Answering Questions Nobody Asked

I recently took part in a media panel at the annual meeting of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. I shared the dais with Chad Blair of Honolulu Civil Beat and Jerry Burris, late of Hawaii Business Magazine and The Honolulu Advertiser.

Now understand: I don’t like sharing the dais with anybody. I acknowledge that reporter Blair covers government more closely than I and that Burris has always been a decidedly wiser man than I.

But I am, after all, the professor. And I am a professor of the old school; I relish the role of “sage on the stage.” I share my classroom with neither PowerPoint nor smart board. And I never tire of the sound of my own voice or of the quality of my opinions, no matter how bad or uninteresting.

But the Hawaii Crop Improvers had the temerity to instruct me be deferential. “If panelists agree with first response given by a panelist,” they said, “then they do not have to respond to the question unless they have additional insights to share.”

What? The professor pass on professing?

Never! But of course, I did. So, dear readers, I offer you privileged few the benefit of my answers to the crop improvers’ questions.

Question No. 1: “How would you grade our elected officials on accomplishing the business of the state and why?”

Incomplete. The “I” will become a “C-” when they finish the work begun this session, which wasn’t much because all 76 legislators faced re-election. Nobody wants to anger anybody in an election year.

Question No. 2: “What do you think of the accusations of gerrymandering in the reapportionment plan?”

“Kapiffle” is what I think. Politicians always say that they welcome opposition. Not so. Never did. Incumbents all prefer to be unopposed or opposed by a total no name. So when reapportionment takes place, in whatever state across the nation, incumbents bellow about gerrymandering. Some even go to court, as happened in Hawaii this year.

Question No. 3: “What do you think of the odds that Hawaii voters will elect Linda Lingle to the Senate, and why?”

Long, because Barack Obama will be at top of the ticket. Getting shorter, however, because either Ed Case or Mazie Hirono will emerge from the contested Democratic primary battered and bruised.

Question No. 4: “Do you think Ben Cayetano as being disrespectful of Sen. Inouye when he called him ‘out of touch,’ and do you agree (with those) who say Inouye should have a thicker skin? Will Ben’s comments hurt his run for mayor?”

No, not disrespectful, but probably wrong. No, Inouye has a thick skin developed in 58 straight years in public office. And, yes, it probably hurt Cayetano, but not enough to stop him from placing first in the Aug. 11 primary. But his comments probably stopped him from winning the election outright in the primary.

Question No. 5. “What are your predictions for the mayor’s race?”

On Aug. 11, Cayetano will probably finish first, Carlisle or Caldwell second. Historically, Cayetano does better in three-person races. He won the governorship in 1994 because two other strong candidates, the Best Party’s Frank Fasi and the Republicans’ Pat Saiki, split the anti-Democratic vote. In 1998, in a one-on-one with Maui Mayor Linda Lingle, he just edged her out. It was so close, that had the feeble Libertarian candidate, blank votes and spoiled ballots gone to Lingle, he wouldn’t have had a second term. In a one-on-one in the mayoral general, it’s a toss-up.

Question No. 6. “Do you think we’ll start seeing some real mudslinging closer to the primary?”

Yes, more than you can possibly imagine. If you don’t want to get splattered, you’d best unplug your television sets as soon as you get home tonight.

There. Now the professor feels better.