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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Case 'showed he was a Democrat.' So what's Inouye?

By David Shapiro

Poor Ed Case. The only way he could get a standing ovation from the Democratic Party was to make a surprise announcement at the state convention that he was withdrawing from the First Congressional District race to give Colleen Hanabusa a clear shot at Republican Charles Djou in the general election.

Actually, it wasn't much of a surprise. Case was the only one of the three candidates who wouldn't commit before the special election to keep running if he finished third, which he did.

He was unable to raise half of the cash Hanabusa did for the special election, and money would have gotten even tighter after the third-place finish and competition for funding from other top races for governor, lieutenant governor and Honolulu mayor.

Case raised much of his money in the special election from his extended family, and you can go to that well only so often if you want to keep getting invited to Thanksgiving dinner.

The great irony of the Democratic convention was when U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who used all of his political muscle to prop up Hanabusa and drive Case from the race, intoned about Case's departure: "He showed that he was a Democrat."

Well, let's see. In the last four years, Inouye has:

• Supported independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut over the Democratic candidate in 2006 as Democrats battled to wrest control of the Senate from the GOP.

• Traveled to Alaska in 2008 to campaign for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens over the Democratic candidate when Democrats were fighting to win a filibuster-proof majority.

• Bucked U.S. House leadership and the White House in the recent special election by engineering a split Democratic vote because of his personal grudge against Case, handing a safe Democratic seat to the Republican Djou.

If a Democrat is what a Democrat does, was Case really the one who needed to show he was a Democrat?

Now that Case has cleared the way for Hanabusa, Inouye will have some unhappy colleagues in Washington if she doesn't win the seat back from Djou in November to help the Democrats retain control of Congress.

And a Hanabusa win is no sure thing even with the strong Democratic majority in a district that voted 72 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.

Case gave her a generous endorsement, but it remains to be seen if his supporters will fall in line or if enough will swing to Djou to give Inouye the smackdown they think he deserves.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina expresses amazement that Inouye has suffered so little consequence from Democrats for his trips off the party reservation.

"I can assure you if one of our guys had done this, it would have been front-page news for weeks," Graham told Politico. "I don't know; I can't explain it. He's a high-profile guy he's the Appropriations chairman."

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net.