We may not have enough for a book yet on the wit and wisdom of Neil Abercrombie, but our new governor runs an entertaining news conference.
Gone are the heavily scripted news conferences of former Gov. Linda Lingle that featured command performances from the entire Cabinet and GOP legislators along with staffers required to fill all the empty seats in the governor’s formal fifth-floor ceremonial office.
Newly inaugurated Gov. Abercrombie, with Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz by his side, yesterday opened up his administration by restoring money restricted by Lingle to pay for teacher furlough days.
He started by explaining that the furloughs "wouldn’t have happened on our watch."
"I say ‘our’ watch because I’m getting ready to blame him (Schatz) if it doesn’t work out," Abercrombie joked.
When the Associated Press asked the new Democratic governor a detailed question about the furloughs, Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent of schools, stepped up.
"Kathy will now bail me out with the rest of the answer," Abercrombie said.
When KITV asked what Abercrombie will do about the financial condition of the state, Abercrombie shot back "Improve it."
Hawaii Public Radio followed up with a question about Abercrombie’s priorities. What will you do next? he was asked.
"I’m working on the luau, because I have to pay for everything we did today (inauguration) and the Legislature hasn’t given me any money," Abercrombie said.
The Abercrombie inaugural gala will be Thursday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with tickets ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for a table of 10. Abercrombie officials are assuming that the event will be sold out. The funds go to a nonprofit set up to pay for the inaugural activities.
Abercrombie didn’t spare his new appointees. When introducing his budget director, Abercrombie lowered his voice and added a bit of suspense: "Budget and Finance is a deep mystery, you must be very wary and not cross them; the only one you have to fear more is the Department of Accounting and General Services, everyone knows they secretly plot.
"They act as if they are separate, but actually they are conjoined in a great conspiracy against all of us," Abercrombie said, adding that he has been "elected to come between them for the public interest."
AP then asked what it described as an "atmospheric question" causing Abercrombie to say, "Can I give you an atmospheric answer?"
The question was along the lines of "How’s your first day at school?": Do you like your office, could you figure out your chair and the private bathroom, etc.?
Abercrombie answered that he had his friend and the last Democrat to occupy the state Capitol’s top spot give him some advice.
"He showed me how to work the chairs, we are both height-threatened," said Abercrombie, who like Ben Cayetano is somewhere south of 6 feet tall.
The new governor once hosted an evening radio talk show that announced it would hold the first nude talk radio show (they weren’t really in the buff), which provoked conservatives to call in to protest the laxity in radio morals.
With a sense of humor like that, Olelo may find big rating numbers by televising Abercrombie news conferences.
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.