comscore After 8 years in public eye, Lingle deserves time to herself | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

After 8 years in public eye, Lingle deserves time to herself


No one could legitimately begrudge Linda Lingle some time off.

The woman has endured 96 months or nearly 3,000 long days in a fifth-floor office in the state Capitol with people looking over her suited shoulders.

Privacy has no doubt been in short supply, her being persistently escorted and driven everywhere by semi-scary muscular guys who are probably very lovely fellows. Nonetheless, giving them the high sign when you want to go to the lua can get old really fast.

As governor, Lingle has had to go toe to toe with legislators, those cunning gangs of men and women with agendas counter to her own for political, philosophical and just plain ornery reasons.

She has had to weather conflicts with public employees and their unions, teachers and their union, business groups and their lobbyists, conservationists, environmentalists, Hawaiian rights organizations, university professors and their union, social services leagues, gay rights groups, anti-gay rights congregations, the Board of Education — almost every representative party you can think of save the Girl Scouts.

Education matters bookend her tenure. Early on, she was criticized for the questionable operation of a reform program out of her Capitol digs, and in the waning days of her term, acute budget shortages led to furloughs, most notably of public school teachers.

In between, there was the Superferry fiasco, bouts with the Honolulu mayor over homelessness, earthquakes that paralyzed the city and caused damage on the neighbor islands and, after an extortion attempt against him and a public corruption investigation by the FBI, the embarrassing resignation of her chief of staff, a man upon whom she leaned.

After all this, a girl needs a break to get away from the noise and smooth her feathers.

Lingle said she’d take six months before deciding whether to challenge Daniel Akaka for his long-held seat in the U.S. Senate.

In those months, Lingle ought to try to get out of the fish bowl, escape from the public eye, as much as is possible for someone with a recognizable face.

Go cruising with nothing more than a full cooler and a rain jacket up the roller-coaster road to Waimea Canyon. Watch the waves roll in at Polihale and lunch on the ono fried chicken at Hanamaulu Cafe that’s much better than that Thai chicken pizza at the chain restaurant she’s so fond of.

Go buy watercress and zebra-striped lemons at the Kinoole street farmers market in Hilo where true homegrown produce, not repackaged mainland tomatoes, are sold, and try to resist Blue Kalo’s poi cookies.

Get hands red-dirt dirty planting pili on Kahoolawe, urban walk through Pawaa, explore the base of the Koolaus through Waimanalo. Ride the bus to town or drive Kalanianaole during rush hour.

And talk to the people governed mostly from afar, the ones who weren’t at the pre-arranged meetings and story sessions, the unspecial folks who weren’t strategic backdrop-props for a high-powered official’s appearance.

Lingle says she wants to do something "to make life better," and maybe becoming a senator in Washington is the best way for her to do that. Or maybe doing something smaller and less visible would be just as effective. Politics gets old real fast, too.


Cynthia Oi can be reached at

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