A Blustery Time For The President
Wednesday - January 04, 2012
Ill winds blow when the Obamas come to down: “blustery,” the weather people call it “with “splashes” of rain here and “splashes” of rain there in the words of weatherman extraordinaire Guy Hagi. Since their first presidential Christmas visit in 2008, Barack, Michelle and the girls have known downpours as well, and three years ago sufficient bluster to cause an islandwide power outage that had the Secret Service scrambling.
Republicans named Grinch cause much of the bluster. Said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of this year’s Obama Christmas in Hawaii: “... he’s going off for 17 days and for golf in the sun and I just think it’s time to have a president whose idea of being ‘hands on’ doesn’t mean getting a better grip on the golf club.”
Former Republican presidential candidate and loopyhaired birther Donald Trump agreed with a tweet: “The habitual vacationer, Barack Obama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million ++++ while there is 20% unemployment.”
It’s partisan bluster, of course. The song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can plan on me,” and Obama, the birthers’ fantasies notwithstanding, wants to come home for Christmas: to the place where he was born, reared and schooled, and where he has spent most of the Christmases of his 50 years. It makes sense.
But ill winds blow of a far more serious nature. From Iowa comes an indication of the political weather we can expect in our newborn election year. In the runup to Tuesday’s Republican precinct caucuses in the Hawkeye State, GOP presidential hopefuls and their so-called Super PACs had spent more than $10 million, much of it on negative advertising.
Come June or July, those negative ads will hit Hawaii’s airwaves, a splash or two perhaps in the Democratic Senatorial Primary between Ed Case and Mazie Hirono, turning into a downpour in the General Election between the Democrats’ nominee and Republican Linda Lingle.
Economic bad weather continues to besiege us, and some of it came in the same December that the Obamas arrived. The Hawaii Medical Center in Liliha and Waipahu failed to find a buyer and began laying off workers. The only bid on the hospitals came in low and from a Mainland company under investigation for overcharging Medicare.
The day after Christmas, Sears announced that it would shutter 120 of its 3,560 Sears and Kmart stores. Fourteen of those 3,560 operate in Hawaii, often as the anchors of Island shopping malls. Closures of those anchor stores could, in the words of one industry analyst, “devastate” a shopping center.
The loss of a major Sears store isn’t all about ill winds; it includes major climatic change. In the 1940s, against kamaaina opposition, Sears became the first large Mainland retailer to break Big Five domination of the department store sector of the economy: “Liberty House, meet Mrs. Sears and Roebuck.”
Continued obduracy on the part of the governor and the Hawaii State Teachers Association caused its own weather. In midDecember, the Obama administration announced that Hawaii’s $75-million Race for the Top grant had achieved, for lack of a better word, “high risk” status. Simply put, the state and the teachers still haven’t signed a contract, one that the feds want to include a “performance-based evaluation system.”
But toward the end of Obama’s Hawaii vacation, the winds abated, the clouds dispersed and the first family knew sunshine. So did Hawaii economists. The state’s Council on Revenues predicted double-digit economic growth and two years of state surpluses.
Hauoli Makahiki Hou, Mr. President.
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