Why Case Really Lost To Akaka

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - October 04, 2006
| Del.icio.us

My turn for Sunday morning quarterbacking - albeit 10 days late.

Why did Ed Case lose his bid to unseat Danny Akaka for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the United States Senate?

The reasons are many, but let’s start with the war in Iraq. Case chose to run against the direction of state Democrats, national Democrats, Independents and even a growing number of Republicans.

In a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted on the eve of Hawaii’s Sept. 23 primary election, 36 percent of those polled approved of George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, 59 percent disapproved, 5 percent still aren’t sure.

The same poll showed that 69 percent of Republicans approved, 27 percent disapproved, and 4 percent remained unsure. Independents? Only 32 percent of them approved of Bush’s handling of the war, 62 percent disapproved, 6 percent were unsure.

But 86 percent of the Democrats, in whose primary election Case chose to run this year, disapproved of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. A mere 11 percent approved, and only 3 percent hadn’t decided how they felt.

And an even more recent poll of Iraqis showed that 71 percent of them - the folks who Bush and his ideologues thought would love us to death for freeing them from Sadam Hussein and giving them democracy - want us out of their country.

Yet Case chose to let Hawaii’s voters know that, unlike Medal of Honor winner Daniel K. Inouye, Akaka, and congressional colleague Neil Abercrombie, he would have voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq. And Case made a point of Akaka being a far-left fringe Democrat for supporting 2004 Democratic standard-bearer John Kerry’s resolution calling for withdrawal of American forces by the 2007.

That’s not where Hawaii’s Democrats are on the issue of Iraq either. Eight of the 10 Democrats running in the 2nd District primary stood closer to Akaka than to Case. So, too, we can assume from the national polls, did Hawaii’s independent voters - and even a few of the Republicans that Case sought to woo into the Democratic primary.

And as others wiser than I have pointed out, Case’s positions on Iraq - from authorization of Bush’s invasion to a slow, measured withdrawal from that deeply troubled country - trumped his stand against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, which Akaka had supported.

Then there was Danny Akaka. How do you run against a gray-haired, elderly gentleman, who’s been married to the same woman for 55 years? Worse, how do you run against a humble, decent, kind, warm human being who in 30 years in congress, has never been tainted by scandal or dis-loyalty? Or how do you run against a man who’s been hugging every Democrat, Republican, Independent he meets since ... well, maybe, his adolescence?

How? Very gently, if at all. Case could be gentle. But he could also get rough, as he was at the Hawaii Publishers Association in early August and increasingly after the PBS/AARP debate.

Plus, he continually labeled Akaka “ineffective.” Maybe, but Case never came up with much of a legislative brief for himself, either in the state legislature - from whence 16 of his former colleagues came forward to endorse Akaka - or in Congress where he had only stopped for two, hardly spectacular two-year terms.

Then there was Case himself. Some in the press labeled him “robotic.” But what I heard repeatedly was “arrogant.” No matter how many “talk story” sessions where he supposedly listened to the voters (and I’ve watched him do this very patiently indeed), many voters concluded that Case listened to no one save ... you got it, Ed Case.

Inner-direction may work in business or the arts or any number of other fields, but democratic politics requires other-direction. If you can’t listen to advice other than your own, if you’re unable to learn from failure, in politics you are doomed.

A Manoa acquaintance of mine who dealt with Case in the legislature insists that he’s educable. The lesson of Sept. 23 is that in Hawaii, if you run toward a Republican war, you will carry eight East Honolulu and Windward districts on Oahu and two Kona districts on Hawaii Island. You’ll be shut out on Maui and Kauai.

And you will lose to an 82-year-old, grey-haired Hawaiian gentleman who has consistently opposed Mr. Bush’s war.

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