DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
President Bush was greeted by Gov. Linda Lingle, and first lady Laura Bush was greeted by U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. William Fallon on Monday after Air Force One arrived at Hickam Air Force Base. Lingle said there was little talk about politics during her time with the president.
Bush’s Hawaii visit was a social one, Lingle says
But she says she did manage to sneak in some talk on politics
Although it was more of a social gathering, Gov. Linda Lingle said she was able to discuss U.S. foreign policy in Asia and the role of the Hawaii National Guard in the Asia-Pacific region during her brief time with President Bush this week.
Lingle, who spent about an hour and a half with Bush and also sat next to him during dinner at the house of U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. William Fallon, said there was little discussion about politics.
Bush, first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were in Hawaii for 16 hours Monday and Tuesday on their way back to Washington, D.C., following an eight-day trip to Asia.
After the private dinner Monday night, Bush had breakfast Tuesday with troops at Hickam Air Force Base and was briefed at Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith before leaving.
"He was very relaxed at night after coming back from Asia," Lingle said yesterday in an interview with the Star-Bulletin. "Dinner conversation was interesting because the secretary of state was there, as well as Adm. Fallon and Hadley.
"I did a lot of listening about their views on China and Indonesia and on North Korea and Japan. ... It was much more of a social setting rather than a foreign policy discussion, but obviously it came up because we're all interested in it."
The president's visit was criticized by the Democratic National Committee, which issued a statement calling it Bush's "latest photo-op with the troops (that) comes just two weeks after the American people sent a clear message by rejecting his party's permanent commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq and by electing a Democratic Congress."
Lingle said there was little discussion about politics, although she did manage to sneak it into the conversation.
"We joked about the elections here," she said. "I told him he was in all my opponents' ads."
She said there was no discussion about political issues such as the Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill, which she had cited during her campaign as one area in which she was disappointed with the administration. Critics had charged that an 11th-hour opinion from the administration opposing the so-called Akaka Bill led to its demise on the U.S. Senate floor earlier this year.
Lingle said she updated the president on the expanded role Hawaii's National Guard forces are taking in the Asia-Pacific region.
In January the Hawaii Air Guard's 29th Brigade will start initial planning with Indonesian military officials on the establishment of a state partnership similar to those between Alaska and Mongolia, and Washington state and Thailand.
Officials have said the partnership came about partly as a result of U.S. humanitarian assistance following the tsunami and earthquakes in Southeast Asia two years ago. The citizen force is expected to take a more active role in military and civic action missions in the Pacific.
"He was not aware of the work that we're going to be doing in Indonesia," Lingle said. "It's more of a humanitarian and medical mission as a follow-up to what Pacific Command has been doing there in the area of tsunami relief. He was very interested about that."
Also yesterday, Lingle said she was pleased with the response by Civil Defense agencies following Thursday morning's 5.0-magnitude earthquake off the Big Island.
The quake generated landslides and caused scattered power failures on the Big Island, but there were no reports of any injuries or major damage. Civil Defense also utilized the emergency alert system to announce that no tsunami had been generated.
Lingle was at Central Union Church in Makiki to deliver Thanksgiving Day remarks when the temblor struck at 9:20 a.m. Almost immediately after speaking, Lingle said, she was handed a note updating her on the situation.
"At that point I knew there were no injuries and no tsunami generated," she said. "I would say things went very well."