How Harbin Helps Dems in 2006

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - October 05, 2005
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Boy, when Linda Lingle screws up, she does it in royal fashion.

If she’s re-elected next year, it will be only because the Democrats can’t muster a well-financed, charismatic candidate with an unblemished past.

Where’s her base?

We’ll be reminded of her strutting around Baghdad in a flak vest and pronouncing Bush’s war a success. She’s on the GOP small business doo-doo list for letting the transit tax escape her veto and allowing implementation of the gas cap. Her vision of multiple school boards flew off into obscurity. She couldn’t get her buddy George Bush to endorse the Akaka Bill despite the IOUs she was due for her campaign help.

Her sloppy appointment of Republican-turned-instant-Democrat Bev Harbin to the 28th House vacancy isn’t the worst thing in Lingle’s kit bag of booboos, but it does illustrate how a once tightly run ship has fallen into the hands of a crew recruited from Penzance.

I’m sympathetic to arguments that Harbin failed to disclose her misdemeanor convictions for bad checks and failed to disclose that her company was in arrears on taxes. Still, you’d expect better vetting from such a formidable government power. The state tax director, after all, is a Lingle appointee. And didn’t the governor’s people make Harbin sign anything swearing she had no criminal record? If so, where’s the prosecution?

I’m reminded of the Bush administration, which has had a penchant for putting momentary politics over great care in selecting leaders for Homeland Security and FEMA.

Lingle also knew that Harbin is only a token 28th District resident, had once run against Sen. Donna Ikeda as a Republican and only registered as a Democrat when word leaked out that Rep. Ken Hiraki was stepping down mid-term to take a corporate job with the people he used to regulate by laws in the Legislature.

Lingle personally interviewed Harbin when she was recommended by her advisers. Did she warn Harbin that if there was anything in her background that might be embarrassing, now was the time to cough up with full immunity and fade back into the woodwork? Lingle’s PR people claim Harbin was repeatedly asked that - by Lingle herself?

I find it hard to believe that Lingle would delay so long in asking for Harbin’s resignation if Harbin had lied to her face.

I don’t lightly bash Linda Lingle. She’s one of the smartest people we’ve put in Washington Place. Moderate-to-liberal on social issues and an OK governor (constrained by wrong party affiliation) in my book.

It’s her periodic dumb moves that worry me. The next one could be a doozy and do much harm.

One thing nobody can argue with - she’s set up an opening gambit for the Democrats if they could persuade either Big Island Mayor Harry Kim or former Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki to jump in the race and belt hard at her gaffes.

I know former banker Walter Dods’s wife prefers that he not get into the game, but Dods has the smarts, the money connections and the moxie to make 2006 a memorable race. Plenty of conservative and small business Republicans might be tempted to flee Lingle for a proven businessman, even such an old-line traditional Democrat.

How much worse could he make things for the average retail shop owner?

Thank goodness the Gridiron Show is back and playing this month at Diamond Head Theatre.

The popular show lampoons politicians, government officials and fatuous individuals, and is run by the local Society of Professional Journalists.

It was cancelled last year after the tickets had been sold. Co-producer Keoki Kerr was ousted in a putsch co-organized by co-producer Garret Kamemoto and sanctioned by SPJ president Stirling Morita. Cast members revolted and quit.

Kerr is back at the helm and Kamemoto is not. Fortunately for the latter, journalists do not use firing squads for the leaders of unsuccessful coups.

I’d hope the opening number is a biting take on the notorious and vicious back-biting that transpires in the supposedly collegial world of Paradise-ofthe-Pacific journalism.

To have the moral authority to dish out hits, you must be willing to take them.

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