comscore Hawaii looks back, and ahead, as its presidential spotlight dims | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Hawaii looks back, and ahead, as its presidential spotlight dims

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS In this Oct. 24, 2008 photo, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., takes a brief walk through his old neighborhood in Honolulu.

Drive 10 minutes inland from the high-end shops and fancy hotels of Waikiki Beach and you get to a part of Honolulu that feels less homogenized than the made-for-tourists beachfront. There are pawnshops just steps away from old stone churches, and fast-food restaurants down the street from majestic lawns shaded by the giant canopies of tropical rain trees.

This is the neighborhood where President Barack Obama grew up. The leader of the free world once worked at the Baskin-Robbins on King Street.

As the Obama presidency winds down, I toured Honolulu to get a sense of whether Hawaiians were feeling wistful. For nearly eight years, the state had a native son in the White House, a special connection to a U.S. mainland that can otherwise feel quite far away. It’s a shorter flight to Tokyo from here than it is to Washington.

I called DeSoto Brown, chief historian and archivist at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Brown said he still gets a charge when he walks the streets of Obama’s neighborhood.

“The Hawaiian islands are small and physically very far away from everything else in the world,” Brown said. “There’s been this disbelief for someone like me that arguably the most powerful man on the planet was born on this island and grew up on this island. It’s kind of astonishing.”

Brown said he had relished the chance to give out-of-town guests the Obama childhood tour.

The tour includes the Baskin-Robbins, where Obama worked as a student, the now timeworn concrete apartment building where he lived with his grandparents and the prestigious Punahou School, a private high school with elegant stone buildings and lush playing fields, where Obama graduated from in 1979.

“It’s kind of sad that this is over,” Brown said of the Obama presidency. “He’s now taking his place in history.”

Obama’s departure is the coda to what some here describe as Hawaii’s golden years of representation in Washington. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a Democrat, served in the Senate for nearly 50 years and was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee upon his death in 2012. Having Inouye and Obama in Washington gave Hawaii an against-the-odds, outsize political profile, one that is unlikely to be matched anytime soon.

“He’s definitely a hometown boy,” said Kirk Caldwell, the mayor of Honolulu, who a few weeks ago spent time with Obama during a presidential visit. “He has shave ice. He wears slippers,” he said, describing the local dessert and the favored footwear. “The dude knows how to body surf.”

Hawaii will miss the spotlight that Obama brought the state during his annual visits, Caldwell said.

“It’s not like we are going to become a backwater,” Caldwell said. “But perhaps some of that attention to Hawaii will not be there anymore.”

The mayor said the president had told him that he hoped to get a place in Hawaii after he leaves office.

If there is an upside to the end of the Obama presidency for Hawaii, it is that Obama will be returning to the islands without the massive motorcades that created traffic chaos every time he visited from Washington.

“They won’t be blocking the highway for him anymore,” said Ron Field, a retired aeronautical engineer from the mainland who lives in Obama’s old neighborhood. “He’ll have to get in line like everyone else.”

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  • He’s just another white dude with a Punahou education as far as I’m concerned. He puts his pants on one leg at a time just like a rent-a-cop or a ditch digger. Only problem is when he puts his pants on he damages the country. Race relations have not been worse in decades, hatred of the country is spreading like a disease, cops are being murdered, Obamacare is a disaster, the justice system is broken, income inequality is out of control, government power is coalescing in fewer and fewer hands, the populace has been dumbed down, the middle east is on fire, our allies and enemies have lost all respect for us and the vermin in the media protect him like he’s the second coming of Christ.

      • Can’t argue that. The folks really do like him. Hats off and three cheers to Barry Hussein. He has done a masterful job of keeping his finger prints off the many screw-ups his “fundamental transformation” has brought about. Of course a compliant and slavish media never hurts either.

        • Little man just can’t accept the fact that the President from Hawaii will go down as one of the most popular presidents in recent history, notwithstanding all of the obstruction by the GOP that lead to the rise of Donald Chump and the death of the GOP brand for a generation.

        • A failed Stimulus and Obamacare crashed and burns, yet it’s the GOP’s fault. What a joke this FAKE president was. Hawaii should be embarrassed knowing that this clown will go down as the worst President in US history. “Popular”? Only among the clueless like you cheese.

        • Sure- everyone else is wrong- Duhbya was great, no such thing as climate change, all immigrants are criminals, all Muslims are terrorists. . . President Obama is from here- so why don’t you move to Mississippi?

