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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 31, 2002

Clinton stumps in Hawai'i

 •  Bush signs resolution honoring Patsy Mink

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Former President Bill Clinton blew through four islands yesterday during a one-day trip to rally the Democratic faithful and pump them up for the Nov. 5 election.

Former President Bill Clinton, with Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono by his side, worked the crowd yesterday at the Neal Blaisdell Center after honoring the late Patsy Mink.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The union rallies at the Kaua'i Veterans Center in Lihu'e, Baldwin High School on Maui, Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu and at the Civic Auditorium in Hilo were promoted as a tribute to Patsy Mink, the congresswoman who died Sept. 28 during her re-election bid. But Clinton used the tribute as an opportunity to urge people to vote Democrat in this year's governor's race.

Clinton, wearing a lei and blue sport coat over black slacks and black shirt, gestured toward Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and state Sen. Matt Matsunaga and said to the crowd, "I want you to elect the M&M duo over here in five days."

Clinton flew overnight in a private jet after attending memorial services in Minnesota for Sen. Paul Wellstone. On stage at the Blaisdell, he was surrounded by Hawai'i's most powerful Democratic politicians.

"I flew overnight to come to you," Clinton said. "You know, anybody that comes to Hawai'i and stays a day and goes to four islands is a certified idiot."

But Clinton made the one-day stop en route to similar trips through Oregon, Arizona and Michigan, he said, because of Democratic values.

"Even if you used to be president, there are some things you want for your country, and your children and your grandchildren that can only be achieved by free people acting together through their elected officials," Clinton said. "I don't need a tax cut. I want a balanced budget, low interest rates, a healthy economy and I want all of you to be able to send your children to college, too. That's what we need, a society where everybody benefits together. That's consistent with our values."

The partisan crowd loved what they heard.

Clinton yesterday delivered the keynote address at "A Tribute to Patsy Mink" yesterday at the Neal Blaisdell Arena in honor of the Hawai'i Congresswoman who died Sept. 28. Clinton also made appearances on Maui, Kaua'i and the Big Island during a one-day visit to Hawai'i.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"He rallied people and brought everyone together," said Michelle Drake, a registered nurse from Waikiki.

Nikki Santos, a receptionist also from Waikiki, called Clinton's 22-minute speech "remarkable."

Clinton's day wasn't filled entirely with election-year speeches.

His private jet arrived on Maui early for a 2:30 p.m. rally at the Baldwin High School auditorium in Wailuku, so the entourage stopped at Tasaka Guri Guri in Kahului for a break.

As a small crowd gathered, Clinton enjoyed a two-scoop serving of the frozen, sherbet-like concoction that is a signature Maui treat. He declared the cool strawberry-pineapple dessert "fabulous" before moving on to shake hands and pose for photos with a group of Longs Drug Store employees outside the store's loading dock.

Gail Saito, a member of the family who has run the tiny Guri Guri shop for generations, said it was "pretty cool" to have the former president stop by.

"He's, like, the best person we've ever had," she said. "Before that, it was just the governor."

Clinton's appearances began at noon in Lihu'e, where he accepted several lei, then took all but one off before speaking.

"I'm basically here because I think Mazie ought to be the governor of Hawai'i," Clinton told the standing, cheering crowd.

He casually put down a heckler who yelled out, "Liar!" with a line about attacks he faced as president.

"Newt Gingrich once told me, 'I'm sorry we have to be so mean to you, but if we fought fairly, we'd lose every time,'" Clinton said.

Democratic values was a theme that Clinton returned to throughout the day.

Longs Drug Store employees joined the former president at the Maui Mall, along with Democratic candidate for governor Mazie Hirono and her running mate Matt Matsunaga. Clinton referred to the pair as the M&M duo.

Timothy Hurley • The Honolulu Advertiser

"We Democrats believe in some very simple things," he said.

One is the power of working together, he said.

"The more difficult the times, the more important to have someone who shares your values," he said.

He lauded Hirono for sticking with the campaign despite having been far behind in the polls, and noted that polls now have Republican Linda Lingle and Hirono in a virtual dead heat.

"I was declared dead a dozen times when I ran for president in 1992, and a dozen times after," he said. "I like people who don't give up."

A standing-room-only crowd of 1,182 greeted Clinton at Baldwin. Hundreds more listened to the program on loud speakers outside.

Inside, it was a Democratic love feast. There were standing ovations, lengthy applause and loud cheers as the politicians heaped praise on Mink's career and implored the audience to work hard on behalf of Democrats to carry on her legacy.

The loudest applause was reserved for Clinton.

"Mr. President, it is clear: Maui loves you," Mazie Hirono said.

At one point in his speech, Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana had trouble finishing a sentence. Flustered, he gave up and said, "You know I'm really nervous. The president is right there.''

Doreen Holton of Kula closed up shop early at Gecko Trading Co. in Makawao to hear Clinton.

"It was so inspirational,'' she said afterward. "The words were wonderful and filled with optimism. These are the people in Hawai'i who are for true change.''

In Hilo, a crowd of more than 3,000 waited for three hours to hear Clinton speak. It was the biggest political gathering in Hilo in 30 years.

Clinton told the cheering crowd, "In tough times, it's good to have a governor who has had a tough life," referring to Hirono's family background.

Rick Castberg, a senior professor of political science at UH Hilo, said of Clinton's speech: "He's got a way with words. He was ad-libbing, obviously, but he hit all the right points."

Advertiser staff writers Hugh Clark, Timothy Hurley, Jan TenBruggencate and Christie Wilson contributed to this report.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.