Rod Tam has must be contagious because in that moment, Prevedouros caught it bad.
After Saturday's election, Rod Tam will be out of public office and we'll need someone else to play the clown. But he'll always be the goofball by which all future political goofballs will be measured.