Two of our town’s opinion columnists have soundly slammed Gov. David Ige for allegedly not being the leader we need.
Writers David Shapiro and Lee Cataluna haven’t quite called Ige an incompetent idiot, but they’ve come close.
Meanwhile, some senators and State House members of his own party have chosen more diplomatic language with which to signal that they disagree with him.
What’s hampering Kawika?
I think it’s more about his style than his substance. There’s a new expectation of politicians to be forceful and exude confidence in their decisions. Former Gov. George Ariyoshi (“quiet but effective”) would not make the cut today. Former mayor Frank Fasi would, although we’d probably be asking him to tone it down a bit.
And how you exude confidence matters. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano got away with a lot of swagger without more than a scratch and one close call against a GOP opponent. Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s effervescence brought on the fatal wound of one 4-year term.
Ige’s policies are no less competent as I read them than anything ever promulgated by his predecessors. But there seems to be a wimpyness in his presentations. He doesn’t exude the confidence we see in Lt. Gov. Josh Green or Mayor Kirk Caldwell. We sense him asking us “do you agree with that, or should I change it?”
How far should opinion writers go with their easy-to-come-by criticisms. For sure they can legally whack away. But shouldn’t we hold their feet to the fire when their words get brutal?
International tribunals – and increasingly national ones as well – are clear that politicians may be subject to greater criticism and insult than ordinary individuals. Penalties for defamation in such cases would only apply where the accusations are “devoid of foundation or formulated in bad faith.” Shapiro and Cataluna come close but not quite.
Some recent Pew Research is helpful here. The public generally views calling a politician “stupid” is out of bounds. Shapiro and Cataluna tend to come close but not quite.
Public opinion is more mixed over the acceptability of calling a politician’s policy positions “evil”: 35% say this is never acceptable and 34% say it is rarely acceptable. 31% say it is at least sometimes acceptable. So Shapiro and Cataluna may have 70% of you on their sides.
In his book “In Defense of Politicians In Spite of Themselves”, author Peter Riddell says “politicians have never been popular. Their motives and behavior have always been questioned. They have been seen as devious, factional and self-interested. Shakespeare referred to ‘scurvy politicians’ in King Lear.”
I like this quote from an actual politician the best: “Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people, and who are at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greatest freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal.”
Who said that? Abraham Lincoln in 1837.
We love criticizing politicians but we can’t have our democratic system without them.
My take is that opinion writers’ criticism of Ige’s handling of our pandemic emergency is at odds with what we expect from leaders — some leaps of faith, some mistakes from unforeseen events, some slack in tough decision times.