Lihue, Hawaii – In a week, voters in Hawaii’s First Congressional District will select the woman or man who will replace former Democratic Congressman Neil Abercrombie, who stepped down in February to run for governor. Over two decades representing Hawaii’s urban center, Abercrombie was given a ranking of 67/100 (“pretty darned progressive”) by Irregular Times. He was rated a “hardcore liberal” by the ontheissues.org web site, in part, for a voting record that often opposed the use of American military force in other countries.
Abercrombie voted for a ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees; against Bush’s Iraq war surge; and in favor of withdrawing most US troops from Iraq by April 2008.
But Abercrombie’s seat (one of only two Hawaii holds) sits empty, leaving Abercrombie’s own colleague, former Congressman Ed Case (Hawaii Second District 2002-2007), to battle against fellow Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, president of Hawaii’s State Senate and Republican candidate Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou.
Besides Case, Hanabusa and Djou, there are 11 other candidates running in this special election, but they are effectively shut out of the discussion simply by virtue of not having the money or media attention required to win an election. Nobody is talking about GOP candidate Charles “Googie” Collins or Democrat Rev. Vinny Browne.
Instead, all eyes are focused on the three-way split among the two dueling Democrats and Djou, a snappy, young father of three with good posture and a Colgate smile, who is reportedly leading the race in a poll taken last week showing Djou with 36 percent support over Case (28 percent) and Hanabusa (22 percent).
There continues to be much talk of behind-the-scenes wrangling and a desire for one of the Democrats (fingers point mostly at Hanabusa) to step aside and prevent Djou from winning the seat in Obama’s home district. However, no such luck. Earlier last week, Hanabusa held a news conference to say she’s in this until the end and she’s in it to win.
The glare from what most certainly was Djou’s Waikiki-wide smile just off camera was almost blinding.
Barring salacious revelations, grave missteps or a surprise withdrawal by any of the candidates in the final days before all mail-in ballots must be returned (this election is mail-in only), there is little reason to expect any significant change in their respective positions. If Case and Hanabusa do split the vote, they will ensure Hawaii’s next member of Congress will be Charles Kong Djou, a lawyer, captain in the US Army Reserve and former campaign co-chair for Rudi Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.
In half a century of statehood, Hawaii has had only two Republican members of Congress and two Republican governors. Should Djou win, it will be touted as a major victory for the GOP. Just imagine Sean Hannity gloating that voters in Obama’s home town elected a Republican.
Concern in Washington is so high that the president himself has recorded a robo-call phone message asking for “a Democrat that will support [my] agenda in Congress.” The message describes the special election as “crucial for [us] to continue pushing forward our agenda of change.”
But when it comes to Obama’s war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with his marked increase in the use of predator drone attacks inside Pakistan, he needn’t worry about who wins this election. Democrat or Republican, he is likely going to get anything he wants from Hawaii’s next Congressman or woman.
Ed Case, who fancies himself a “moderate, independent” Democrat, is still remembered for not pushing for a withdrawal from Iraq and not opposing military action in Afghanistan. Case once famously (and many say needlessly) said that had he been in Congress in October 2002, he probably would have voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
In a recent telephone interview, Case said he believed “the great majority of Americans of all parties” support Obama on his decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think if you asked ten Americans ‘how’s Obama doing in Iraq and Afghanistan?’ you’d probably get to about eight that in one way, shape, or form supported his decisions there,” Case said.
He called Obama’s foreign policy “very moderate and balanced,” saying that far-right hawks and far-left doves might find disappointment in Obama’s policies, but that he believed that represents a “distinct minority in the political spectrum of our country.”
On the question of whether Obama’s foreign policies are consistent with Hawaii Democratic Party platform, which calls for supporting “a fair and just foreign policy that promotes peace,” Case said, “I believe his policies do, in fact, implement our platform.”
In other words, Obama can expect to get pretty much whatever he asks for in support of foreign occupation, wars or predator drones from Case.
Likewise, Colleen Hanabusa, the “liberal” among the three candidates, wrote on her web site, “I support President Obama’s decision to send over 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to assist existing forces in stabilizing the region … The sobering reality is that 9/11 did occur, and it could very well happen again. We need take all reasonable actions necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Where have we heard that kind of talk before?
Even Djou, the sharp, young Republican who graduated in the same class as Obama’s sister from the same prestigious school Obama attended (Punahou School), praises Obama’s foreign policy with regards to Iraq and Afghanistan. In a phone interview Djou said, “I do think the president has taken the right approach in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama administration policies today look very different from Senator Obama policy calls during the 2008 campaign.”
Djou was initially concerned about how Obama would approach national security, but has been pleased largely because, as he put it, “President Obama is ignoring the advice of Senator Obama.”
Asked to grade Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan, Djou said he’d give the president a “B.”
Not bad for the opposition party, eh?
And while Djou criticizes Obama on fiscal responsibility (he gives Obama a “D” grade), he, like his two leading Democratic opponents, shows no indication that fiscal responsibility extends to reducing, or even limiting the mind-boggling amount of money the United States spends on waging wars, occupying countries, developing and maintaining its nuclear arsenal or operating over 700 military bases around the world including “enduring temporary” bases in Japan, where nearly 47,000 US soldiers remain 65 years after the end of World War II.
With the US having already spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000,000,000,000 (one-trillion) on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers killed and wounded and our own country bankrupt and rapidly unraveling, it appears highly unlikely that Hawaii’s next Congressman or woman will be anything more than another compliant body, ready to roll over, sit up pretty or play dead the next time Obama (or any other president) snaps his fingers demanding more money for war.