Lingle masters launch of new political season
GOV. Linda Lingle's State of the State speech last Monday
showed a new understanding of both her powers and her ability to use them.
The 40-minute address was a departure from past speeches, in that the second-term Republican governor was no longer charging point blank into the collective power cells of the Democratic Party.
For instance, in past speeches Lingle has attacked the state public school system. She has complained that the Department of Education eats up too much money while not raising test scores significantly.
While previously hectoring lawmakers for not helping the poor with tax breaks or encouraging business by slicing regulations, Lingle last week was the very model of bipartisanship.
Peace overtures abounded as Lingle repeatedly said Hawaii government needed a "shared understanding" or a "common vision."
State of the State speeches by both Democrats and Republicans mostly end up lining the file cabinets of obscure legislative committees. Rarely does the Legislature rise up as one shouting, "What a great idea, let's get to it."
Even if the governor and the legislators are in agreement, the Legislature is of sufficient ego to figure if both it and the governor have the same good idea, the Legislature should get most of the credit.
During last year's election, Lingle showed the reason for such legislative self-defense when she campaigned on bills that started in the Legislature and her contribution was to sign them.
What a governor can do that the Legislature cannot is to inspire hope, not be the choirmaster to a legislative choir, but the opening orator to set the stage.
"Simply put, success means producing a constantly rising standard of living for all Hawaii's people while using fewer natural resources, including land ... (and) do this while preserving those aspects of life that make our island home so special," Lingle said in her speech.
At the same time, Lingle neatly carved the Legislature and the DOE out of the equation. She offered a plan to strengthen schools with more science courses, and then left it up to the Legislature or the Board of Education or anyone to take up the idea.
Once the speech was finished, Lingle's team launched a new offense to give point-by-point answers to any who criticized her speeches.
First they took a page from David Letterman with a "Top Ten list of inaccurate statements by Democrat legislators."
When local tax expert Lowell Kalapa attacked her plans to lower some excise taxes, Lingle shot back with a release announcing, "Inaccurate statement corrected."
It was obvious that Lingle would be first with the olive branch, but she wasn't about to let her critics slap her around with it.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org