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Lee Cataluna

Akaka’s aloha to Congress will be a big change for isles


There are some things Hawaii residents have come to see as sure things:

A union job with the state means unassailable benefits.

Joe Moore will be there at 6 and 10 p.m.

And Dan Akaka will be in Congress for all the days of his life.

At least Joe Moore is still around. What a shock to see so many other fixtures of our society fall away. Some people are still trying to get used to calling the old Liberty House "Macy’s." These are strange times when the things you thought you could count on are suddenly revealed as subject to change, like rules for carry-on bags.

Stranger still is the possibility that Mufi Hannemann may actually be feeling pretty good about losing the governor’s race.

Hannemann has enough self-awareness to keep from looking too gleefully opportunistic at this turn of events. But still, if he had won the governorship, he would not be in the position to turn around and start campaigning for Congress — a position he’s had in sight since his college days at Harvard. If Hannemann were governor right now, he’d be too busy doing icky, unpleasant stuff like cutting social programs, proposing tax increases and having lunch meetings with Calvin Say.

These are strange days, indeed, when some of the things Ed Case said in his impudent 2006 campaign against Akaka are now being said by Akaka himself. It’s time, Akaka said. It wasn’t then, but it is now.

Many pundits have said Akaka’s announcement that he will not seek re-election came as no surprise. But play the "I knew this was gonna happen" game all you want, the bottom line is this will be a big change.

Dan Akaka stood for many good old traditional values that we’ve lost along the way. Gov. Neil Abercrombie said of Akaka’s announcement last week: "Daniel Akaka is Hawaii." That is true on several levels.

Akaka represents an ideal; a patient, polite and dignified man who rose to a position of power but never let it get to his head. He has been courageous in quiet ways, fighting for his constituents without raising his voice, shaking his fists or talking stink about his opponents. Congress has become the epicenter of vicious self-promoting displays of hubris, while Akaka has remained the very image of decorum and congeniality.

Akaka is Hawaii in some not-so-desirable ways, too. He is conflict-avoidant, even if a fight is called for. He is not one to take credit or self-promote in a world where the squeaky wheel gets the air time. He was sometimes humble to a fault.

As changes come so rapidly and we lose so many things we assumed were here to stay, Dan Akaka stood for something essential about Hawaii. Through all his years in public office, he remained true to his values, untarnished by misdeed, never jaded by his status. Dan Akaka was always a sure thing.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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