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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Looking for the easy way

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

The Democrats weren't able to scare up a candidate to run against Linda Lingle for months and months and (shame already) months, but as soon as an opportunity came up to run for Congress in a race with no incumbent, OH! Suddenly a pack of politicians has skittered out to have a nibble.

Turns out running for Congress is less scary than taking on Lingle.

After all, there's no televised live debate against the Great Communicator, the woman who can remember the first name of every person she's ever met and who uses it five times in each conversation, who has total recall for dates and sums, and who never wobbles to an uncertain stop at the end of a sentence.

Who wants to go up against that war chest, that popularity, that red Nehru jacket?

Even more than taking on Lingle's personal mana, who wants that thankless job?

Being governor is hard. You have to come up with programs and plans and stuff. If there's a natural disaster, it's all yours. If the schools are a wreck, that's on you. You get asked to speak at every single high school graduation and there's always a reporter waiting to jump you about something dopey one of your department heads said.

Being a junior member of Congress is a cruise job by comparison. You get a big staff, frequent flier miles and Navy bean soup for lunch whenever you want. You can sit in the back and vote with the herd and not have to come up with ideas and initiatives and all that. There is a comfortable distance from the hometown media, enough time to think of excuses and spin up reasons why you aren't getting anything passed or, in the alternative, write up the press release to take credit for a tiny appropriation for eradicating tree mold or some such.

These politicians who want the high prestige title without the gut-wrenching work of standing alone, who desire the glory of higher office but lack the guts for a full-on rumble with the Big Lady on Campus, how can they say they'll fight hard for us when they won't fight hard for themselves?

Hanabusa, Hooser and Menor don't even have to give up their state senate seats to run. They risk nothing. Hirono has no office to risk, no winning reputation to put on the line. State Rep. Brian Schatz is the only one who has anything to lose. In running for Congress, he cannot run for re-election to his current seat in the Legislature. That's something.

But for the rest of them, it's a free spin.

You have to give Linda Lingle, Duke Aiona and Mufi Hannemann credit for keeping their commitment to the office to which they were elected and not diving into the pool with the rest of the opportunists. Those three are ambitious, but have been able to temper their drive with the core values of service public service, not self-service.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.