US Senator Daniel Inouye at the 2012 Hawaii Democratic Convention
US Senator Daniel Inouye at the 2012 Hawaii Democratic Convention

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – In virtually every press release since announcing her candidacy for U.S. Senate, former Republican Governor Linda Lingle has claimed she is “bipartisan”, that she supports bipartisan legislation, and that if elected, she is ready to work with Democrats including President Barack Obama. Her comments, obviously part of a campaign strategy to win in one of the nation’s bluest states during a year when Obama is running for re-election, have irked Republicans and Democrats alike.

How much her claim has annoyed Democrats became clear during the Hawaii Democrats’ weekend convention, where several Democrats publicly took jabs at Lingle, including Hawaii’s Senior Senator Daniel Inouye.

During closing remarks at the convention Inouye said: “I have heard there is someone who wants to succeed him (U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka) – Linda Lingle.”

That brought enthusiastic ‘boos’ from the audience.

“You know, I can’t believe it,” Inouye said. “She comes on and she says ‘I am bipartisan.’ (the audience laughs). And she says I want to be a partner to Dan just like (former U. S. Sen.) Ted Stevens. Let me assure you, she is no Ted Stevens.”

“Well it is no secret, when Gov. Linda Lingle left office, she left it in a shambles,” Inouye said. “Thank God we have Neil (Abercrombie) here. I respect his leadership (as Governor). I respect what he is doing. He is a good man.”

There is a “tough fight ahead “ for Democrats, Inouye said, as he rallied the Democratic troops during his 21-minute speech: “They (Republicans) will be spending millions of dollars. … When you have people like Karl Rove going around raising money, you’d better take that seriously and let’s not take anything for granted.”

Inouye, who is turning 88 on September 7, 2012, drew more applause when he announced he plans to live another 20 years. He’s been in office since 1963, longer than any other sitting U.S. Senator and second only to U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. He is the current U.S. Senate Appropriations Chair and President pro-tempore, making him the third most powerful politician in the country.

(See the full 21-minute video of Inouye’s remarks here)

Lingle’s Campaign Responds 

Asked to respond to Inouye’s comments, Lenny Klompus, Deputy Campaign Manager for the Linda Lingle Senate Committee, issued this statement: “Sen. Inouye should be commended for his brave heroism on the battlefields in defense of freedom during World War II, and for his decades of service to the people of Hawaii as our state’s U.S. Senator in Congress.

“In light of his past service, it’s especially disappointing to see someone of Sen. Inouye’s stature caving to the pressures of his political party to fall into the typical, divisive, counter-productive, partisan, DC-style attacks that so often dominate the election season. He should know better than anyone that Hawaii’s voters are tired of the same old political gamesmanship that too often dominates useful dialogue in the public arena.

“We all knew that when Democrat leaders from across the state gathered at their party’s convention, they would be talking about anything but the important issues facing the people of Hawaii. But I believe Hawaii voters expect more from a statesman of Sen. Inouye’s stature, who witnesses on a daily, first-hand basis how the U.S. Congress is in a perpetual state of gridlock precisely because of this type of corrosive partisan behavior.

“Now should be a time when we are examining the candidates’ records, their stances on the issues, and their visions for Hawaii’s future; not wasting time listening to distortions, insults, and patently false statements that he and others made at their Democrat Party Convention over the weekend.

“While singing the praises of President Obama, Sen. Inouye neglects to remind people of what a staunch supporter he was of now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was opposing then-Sen. Obama in the 2008 Democrat presidential primaries. Election season seems to bring out the worst in people, even American heroes like Dan Inouye.

“And when you factor in Sen. Inouye’s glossing over the facts of our current governor’s worst in the nation approval ratings, in the 30s, along with his continuous loss of large numbers of cabinet directors and other senior-level staff, our senior Senator’s speech to his political party faithful becomes that much more disconcerting. And, his misrepresentation of Governor Linda Lingle’s positions on the issues, as well as her time in office is a sad commentary on how far into the abyss partisan politics has fallen as we get closer to election day.

“Let’s be better than this. Hawaii must be better than this. We can show the rest of the nation that indeed aloha is not just a catch-phrase or slogan. It truly is part and parcel of the fabric of our daily lives, including how we conduct ourselves on the campaign trail. If we continue to stand on opposite sides of the political aisle and lob insults and distort each other’s positions we will never make any progress in finding common sense solutions to the challenges we all face together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

“And at a time such as Memorial Day weekend, when we are all unified in our gratitude to our courageous service men and women, isn’t this the perfect time to deal honestly and truthfully with each other and the electorate? Hawaii, and our nation, deserve nothing less.”

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, D-HI, who is challenging former Congressman Ed Case in the primary election for the same Senate seat Lingle hopes to win, also took a jab at Lingle.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono at the 2012 Hawaii Democratic Convention

She ended her 8-minute speech with: “Linda Lingle gave us Furlough Fridays. On November 6, let’s furlough Linda Lingle.”

(See Mazie Hirono’s full convention speech here and brief remarks to reporters afterward)

Hirono, who is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress and is endorsed by Emily’s List and a number of public union leaders, was a clear party favorite among the more liberal wing of the party at the convention. She had several hundred people accompany her to the stage, waving her campaign signs and chanting “Mazie, Mazie, Mazie.”

Hirono also took a shot at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent more than $500,000 on television advertisements endorsing Lingle for U.S. Senate. The local campaign is part of a national $100 million effort to elect more pro-business candidates to the U.S. Senate. She also rallied Democrats when she reminded them that Lingle seconded the motion for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy at the 2008 Republican convention, and has the financial backing of former President George W. Bush and his top aide Karl Rove.

“They only need four votes to take over the Senate, and their number one draft pick Linda Lingle, continues an agenda of attacking women, kupuna (senior citizens), working people, and unions,” Hirono said. “That is not going to happen on my watch — on our watch.”

Mazie Hirono and Linda Lingle

Lenny Klompus issued a second statement in response to Hirono’s speech. “As predicted, Democrat leaders from across the state gathered at this weekend’s State Party Convention to talk about anything but the important issues facing the people of Hawaii. The crescendo came this morning when Rep. Mazie Hirono took the stage. With a unique chance to speak directly to her party loyalists about ending the partisan, smear-ridden atmosphere in DC, she balked. Instead, she delivered a hyper-partisan and inappropriate diatribe aimed not at solving the issues facing the people of Hawaii, but at former-Governor Linda Lingle, candidate for Hawaii’s open U.S. Senate seat.

“During her remarks, Mazie remained silent on what she has been doing for the past six years in Congress and, if elected, how she would help the people of Hawaii. While the residents of our state remain focused on the economic issues facing their ‘ohana and communities, including the rising costs of basic necessities such as food and electricity, it is quite sad that Mazie and her team continue politics as usual.

Mazie has chosen to stand on the sidelines and sling attacks from her dusty, old Democrat playbook. This resulted in her launching into what can only be described as a tirade about several issues she obviously does not understand. If she did, she would know that stating a false claim over and over again, does not make it true. Peppered together with myths and outright falsehoods, her remarks echoed what we have come expect: Hirono is attempting to make this election about anything and everything except the issues the people of Hawaii care about today.  It is obvious that Mazie is out of touch with the people of Hawaii. Her speech demonstrates why the approval ratings of the U.S. Congress are a measly 12%.

The choice is clear for Hawaii voters – Governor Linda Lingle is the only U.S. Senate candidate with executive leadership, a proven record of results and a commitment to always put the people of Hawaii first over her political party.”

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