The Politics Of Avoidance, Tedipity

This week: two rants plus a correction for the price of one column. What a deal.

Rant No. 1. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I moderated a 2nd District congressional candidates forum at the Hawaii Democratic Convention. Three attorneys showed up, Esther Kiaaina, Rafael Del Castillo and Robert Marx. Kiaaina learned Washington as a congressional staffer, Castillo drew a credible 23,000 votes in a run for the 1st District seat in 2010, and Marx served in the Oregon legislature before returning to Hilo and a successful 30-year legal career. Electrician Miles Shiratori completed the panel.

Delegates attending the convention welcomed the forum. They filled every chair in the room, sat on the floor, stood in the back and spilled out into the hallway. Despite the lure of liquor and food in the hotel hospitality suites overhead, they listened intently to the candidates’ answers to questions I posed, then asked a series of provocative questions from the floor.

Too bad former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard missed it. They could have learned something from Kiaaina, Castillo and Marx: smart, even subtle thinkers all.

But Hannemann and Gabbard have polls that show themselves leading the 2nd congressional pack. They also have money, endorsements and name recognition, so they play the politics of avoidance rather than present themselves before a full house of committed Democrats.

How’s the politics of avoidance work? Simple. If the candidate thinks, or polls demonstrate, that he has a big lead, he takes part in the fewest number of joint appearances possible. Joint appearances, particularly those that are televised, leave the candidate open to mistake, embarrassment, misstatement or simply looking comparatively bad.

The politics of avoidance are as old as politics itself, nowhere more so than in Hawaii. Thus Linda Lingle will not debate John Carroll this primary season, just as Mazie Hirono will keep her joint meetings with Ed Case to a minimum, just as Danny Akaka met challenger Case but once during the 2006 senatorial primary and Gov. Lingle debated challenger Randy Iwase only once in the 2006 general election.

One of the candidates with money, endorsements and name recognition who plays the politics of avoidance will probably win. But the voters certainly lose.

Rant No. 2 concerns the tepidity with which Hawaii Republicans have responded to their Mainland cousins’ unwillingness to recognize that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. As recently as this past month, Arizona’s Republican attorney general threatened to remove Obama’s name from his state’s ballot, and a whacko Arizona sheriff sent a “posse” to Honolulu to investigate Obama’s birth certificate. Meanwhile, a former Michigan Republican congressman was criticizing Sen. John McCain for failing to make an issue of Obama’s birthplace during the 2008 campaign.

Then the 2012 Republican standard bearer, Mitt Romney, says he “believes” Obama was born in Hawaii. He made his statement while practically holding hands with the biggest birther banner waver of them all, Donald Trump.

Speaking of tepidity, this is not a matter of what Romney “believes.” This is a matter of fact, attested to by Obama’s long-form birth certificate, the birth notices printed in Honolulu’s two dailies, and the memories of witnesses at Kapiolani Childrens’ Hospital.

When on a live microphone before the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, one of President Richard Nixon’s felonious minions referred to Sen.

Dan Inouye as a “%$#*& Jap,” Mayor Frank Fasi, often at political odds with Inouye, threatened to punch the minion’s lights out.

Finally, the correction. Republican Party Chairman David Chang is 32 years old, not the 40 I reported in a recent column. My apologies to the youngster.