Linda Lingle is Committing Political Suicide On Behalf of John McCain and Sarah Palin

Bedecked in leis for the minting of the 50th Commemorative State quarter at the US Mint, Governor Linda LIngle spoke to a Colorado audience on October 10th and took the opportunity to deliver a couple of swift jabs at Barack Obama. First, she stated that Obama claiming an understanding of the western United States by talking about his Hawaii roots was irrelevant since Hawaii is so different from other western states. Second, and this was a swiftly delivered kick below the belt you might have missed, that Obama shouldn’t be looked at favorably just because he has a Hawaii connection and also that the Hawaii connection is limited.

I need to weigh in on this. I’ve been to both Colorado and Hawaii (I was born and raised in Hawaii and have friends in the Denver area) and agree that Colorado and Hawaii are quite different. So Gov. Lingle’s point does warrant further scrutiny. Obama has been extremely aggressive campaigning in the western United States. Obama has polled favorably in the area of local Colorado political issues such as water rights. McCain, on the other hand, has taken a highly unpopular stance on water rights issues. That in itself has a lot to do with why Obama is 9 points ahead of McCain in traditionally Republican Colorado. As one commentator stated, when McCain called for the renegotiation of the 1922 seven-state agreement governing the use of the Colorado River, he might as well said that, “he likes to eat cute puppies for breakfast.” Strategically holding the Democratic National Convention in Denver certainly helped Obama, too. And being better organized and having a more coherent message is moving Colorado further into the Obama win column on a daily basis. My Colorado friends, who easily make more than $250,000 a year, are already resigned to paying higher taxes.

But Gov. Lingle’s cutting comment about Obama’s connection to Hawaii — both that one shouldn’t like him for  it and also comparing him in the same breath as former UH football quarterback Colt Brennan who was there for three years —  is raising hackles, ire, pilau (that’s “stink” in Hawaiian), and a veritable tsunami back in Hawaii. Gov. Lingle is being termed out this year. And I imagine that she’s been such an advocate on behalf of McCain and particularly Sarah Palin because she’s auditioning for a job offer somewhere in Washington, DC. Because there is no way Gov. Lingle can be thinking about a political future in Hawaii by throwing this zinger at Obama.

First, Obama was born and raised in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou in 1979 (as the newspapers there always note). His mother and grandfather died there and his grandmother and sister and her family still live there. When he last visited in August, local papers were enraptured at how Obama body surfed expertly at Sandy Beach and threw a lei into the  Halona Blowhole where he had scattered his mother’s ashes. I imagine that he didn’t eat shaved ice and a plate lunch at Sandy Beach because that would have required that he take cuts at the lunch wagon line and doing otherwise was a security risk. All of this makes him, in the local parlance, a kama’aina — local boy, child of the land, the whole nine-yards. Plus he’s a guy who kept a pretty low profile while in Honolulu since it was a family visit and that sits well in Hawaii. He didn’t ham it up before reporters by posing with his family members while eating two-finger poi and sitting on a lauhala mat as a ukelele strummed in the background. (Read: His family is not a prop.) Reading McCain’s comments about Obama lounging in luxury when he was in Hawaii absolutely befuddles me. This coming from the man who owns a compound in Sedona, Arizona? But, I remind myself, people have a skewed picture of Hawaii. Rest assured: Obama’s visit in August raised him in the opinion of the people of Hawaii.

I don’t know if  the rest of the United States realizes that Hawaii is going crazy for Obama. There’s a record number of people registered to vote in the general election in large part due to his candidacy.  Obama doesn’t have a slim lead: It’s a 41 point lead. And in this environment Linda Lingle has assumed the ignoble role of disparaging him in Hawaii. As one might say in Hawaiian, “Awe!” (Damn, that sucks!)

I’m certain that Gov. Lingle would never have made the comment about Obama’s Hawaii connections on Hawaiian soil. She herself has been adopted by locals, but the connection is a tenuous one. Here’s a quick lesson about Hawaii and Rules of Localness and how you rate in Hawaii:

  • Category I: You were born there with family there for multiple generations. You are a local.
  • Category II: You were born there with family who moved there. You need to work for your local credentials. But at least you don’t fall under Category III.
  • Category III: You moved to Hawaii. So unless you prove otherwise you might as well have landed there on an invading spaceship.

I fall under Category I. Even if I show people that my driver’s license is from another state, they don’t believe it. Barack Obama falls under Category II with excellent marks for being a good “local boy”. Linda Lingle falls under Category III. She served as mayor of Maui before winning the governorship. She has worked extremely hard to win over the local population. Running for governor as a Republican at the end of a fifty-year Democratic reign with which most people were thoroughly disgusted was smart strategy. But with one fell-swoop Gov. Lingle has blown up any hope of a run at Congress or pretty much any future in Hawaii politics. The Newsweek commentator already used the great line about eating cute puppies for breakfast for McCain’s impact in Colorado. So let me say that Linda Lingle questioning Barack Obama’s local credentials was akin to her standing in the US Capitol and saying that George Washington was really more French at heart. It was a disastrous political move.

I don’t know where Linda Lingle will land after she’s termed out as governor. I suppose that moving somewhere in the western part of the United States would be jarring on her since Hawaii is so different. Alaska? Sarah Palin might have a job for her. That is, unless she’s impeached.

Read it in

Read it in Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Voter registration is up in Hawaii.

Obama’s leads McCain by 41 points in Hawaii.

Colorado water rights issues in the presidential campaign.

Documentation that Obama doesn’t take cuts in line.

More on Obama’s visit to Hawaii. Headline: “Obama Comes Home”. (note: Tutu is Hawaiian for Grandmother).


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