On the old “Hawaii Five-O” TV series — the one where the good guys wore dark suits and didn’t flex their bare abs in the noonday sun — Steve McGarrett would often meet discretely with the “governor” as the chief executive ate his lunch alone under a tree.
As everyone in Hawaii knows, Iolani Palace was where the fictional Five-O had its offices. And the place where the governor and McGarrett met for back-channel talks — invariably to find a way to solve the crisis of the day — was beneath a shady banyan on the palace grounds.
I kept thinking about those episodes while watching Monday’s inauguration events. It seemed to me as if the ceremony, held at the coronation pavilion, was a calling to a Hawaii of the past — or at least the past that preceded the last eight years.
It was as if the Lingle-Aiona administration had been a dream — a brief interlude in the nearly uninterrupted rule of Democrats that began in 1954 during the territorial period.
It certainly was not a dream.
The feeling at the 2002 inauguration of Linda Lingle at the Capitol Rotunda was euphoric, a real sense of major change.
It had only been two years since the Bush v. Gore verdict and one year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The nation was already at war in one country and would soon go to war in another.
And yet, in Hawaii, there was hope that the election of a Republican governor in a Democratic state meant that real bipartisanship existed. Coming off another economic scare when tourists briefly stopped flying, Lingle’s top priority was fiscal discipline.
It was not a dream — but it seems a long, long time ago in a very different Hawaii.
And yet, here we are again in fiscally tight times. We remain at war in two countries. And, as in “Hawaii Five-O” of old, two white guys are running the state.
Listening to Neil Abercrombie‘s inaugural address, the message was to pull together.
“We’re an island people, we understand the necessity of working together,” he said.
Abercrombie has a record of reaching across aisles, so the views of Republicans will likely be heard.
But what was also obvious at the inauguration was the palpable sense of satisfaction — in some cases, gloating and a little cockiness — of the many in attendance who were delighted to see Democrats back in charge. To them, the 2010 Hawaii election had been a referendum on partisanship, and to heck with the other guys.
Faces that were familiar during the administrations of Ben Cayetano, John Waihee, George Ariyoshi and even Jack Burns abounded on palace grounds.
Many had applied for jobs in the Abercrombie administration and were waiting for word back. Some had already been hired, or their names had been announced and they awaited legislative confirmation.
That’s the way it works, of course: to the victors belong the spoils.
Part of the déjà vu had to do with the choice of Iolani itself, the traditional place for gubernatorial inaugurations and royal coronations. When Aaron Mahi and Dennis Kamakahi sang a song written by Queen Liliuokalani — “Ka Hae Kalaunu (The Flag of the Crown)” — one could not help but remember that she was forced from rule from this very palace.
When the Royal Order of Kamehameha walked in procession, resplendent in all its finery, the dignity of the monarchy was evident.
And when Hawaiian activists protested outside the palace gates, it was a reminder of another legacy from the kingdom’s overthrow.
Issues affecting Native Hawaiians — including ceded land revenue, education, homelessness, prisons and self-governance — confront yet another administration.
Less than an hour after the inauguration, Abercrombie held a press conference to announce his first executive action. And the same feeling of old-is-new permeated the Capitol’s executive office.
On hand were the leaders of the state and House and Senate, the school superintendent, social-service providers and community groups. Kids crawled around the leather chairs.
With Brian Schatz at his side, Abercrombie released $67 million from the Hurricane Relief Fund to restore 17 instructional days for the current school year. Nearly $24 million from the Rainy Day Fund was released for community programs.
The release of the funds was not big news; as the new governor acknowledged, the funds were appropriated by the Legislature but not released by Lingle.
But the announcement — his first as governor — showed his classically liberal priorities: helping school kids and people in need.
Abercrombie, a longtime legislator, also made it clear just how much he respects legislators.
“My duty is to follow through on the will of the Legislature,” he said, as Lingle’s official portrait stared down from executive chamber walls.
(Worth noting: The governor character on the new “Hawaii Five-O” is played by a woman.)
Abercrombie said he wanted a minimum of vetoes or veto threats — a return to a close working relationship between the executive and legislative branches.
Asked by a reporter if the state had enough money to meet its obligations in the next fiscal cycle, Abercrombie said he had hired a Cabinet to find out. He named Dean Hirata, the former CFO of Central Pacific Bank and a CPA, to serve as deputy director in the Department of Budget and Finance.
The next task is to work with the Legislature on his A New Day In Hawaii plan and to submit the state’s budget to lawmakers before Christmas.
The media will be watching. So will the GOP, which issued a statement late Monday: “Today the talk ends and the work begins. We will hold the Governor accountable for these commitments. The people of Hawaii can count on us to keep a watchful eye and if necessary provide reminders from time to time on what was said and what gets done.”
One final thought: Abercrombie was asked by another reporter to comment on the “atmospherics” of the day.
Abercrombie joked for a minute before turning serious. He said a gift from the family of former state Senator Duke Kawasaki was waiting on his desk when he came into the Capitol.
The governor spoke poignantly about Kawasaki and his declining health. For a moment he appeared to be pondering his own mortality.
Next to him stood Schatz, more than three decades younger than Abercrombie. His communications team, chief of staff and deputy chief of staff were either kids when Abercrombie was first elected to office, or they weren’t born yet.
In addition to a kitchen cabinet of Democratic veterans and an actual Cabinet of mostly current government workers, Abercrombie is also surrounded by youth.
They are perhaps not the kind of youth to bare their tight abs on the beach. But they represent the future nonetheless and reveal that Abercrombie is not afraid to depart from the past. This is a governor who clearly has faith in the leaders of tomorrow.
But what do I know? I’m pushing 50 and still watch reruns of “Hawaii Five-O.”