Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Inouye might have a job for life, but it is not a royal appointment

By David Shapiro


A recent profile of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in the Washington Post described him as the "king of Hawaii."

"More than any other statesman in the history of these volcanic islands - more than Kamehameha the Great, who united them into a kingdom in 1810, or Gov. John Burns, who led the political revolution that established Democratic Party rule here in 1954 - Inouye, 86, has ruled over Hawaii," the Post said.

Inouye has an enormous reservoir of respect here as a distinguished war hero and a native son who's risen to the highest levels of the national government, currently third in line for the presidency as the Senate's president pro tempore.

The bountiful federal spending Inouye has brought here guarantees a rich and lasting legacy, and we've rewarded him with a virtual free ride to election for nearly a half-century, which won't likely end this year despite GOP efforts to sell a poll supposedly showing their candidate Cam Cavasso gaining on him.

But Hawaii's king? Not hardly. While the senator has our deep appreciation for his accomplishments, few regard him as our ruler - and I doubt he would describe himself that way.

When he's attempted to exert influence in local politics in recent years, elected officials and voters alike have made clear that Inouye's stature in Washington doesn't entitle him to call the shots at home.

He was treated rudely by local House Democrats when his office tried to intervene in their organizational battle, and his active support of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president didn't keep her from getting swamped by Barack Obama 3-to-1 in local Democratic caucuses. Inouye couldn't even get his Hawaii chief of staff elected as a delegate to the Democratic convention.

He's been skunked so far in the 2010 elections, with the candidates he backed for governor and Honolulu mayor - Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell - soundly defeated.

His determination to block maverick Democrat Ed Case from returning to Congress by backing Colleen Hanabusa against him caused a Democratic split that resulted in Republican Charles Djou winning the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie.

Inouye gets a do-over on that one in the general election, but a race that should be a slam dunk for Democrats is neck and neck.

Many voters still resent Inouye's attempt to anoint Hanabusa, who lacks ties to the district and carries the baggage of leading the ouster of attorney general Margery Bronster during the Bishop Estate investigation, pushing a $75 million tax credit for a nonexistent Ko Olina aquarium and defending the Legislature's 36 percent pay raise at the height of the recession.

Inouye deserves our utmost respect as a public servant in the best sense of the term, but our king? No.

David Shapiro can be reached at or

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