Dems’Civil War, Buying Candidates

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 20, 2006

Manoa state Rep. Kirk Caldwell characterizes this Saturday’s Democratic Primary election for the United States Senate as “a civil war. It’s divided husbands and wives, law firms, generations and the party itself.”

Indeed, it has.

I know two couples, compatible for decades on practically everything, who’ve come to election-year grief over the Dan Akaka-Ed Case contest. “I’m for the youngster,” says one of my buddies of long standing. “Wife’s for the old guy.” In the other household, where husband and wife are both on the far side of 80, it’s the husband who stands with Akaka, the wife for Case.

Then there’s the generational gap. Most of the lower Hoolauae Street gang of my acquaintance - four to five of the most liberal Democratic houses you’ll find on this planet - are sticking with Akaka. The one lonely Republican in the crowd: I’m bettin’ on him to do the cross-over for Case.

But so too, I think, will one of Hooloaue’s youth, a 30ish attorney. My last soundings of him on the topic sounded like Case. Akaka’s folks are worried about young people; they lean Case. Akaka people take comfort in youth’s miserable voting record.

So we will go to the polls on Saturday (those of us who haven’t already cast our absentee ballots) and either re-elect Dan Akaka to his fourth Senate term - or make a freshman senator out of Ed Case.

Anyone who’s visited this spot in MidWeek during the past four years knows how I’ll vote this Saturday. I’ve been opposed to the war in Iraq from congressional authorization through invasion to the present chaos in which we are immersed. So too have most experts on the Middle East (of which I am not one).

But President Bush and his fellow ideologues prevailed. Their war in Iraq was unprovoked, poorly planned, and poorly executed. It has cost the United States 2,700 dead, 19,000 wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. Add 50,000 civilian Iraqis to the death count, a civil war in process, and you have the title of Thomas Ricks’ searing new book on the subject: Fiasco. (As I write this, a headline in the morning paper reads: “Latest spike in violence leaves 48 dead, including 6 U.S. troops.” On page 3. Routine stuff, this. That kind of blood won’t even get onto the front page in year three of Bush’s Iraq adventure.)

Akaka, along with Sen. Dan Inouye, voted against authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq. Akaka also has called for a timetable for withdrawing our troops. Case has stated that, knowing what we knew in the fall of 2002, he would have voted for authorization; and he’s argued that withdrawal is a far left position. As a colleague of mine puts it, “even Case’s hindsight isn’t 20-20.”

So on Saturday, I’ll stick with Akaka. His judgment is good, better - I think - than his opponent’s. And I am proud that Hawaii has produced the only non-Caucasian members of the United States Senate: Akaka, Inouye and Barrack Obama. They bring a consciousness, a sensitivity to that body that too many of the other 97 members lack.

Yet I understand those who will not vote Akaka. While I may find great fault with Case’s judgment on the war, I’ve seen enough of him to know that he’s an intelligent man and his campaign style attests to his comparative youth and energy. And on many, many issues his positions are one with Akaka’s. And I’ve never felt that political offices should be lifetime sinecures. Akaka has been in the Senate for 16 years; before that he served 14 years in the House of Representatives. Sen. Inouye has been in Washington for 47 years - three in the House, 44 in the Senate. Both offer Hawaii the advantages of seniority, but is there really something new and exciting and vital they need six more years to do for Hawaii and the Republic?

I haven’t a clue who will win Saturday’s Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. But legal corruption will triumph, as it will in the Republican primary. Somehow $600,000 worth of television ads and mailings, courtesy of the National Association of Realtors, arrived in Hawaii to bolster Case’s campaign in the critical final weeks before the primary - no doubt “for services rendered” - or “to be rendered” in the future.

Meanwhile, Sen. Akaka’s has benefited from oodles of political action money, much of it from unions, to support his candidacy - and pay for his past and future support. In the Republican contests, of course, Gov. Linda Lingle boasts a campaign treasury of $6 million.

I don’t mean to be cynical, dear fellow citizen, but when you pick your political hero of this election season - Akaka, Case or Lingle - know that a good part of them has already been bought and paid for by interested parties.

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