’08: Obama, Rail, Palin And More

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - December 31, 2008
The author admits being wrong about Obama, and Americans

The year 2008 wasn’t necessarily bad, but the penultimate year before the new decade is kind of like the last guy at the party - it was nice that you came, but it’s time for you to go.

This is the time that media types (myself included) share some thoughts about the passing year. In no particular order, here are the top stories of 2008:

* Barack Obama wins the presidency. I authored a piece three years ago proposing that the Clinton machine was still formidable and that America was not prepared to elect an African-American president. Well, the Clinton presence is still influential, but I missed the call on America. PEOTUS Obama ran a textbook campaign and capitalized on the concept of “change.” His opponent, Sen. John McCain, was reminiscent of Bob Dole in 1996. McCain was an able and experienced war hero, too. But with a youthful, energetic campaign fraught with mainstream media, Hollywood and online support (and with President Bush’s approval rating just above Congress), Obama makes history as our 44th president.

* The economic meltdown is not only a top story of 2008, but may make the list years from now. The mortgage disintegration is identified as the culprit, but there was a myriad of other contributing factors. However, the domino effect is staggering. Entire industries, stalwart corporations and personal investment portfolios were profoundly injured, if not destroyed, because of global economic contractions. Hopefully, the top story of 2009 will celebrate our recovery, but I’m not holding my breath.

* A good story not making headlines is America was safe in 2008. Despite the evisceration of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, we did not suffer a massive attack on our homeland. The cacophony of threats from our enemies was loud and, unfortunately, other nations did experience terroristic attacks. However, we remained secure, and kudos should be extended to all those charged with our nation’s security.

* The rail vote of 2008 was a profound moment. As a matter of fact, the entire rail debate dominated conversation here at home. Yes, the public did cast its vote to support the multi-billion-dollar public-works project. But the vote was far from a clear-cut mandate. The concerns raised during the debate still remain. The source of income, the final route and the condemnation of land are but a few of the issues yet to be resolved. Regardless, rail is coming, and I hope we don’t regret what we wished for.

* The indictment of auto mag-nate and Kauai landowner Jimmy Pflueger is an important case. The loss of life attributed to a private citizen and his stewardship of property along with aspersions cast on government representatives and bureaucrats will test our laws and courts.

* Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam not only offends an entire ethnic community, but remains in office. Incredulously, other elected officials actually rushed to his defense. Huh? When Tam referred to illegal construction workers as “wetbacks,” there was a stunned silence. What was his explanation for the use of such a pejorative term? He claimed he didn’t know that it was offensive. Which is more troubling? Is it the ease of his use of prejudicial language or his ignorance of basic dialog? Either way, it’s a lose-lose proposition.

* Speaking of bad judgment, consider the headline-grabbing story of former Hawaii Tourism Authority chief Rex Johnson. His use of state computers and time to exchange ribald and racist jokes was such a bonehead move. Not only did Hawaii lose expertise in directing our No. 1 industry through rough waters, but Johnson compromised Hawaii in a marketplace where perception frequently trumps reality.

* Should the government bail out private companies? First, the financial markets, then the automobile industry - the contentious debate between free market and economic pragmatism has been ratcheted up several notches. Regardless of your philosophical position, one thing is certain - you are going to pay either way.

* Sarah Palin. She shook up the 2008 presidential campaign, and without her presence the GOP would have been invisible to the press and the general public. Her conservative position on issues resonated with the Republican base, but her brutal treatment by late-night comedians and vicious online bloggers overshadowed her candidacy. Sure, she stumbled a couple of times on the campaign trail, but her fresh and nonWashingtonian perspective actually presented real change instead of an empty tag line.

* The top story for me is that we are still here and in the game. Yes, there are challenges. Yes, there are difficult times. But, like our parents before us, we will overcome and be stronger for it. The real story for me is my wife still loves me, our kids are healthy and God continues to bless us every day.

A new year signals a time of reinvigoration, renewal and opportunity. I am prayerful the new year brings you and yours happiness and prosperity. So, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, 2008. It’s time to welcome 2009.

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