Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Abercrombie should follow his own advice about dignity

By David Shapiro


Gov. Neil Abercrombie is setting a new speed record for squandering the approval he enjoyed after ascending to the state’s top job with landslide victories over Mufi Hannemann and James “Duke” Aiona.

He campaigned as the Great Listener, a mature and savvy leader who could hear out all sides, talk common sense and use his three decades of legislative experience to facilitate solutions to Hawaii’s most stubborn problems.

In his first six months in office, we’ve gotten none of the above. He seems to listen to nobody, talks trash more than consensus, is often ill-informed and was mostly ignored by legislators in writing the state budget.

Some defining Abercrombie moments:

» He abruptly ended public involvement in judicial selection on the claim that secrecy would produce better judges, ignoring contrary opinions from the Office of Information Practices, the local chapter of the American Judicature Society and the state Supreme Court. One of his first new and improved judges had to be withdrawn because sloppy vetting by his office missed a federal tax lien.

» After promising unequivocally during the campaign not to increase the general excise tax, he all but invited state senators to do so — then reversed positions again when they took him up on it, costing him the respect of hung-out-to-dry lawmakers.

» He attacked seniors concerned about his proposal to tax their pensions as tools of the insurance industry and misstated what was in his own bill during a community meeting with retirees.

» He yelled at Maui nurses who attended one of his public appearances to express their displeasure with the contract the state negotiated with their union.

» He possibly destroyed 30 years of good will the state has built with the NFL in an immature rant that attacked the league in harshly insulting terms and described the $4 million the state pays to host the Pro Bowl as a “bribe.”

Again he was poorly informed, claiming a weekend of visitor revenue from civil unions will bring in as much as the $28 million the Pro Bowl generates each year; in fact, a UCLA study said it could take four years for civil unions to produce that much.

The governor has been inarticulate in explaining himself, often sounding less like a Ph.D. and more like the kid who came of age in New York during the Yankees heyday of Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel.

The supporters he has left say it’s refreshing to have a governor who says what he thinks, but the missing link is that in order to say what one thinks, one must think before one says.

As Abercrombie lectured Hannemann during the campaign, “This is not how a governor acts. This is not what a governor does.”

David Shapiro can be reached at or

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