Dan Inouye is one of the greatest living Americans. That ought to be stated at the outset of any post which is critical of the man. Inouye is a bona fide war hero -- a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient -- who lost his arm fighting for a nation which was simultaneously interning thousands of his fellow Japanese-Americans. He's a son of immigrants, who after the war joined with a number of other Nisei veterans to found Central Pacific Bank -- a venture which helped provide capital to scores of Japanese-Americans in Hawai'i unable to obtain loans from other sources. And he was the first Japanese-American elected to the US House of Representatives, and subsequently the first Japanese-American elected to the Senate. I was lucky enough to live in Hawai'i for a few years, and one of the first things I learned upon moving to Honolulu was how justifiably revered Dan Inouye is in the islands. He's a truly remarkable American.
That's why it breaks my heart to see that Inouye is hosting a fundraiser for Republican Senator Ted Stevens (currently R-AK; possibly R-FederalPen in the not too distant future):
Putting their friendship above party, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) will headline a fundraiser today for one of the Democrats’ top targets this cycle, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska).
Dan Inouye is a Democratic institution. He's been part of the Democratic Congressional caucus since Hawai'i became a state. And coming from Hawai'i -- a state where party discipline is taken seriously -- he knows better than many just why it is so important to maintain party solidarity. It's deeply disappointing to see a man like Inouye break party ranks to support a conservative Republican with a massive ethics cloud hanging over his head. And it's even more tragic that he's doing so in a cycle when Democrats have a great candidate in Mark Begich -- a candidate who is tied with Stevens in polling, despite the fact that Stevens is an Alaska institution. (Hell, the Anchorage airport is named after Stevens.)
There's no question that there's a natural affinity between Hawai'i and Alaska. Both states are often forgotten by the "lower 48," and both fight like hell for their interests in Washington. And it's understandable and even commendable that the Hawai'i and Alaska delegations occasionally cross party lines to work on subjects of mutual interest. But supporting a Republican in a race against a competitive and attractive Democrat is a line that no Democratic member of Congress can ever justifiably cross.
I'm willing to cut Dan Inouye a lot of slack in light of his service to his country and his party. But he needs to undertand that his support of Ted Stevens is completely inexcusable and unacceptable.
Hawai'i residents might wish to contact his office at (202) 224-3934 to let him know what they think.