Redefining “Support”

There are plenty of reasons to feel vaguely annoyed and Senator Inouye’s recent interview in Honolulu Civil Beat.  I, for one, particularly loathed the implication that people in the middle class are a tad selfish for feeling that they pay enough in taxes.  But for sheer muddling of a situation, it’s hard to beat his responses to the questions about the level of support for the Akaka Bill.  Here’s what Inouye has to say:

Mentioning Sen. Akaka calls to mind the issue of the Akaka Bill really not proceeding. What do you tell the people of Hawaii? This is an underlying issue that has to be addressed for the people of this state in some shape or form.

The vast majority of those who are well-aware, or have some understanding of the measure, are supportive. But this bill has been delayed and frustrated by the very ones who support it… (One person) would tell me, ‘you’re not doing enough’ and (another) will say, ‘I think you went too far.’

This time, there’s a difference. Akaka, OHA, the administration, they’re all singing one tune. It’s a big difference. The last time, OHA and Akaka didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. The governor’s office … was not always for it. So under those circumstances, those in the Congress can say, ‘Well, your governor is opposed to it. So why should I be for it?’ Then somebody might come up and say, ‘Well that Hawaiian group is against it. They must know something that I don’t. I’ll follow them.’

This time, as of this moment, we’re in the same choir.

Is it possible to get the votes in the House to pass something like this?

With work, it can be done. Unless you start off with the assumption that ‘they’re a bunch of bums, they’re racist, and they’re no good, so therefore, why do anything?’

They’re good Americans. You just have to describe and tell them why.

Will Lingle’s Support be important? The current bill is not one she had agreed to.

But it is a reflection of some of the concerns she’s voiced, and I think she’s supportive. The general concept, she’s for it. And Im not suggesting that the bill that passed the Senate is necessarily the one that has to become law.

Is there a role the president can play in making this happen?

There’s a major role. He can say, on a personal basis, ‘I was born in Hawaii. Among my many friends are Native Hawaiians. I know something about their background and history.’ The presidential word carries weight.

And this is why it’s important to remind people that the battle over the Akaka Bill isn’t over . . . and won’t be for some time to come, regardless of how the public feels about it.  Polls consistently show that this is a controversial and divisive issue in Hawaii, and (if anything) that when fully informed of all the issues involved, the majority of Hawaiian citizens oppose the Akaka Bill.  But that’s not the picture being painted here.  Senator Inouye (along with the entire pro-Akaka Bill industry) continues to propagate the idea that we’re all on the same page out here.  Notice that he even obfuscates Gov. Lingle’s position.  It’s true that her administration supported a version of the Akaka Bill last year (much to our disappointment), but the version currently in the Senate–the one that Inouye is speaking of–is not the same.  In fact, it contains many of the problems that had led the Lingle Administration to raise questions about and oppose the bill in that form.  And while it’s true enough that President Obama has indicated support for the Bill, it’s probably worth noting that the President hasn’t deemed it worth expending any of his political capital on, regardless of how warmly he may feel about Native Hawaiians.

Obviously, Senator Inouye is parroting the pro-Akaka talking points on support for the Bill, but we need to remind Washington that they’re not getting the whole story.

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