In an opinion piece published by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week titled, “Trump and his sycophants must be challenged,” Hirono referred to the White House as a “moral dead zone” as justification for her harsh interrogation of Barr.
Hirono’s tough talk is a new development for Hawaii’s congressional delegation. When the late Sen. Daniel Inouye chaired hearings on the much-graver issue of the Iran-Contra investigation, he refrained from ad hominem attacks on President Reagan and his inner circle, even permitting Oliver North’s attorney Brendan Sullivan a wide latitude to disrupt hearings with court-of-law style objections.
Hirono’s ongoing behavior spurred Honolulu County Republican Party chairman Brett Kulbis to issue a statement calling her out over “a clear pattern of malicious and abhorrent behavior towards anyone and everyone associated with President Trump.”
When asked about his press release, Kulbis said Hirono should apologize “because she knows, as well as anyone around Hawaii knows, that is not how we act in Hawaii.”
“She has totally disgraced what Hawaii is all about,” Kulbis said.
And while Hirono has been outspoken against Trump’s broad policies, Kulbis says that Hirono has not shown zeal toward issues that directly affect Hawaii, especially poor economic conditions.
“The things that matter most to Hawaii, they will not touch, like the Jones Act,” Kulbis said. “They are not hearing the voices of the people here, and it’s unfortunate.”
Accountability Or Politics As Usual?
While Hirono has developed in the Trump era a reputation among liberals as a “badass” for her confrontational style in holding Republicans accountable, her use of polemic has been combined with strategic fundraising, which makes her message seem less about speaking bluntly and more about partisanship.
Last September, Hirono was criticized in tweets over fundraising off the Kavanaugh hearing. In an e-mail sent just 30 minutes after Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford testified before Congress, Hirono’s fundraising blast message characterized the hearings as the senator fighting Republicans, and went on to quote the senator saying, “What that means is I have limited time to campaign for our re-election or to fundraise – making us particularly vulnerable to right-wing attacks.”
While being assertive and outspoken is generally considered a virtue in American politics, Hirono has scarcely shown the same demand for accountability toward Democrats that she imposes upon Republicans. Anyone can attack the opposition party; the mark of true leadership is the ability to hold everyone, especially one’s allies, accountable.
Hirono has been quick to draw a red line over corruption in the Trump White House, but at home, she is scarcely to be heard about how Honolulu agencies and leaders are facing a plethora of federal investigations. While Hirono splits legal hairs with Barr over betraying the American public’s trust with a four-page summary statement, she says nothing about the ongoing betrayal of her local constituency.
If only Honolulu had a “badass” to call out local leaders over land use, mismanagement of public funds, corruption in law enforcement and a worsening economy.
The aloha spirit isn’t about looking for dragons to slay, it’s about making a difference in real people’s lives.
Friction between members of Congress and the White House is healthy, but if Hirono is to legitimately continue in her pattern of confrontation, she must apply that same standard to her home party.
Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that people by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties, those who wish to draw power into the hands of the higher classes, and those who identify themselves with the people and have confidence in them.
Hirono would do well to ask herself which group she identifies with. It would be better to have a polite, consistent champion of the people than a firebrand who only provides political fan service to people frustrated with the outcome of the last presidential election.
The aloha spirit isn’t about looking for dragons to slay, it’s about making a difference in real people’s lives. That’s the kind of “badass” Hawaii really needs.
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Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.