DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, left, and challenger, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, answered questions at yesterday's Hawaii Publishers Association luncheon at what might prove to be their only joint question-and-answer appearance before the Sept. 23 primary election.
Case, Akaka define issues at joint event
The 81-year-old senator does not concede that new leadership is necessary
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka started defending himself yesterday against attacks that he is too old to run for another six-year term at age 81.
"One's experience, insights and mature disposition count for something," Akaka told the Hawaii Publishers Association.
While not using the age issue directly, Akaka's primary election opponent U.S. Rep. Ed Case said Hawaii voters must prepare for new congressional leadership. He later told reporters that Akaka has spent 30 years in Congress.
Akaka and Case appeared together for the first time in this election season before a luncheon meeting of the Hawaii Publishers Association at the Dole Cannery Ballroom.
Case told the audience of 400, including many Akaka union supporters, that Sen. Akaka's career has not been marked with significant achievement.
An example, Case said, was Akaka's inability to move a bill for native Hawaiian self-determination through congress.
After six years, the so-called Akaka bill failed on a procedural vote to lift a Republican filibuster on the bill in May.
"It was clearly a failure of effectiveness on the floor of the United States Senate," Case said.
"There have been no markers of national leadership in a 30-year career," Case said of his opponent.
Akaka said he didn't view the defeat as a failure, saying "it was just a few members on the other side as well as the Bush administration, which didn't support it."
"If I start now, I have 25-plus good years in front of me and I can do far more in those 25 years than Sen. Akaka has done in 30 years in Congress," Case said in an interview after his address.
Akaka and fellow Sen. Dan Inouye are both 81. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is 68 and Case is 53.
In his speech, Akaka decried "the increasingly cynical world that dismisses the elderly as frail and disposable and of no use to society except to be a burden."
Asked by an audience member when he thought Hawaii's delegation should begin a transition with younger members, Akaka said Hawaii already has good leaders in place.
"Hawaii has always been in transition with Inouye and Akaka there," Akaka said.
New leadership, Akaka suggested, could come from Abercrombie.
"What about Abercrombie? He is the transition and he can pick it up from there so transition comes with experience in other areas," Akaka said.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, left, and U.S. Rep. Ed Case embraced after their appearance yesterday before the Hawaii Publishers Association luncheon at the Dole Cannery Ballroom.
SPOTS OF CONTENTION
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and U.S. Rep. Ed Case appeared together yesterday for the first time since Case announced he would run for Akaka's Senate seat in next month's primary election. Among the forum's highlights:
Effectiveness: Case said Akaka has been ineffective in Congress and it was time for new leaders.
Akaka said Hawaii needs his "seniority, experience and wisdom."
Iraq: The two disagreed over the U.S. strategy for Iraq. Akaka said America should leave in one year. Case said setting a firm deadline was "simplistic and naive" because U.S. actions would influence the future of the entire Mideast.
Future debates: Akaka also refused to be pinned down to another debate, despite repeated calls by Case. Instead, Akaka said only that he had not rejected the idea of a formal debate.
Besides his experience, having served in Congress since 1976, Akaka said he serves as a Democratic counterbalance to Republicans in Washington.
Akaka portrayed himself as someone who has been able to be "that alternative voice, that nagging conscience."
"Will it be Republicans or even individuals who claim to be Democrats, but vote to the contrary?" Akaka asked. "Or will they just rubber stamp this administration's decisions?"
Case said, however, that Akaka has been named the "most liberal member of the Senate" and is backed by the "far-left one percent."
Turning his attention to the war in Iraq, Akaka said he sees himself as someone who will "demand of this (Bush) administration a strategy and timetable for peace and how we intend to ensure a stable and democratic government in Iraq."
But Case said Akaka was one of only 13 senators who voted to demand that American troops pull out of Iraq in one year.
"To set a firm timetable that is unrelated to the conditions on the ground, I think is a mistake. It think it is naive and I think it is simplistic," Case said.
"You can't just set an arbitrary time frame and say everything is going to be OK," Case said.
Although yesterday's joint appearance was not a debate and neither man was able to directly question the other, the issue of a debate was repeatedly brought up by Case.
The two should debate several times before a statewide television audience, Case said.
In response, Akaka said he and his campaign advisers are still mulling over a debate but would not commit to one.
So far, the two have no other joint appearances scheduled before the Sept. 23 primary.