Making A Case For The U.S. Senate

Ed Case. File photo

Every political candidate has a stump speech. He or she gives it ad nauseum in the course of a long campaign. In an auditorium, it’s delivered with passion and, perhaps, a little lectern pounding. In a condominium party room, the tone’s more muted.

I recently heard Ed Case’s in a party room. He spoke to a gathering of 30 or so that included mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano. Cayetano has long been an admirer of Case’s independent mien, and vice versa.

Before he began his remarks, Case invited Cayetano to say a few words; the former governor demurred.

Case began by characterizing the 2012 election as “one of the most critical in Hawaii’s history; indeed, one of the most critical in the nation’s history.” He proceeded to establish his local credentials and experience: his birth in Hilo, his 30 years in private practice as an attorney, his 20 years in public service, first in Washington as a staffer to Sen. Spark Matsunaga, then eight years in the state House from a Manoa district, and four years as a congressman representing Hawaii’s 2nd District.

After a ritual bow to “public service as a calling, an obligation to give back,” Case reiterated the importance of the 2012 election, specifically that of a United States senator.

“It’s a big deal, because a senator can do so much: the Pearl Harbor shipyard, the University of Hawaii and its growth, agricultural exports.” Case noted that whoever won the seat being vacated by Danny Akaka’s retirement would probably serve as the state’s senior senator for a generation once Sen. Dan Inouye left office.

“Washington’s broken,” said Case. “It’s failed to lead the country; it’s out of touch. Only 10 percent of the population think Congress is doing a good job.

“I want to work together with everybody. It’s no good to just hang with the Democratic caucus. We have to act with conviction, but we must break out of the present gridlock. My offer to you is moderate, independent leadership.”

Case offered the problem of the skyrocketing national debt as one of his longtime concerns: “One side says raise taxes to balance the budget; the other says cut the budget to the bone. The truth is that we have to do both while maintaining essential services.” He offered last year’s bipartisan work of the “Gang of Six” as what’s necessary to make the Congress work again.

Case also argued that Hawaii’s political culture had “become introverted, stagnant. This year’s election is about what kind of Hawaii politics you want. If it’s someone like me coming from the outside, I need your support, your vote, your donations.”

He took questions.

On his religion, “I was confirmed an Episcopalian, and I’m married to the daughter of an Episcopal priest.”

On “pork” in the national budget, “I’m not opposed to pork. I reach out to my district. I know it better than anybody else, and I know what it needs. But earmarking has gotten out of control, and it needs reform.”

On the Akaka Bill, its “time passed two years ago.”

On rail, “We need some form of fixed route, high capacity, high speed, high volume mass transit. I keep thinking about what Honolulu will look like in 25-30 years without mass transit. I can’t imagine the situation without it.”

On the rising price of gasoline: “Newt Gingrich is nuts when he talks about $2.50 a gallon gasoline. There ain’t no silver bullet to bring the price down.”

And so it went.

When questions dried up for Case, he again asked Cayetano if he’d like to say a word or two.

The former governor did.