      • Popular? Sure. A record of positive achievement to point to? Not so much. Oh wait, adult men can now use the little girls room when they need to pee and members of the armed forces can now get taxpayer funded gender re-assignment. So Barry’s got that going for him…which is nice.

        • There is no sense in cataloging his list of accomplishments for the willfully misinformed. Use all the pejoratives and well-used sound bites you want- he’s a great president and he’s very popular and he’s from here- if you don’t like it- too bad.

    • Yes it is all Obama’s fault. Race relations were great prior to Obama becoming president. Cops were free to kill blacks anytime they felt like it with no problem. Oh, to return to the days prior to Obama. lol

      Of corse prior to Obama, health insurance was so easy to get and it was cheap with no premium increases. My how many have such short memories.

      I agree that the population has generally been dumbed down but the fault for that lies mainly with republicans who gave us Fox. And one should never forget who ignited the middle east. Say CEI found those WMDs yet?

      • Aren’t doctors and insurers bailing out of Odummycare. My how YOU “have such short memory”. More like none at all earhole. Thats right, I still remember you changing your name. “Dumbed down” is exactly what puppets like you have become. As for WMDs, shouldn’t you be asking Hillary that? After all SHE approved going into Iraq. Or did your “short memory” forget that too.

        • Irag- oh yeah, the fiasco started under false pretenses by Duhbya because of insecurity over his daddy’s failure? Great point.

    • Let me add something, obama did not grow up in the ghetto as clinton have said in her campaign trail. Obama was traveling around the world while many kids his age were struggling in the ghetto; I have more respect for Dr. Ben Carson, who had experienced ghetto life than obama who had a silver spoon in his mouth. If only the mainland people would Google Punahou, they will come to find out that it is a private school with only the ones with $$$, political connection, or whose parent(s)was(were) once student of this school can attend.

  • enjoy your walk around the neighborhood if Maobama starts a war with Russia like they said on the news that this is almost looking like the 1973 nuclear war that almost happen, lets see the Russian fleet is going through the English channel on its way to Syria if we put a no fly zone over Allepo like Maobama and Hillary wants and shoot down any Russian jets we will be at war and Russia will use nuclear weapons on us and the Hawaiian islands will be Russia’s first target so kiss your you no what goodbye.

  • I feel sorry for all of you lemmings who threw in with Barry Hussein early on. You either stick with him through all of his screw-ups, intentional and otherwise, or admit your judgement was flawed. Remember he had a resume so thin and empty that there was no way to vet him. You supported him because his presidency would be “historic”. You had your chance to elect Waldo Clinton 8 years ago but you went for the shiny object instead.

    • And CEI, I feel sorry for you. You thought he was so bad the economy would continue to be the pits. But guess what? The stock market has risen from under 7000 to around 18,000. Not bad for a 8 year return. Sure beats the prior republican president who saw a 30% reduction over his 8 years. You should never had shorted the market. lol

      • What earhole, more memory lapse? I guess you forgot that the Market dropped to 7000 under Barry’s watch. As for the rise, you DO know that the Fed. Reserve drops 4B, thats right with a B into the Market monthly right. W had no such support. True puppet.

        • Of course- this had nothing to do with the big smoking tuurrd that Duhbya left after 8 years of mismanagement and giveaways to the wealthy. Nothing to do with repubs playing to a prejudiced base opposing the President’s initiatives at every turn? Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

      • It’s all coming clear now. Boots and Ike were separated at birth. Had to school Ike yesterday, didn’t want to do it but I felt I owed it to him. Now it’s your turn Boots. The stock market has done quite well indeed. Quantitative easing (printing money from thin air) and artificially low interest rates have made the very rich very richer. The little people see none of that and must be content with the crumbs that fall from the table. So in a sense you are right but overall you’re uninformed and quite gullible as well.

  • Whether you like him or not, he was a local boy that got himself elected to become one of the most powerful man in the world! An awesome feat for a local kid!

  • Hawaii is a backwater if your identity is tied up in someone who spent his school years in Hawaii and then moved to Chicago. No other state cares if their home grown becomes President . If you think Obama not being President makes Hawaii less relevant, then Hawaii -you have a serious self confidence issue.

  • A McCully boy grows up and becomes the leader of the free world! Awesome! My sister, who is self-employed, now has affordable health care thanks to him. President Obama no ka ‘oi!

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