House hopefuls focus on war in Iraq
With one final chance to reach a statewide audience before Sept. 23's primary election, 11 of the candidates seeking to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House took to the radio airwaves last night trying to separate themselves from the pack.
Last night's forum broadcast by Hawaii Public Radio differed from previous events in that candidates were allowed to respond to statements made by others.
The nine Democrats renewed criticisms of the Bush administration, and the two Republicans stressed the rebuilding of Iraq and the need to remain vigilant against the war on terrorism.
The most aggressive in trying to separate himself from the others was state Sen. Gary Hooser, who consistently challenged his opponents on their stances and voting records.
Hooser noted that he was among a small group of state senators who supported a resolution opposing the use of force in Iraq. Hooser said, "If more Americans would've spoken out against the war at that time ... perhaps we would not be in the situation we're in today."
Although other Democrats were equally critical of the war, only state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa noted that she was among lawmakers who opposed the use of force in Iraq as far back as 2002.
"We should never have gone in there without an exit strategy," she said.
Most candidates agreed that the war in Iraq was the biggest international issue facing the Congress.
"Mission accomplished, cut and run -- these are slogans," said former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. "This is not a strategy."
Former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga added, "Congress has to restore its oversight on the president. Congress needs to force the president to set a reasonable timetable for redeployment and troop withdrawal."
"It's damaged our standing as a world leader," said state Sen. Ron Menor. "I strongly believe Congress needs to adopt a specific timetable for withdrawing troops."
State Rep. Brian Schatz said, "The real question is, What's next? You have to figure out how to stabilize this country. ... Diplomacy is not the same as weakness."
Honolulu City Councilman Nestor Garcia agreed: "We should have some kind of stabilization effort."
The two Republicans in the race largely defended the war and voiced support for the Bush administration's efforts at combating terrorism.
"The most pressing issue for our federal government is national defense," said former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa. "I firmly believe that government's most fundamental basic responsibility to its citizens is to protect them."
Added state Sen. Bob Hogue, "I really believe America is a great nation, and we are doing a great service to the world right now. We can achieve peace through strength."
Former biotech executive Hanalei Aipoalani criticized Hogue's stance as continuing the country on a path to indebtedness.
Honolulu attorney Joe Zuiker touted his proposal for a "second front" to the war on terror: fostering exchange programs to bring Muslim children to America.