Facing The Political Tough Ones

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - October 03, 2007
| Del.icio.us

Eventually every one faces a tough one - particularly if your profession is politics.

Consider, for example, former Mayor Jeremy Harris. He revitalized Waikiki, planted trees across Oahu in places where shade had never been, built an Ala Moana-sized park in Central Oahu, and turned federal waste land into a world-class soccer emporium - among other things.

Harris did his job so well that by gubernatorial year 2002 he had scared the sitting Democratic lieutenant governor out of the race and appeared poised to do battle against former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle for the big office on the Capitol’s fifth floor.

Then a feisty Campaign Spending Commission director began issuing his reports, the city prosecutor began acting on them, and Harris’s political world fell apart.

Or consider our sitting president, George W. Despite problems with alcohol (and maybe drugs), despite chronic fecklessness throughout the first four decades of his life, Poppy’s friends took care of W: Saw to it that he made money in the oil business, that he became part owner of a baseball team, that he won a couple terms as Governor of Texas and - by a 5-4 vote of Poppy’s friends on the United States Supreme Court - became president of the United States.

And, in the wake of 9/11, he did well, talked tough, invaded Afghanistan and found his approval ratings at stratospheric levels.

Then W began listening to the neocons whispering in his ear. So he trumped up some “weapons of mass destruction” and invaded Iraq. Four years later he faces approval ratings at sub-surface levels and a place in the nation’s history books as the President of Incompetence.

Indeed, it does get tough. Gov. Lingle found that out a couple of weeks ago in front of a crowd of 1,000 angry Kauaians. She was there to explain security measures for the resumption of Superferry service to the Garden Island.

Instead, she was the recipient of four-letter obscenities, signs denouncing “Lingle’s Super Scandal,” and accusations that she’s been “listening to big business” rather than the people of Kauai.

Through it all, Lingle demonstrated patience, tact, diplomacy - all the requisite gubernatorial virtues. But the Kauaians would have none of it. It was perhaps the worst evening in Lingle’s two-decades in Hawaii politics.

It does get tough, even for someone as adept as Lingle. She began her career as a certifiable Hawaii outsider, a native of St. Louis via California who won a seat on the Maui County Council as a Republican. As a Republican - at a time when Maui Republicans were as rare as silverswords on Haleakala.

After four terms on the Council, Lingle won election as Maui mayor - very much as a “Green Republican,” vowing to freeze new construction of hotels and emphasizing her commitment to environmental issues.

In 2002 Lingle became Hawaii’s first Republican governor in 40 years. She so impressed Hawaii’s voters during her first term that last year Democrats all but conceded her re-election.

It’s unlikely that the Superferry will sink Lingle’s political career, but it won’t help.

It’s definitely a tough one. Fortunately for Lingle, one of her possible future opponents for the United States House of Representatives or the Senate faces a tough one of his own. In supporting construction of a fixed rail mass transit system for Honolulu, Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s demonstrated admirable political skills. He negotiated funding from the state Legislature, acquiescence from Gov. Lingle, and majority support for the project from the Council.

But opposition, often vocal, remains: on the Council, in the media, in the letters columns of Honolulu’s dailies - as might be expected of a project with a $4 billion or $5 billion price tag.

All the planning documents may be approved; the Council majority supporting it may hold; construction may begin on the city’s train. Still, construction on a project of the train’s size can take a long time. It may snarl traffic for decades. It will undoubtedly cost more than the planners’ current estimates.

All of that can be tough on a politician’s career.

Real tough.

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