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.

Fewer  insults.

                 —-30—-

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

5 replies on “What? You No Like Me?”

  1. Actually Dave and Lee call politicians, Ige included, to task for actions that insult the intelligence of the citizens. Bravo!

  2. I have not read the columns by Ms. Cataluna and Mr. Shapiro about Governor Ige but want to comment on the gist of your column today. I think opinion writers should express their published thoughts about politicians’ decisions and actions, or lack there of, specifically as they apply to their constituents. No personal cracks coming close to stupidity or evilness. Yes, the feet of opinion writers should be figuratively held to the fire when their words get brutal. Furthermore, if opinion writers lament over the divisiveness of our times, brutal words fuel this divisiveness. As you said in a previous column, words matter.

    You made the point that how confidence is exuded matters and then used the term ‘wimpyness’ regarding Governor Ige’s presentations on the emergency pandemic. I agree that how confidence is exuded matters, but I wish it did not matter as confidence seems to be style when only substance should matter.

    I like, too, the quote by President Lincoln. There may be a few exceptions, but I think most politicians match his description of them.

  3. I disagree with you, at least from my personal perspective.

    I have no problems with Ige’s style, and prefer it to a lot of bluster, especially if that bluster isn’t backed by sound policy (does that bring anyone to mind?).

    I really disagree with the way he’s handled the pandemic, and in particular, the lack of transparency. As Scott Saiki has pointed out, we, the public, should be provided with general information of who’s getting infected, and the circumstances of those infections, so we can make rational decisions on how to proceed with our lives to avoid infection, not to mention that public school principals can make more informed decisions and set more informed policies (remember the principal on the TV news who said he was making decisions based on what he heard on the news?)

    I also disagree with his policy decision to prioritize opening up the state to unquarantined travel over opening schools to in-person classes. If schools are still remote, and parents need to stay home to supervise their kids’ educations, who’s going to staff the hotels, restaurants, and other businesses catering to tourists?

    I suppose his single-test policy for quarantine avoidance makes sense if you consider that he has not implemented policies to enforce quarantine. In that case, one test is better than no tests for tourists who aren’t going to quarantine anyway.

  4. Can-a-tuna and Shapiro are following the centuries-long tradition of column writing. If you look at some columnists from the 1800’s on, these 2 are mild. And it has extended into today’s world– look at the Fox News or MSNBC hosts and contributors. This is nothing new. The larger question is: are they representing the opinion of their paper or website owners? And are the owners using these 2 to front those opinions? If we should hold anyone’s feet to the fire, it is the media owner who publishes or broadcasts that angry noise and their advertisers. Columnists are guaranteed freedom of speech. Their bosses do have some responsibility for their words and the pocketbook is usually the best way to remind them of that. As for Governor Ige, he isn’t a wimp. He is, by training, an engineer. And anyone who knows engineers knows most of them are thoughtful, analytical, and methodical in making and carrying out decisions. He has made mistakes and been slow in reaching decisions. But at least he is not tripping all over himself like “Brutus” Green.

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