Obama touts isle ties in campaign call
Barack Obama says Hawaii "already has so many good things working for it."
What it needs, the 46-year-old Illinois Democratic senator says, is a president who "appreciates what a jewel Hawaii is."
In a telephone interview yesterday with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Obama said he has concerns for the state of his birth.
"There are obviously very real needs that Hawaii is facing. I want to be a president because I am familiar with those problems, and I want to help with issues like mass transit and ... high energy costs," Obama said, speaking during a campaign stop in Wisconsin.
Obama, noting that his grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and niece live in Honolulu, said he has visited Hawaii every year for the past 25 years, but this year the campaign for president has precluded a trip.
"As someone who grew up there and understands the people, who cares deeply about the state, I think the people of Hawaii can count on having a president who is thinking about them," Obama said.
When he does come back, Obama said he enjoys taking his 6- and 9-year-old daughters to the beach, the zoo and Waimea Falls.
"We hang out in Kapiolani Park, and we watch the fireworks at Ala Moana and we go hiking up to Manoa Falls. We spend time with Tutu, my grandmother.
"We just enjoy relaxing, having a plate lunch.
"Now, when I am on my own, I will go out to Sandy Beach and do a little bodysurfing," Obama said.
He said the waves are too rough for the rest of the family.
Obama said he would like to come to Hawaii at Easter, but says the campaign across the mainland dictates his plans.
"But I am looking forward to be the first Hawaiian-born president in the White House," Obama said.
Discussing the issue of race and politics, Obama said he is putting together coalitions of voters and that the news media are viewing the campaign through "a racial lens" in describing the campaign as Obama holding on to the black vote and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton having a significant amount of the Latino vote.
"I'm going to dispute that characterization. I have won 20-some states now. The majority of them have tiny African-American populations. So the notion that somehow there has been racial polarization is, I think, inaccurate.
"I think the voters are interested in who can help them ensure that people can afford housing and send their kids to college, make sure they have health care. That's what they are concerned about, not race or gender," Obama said.
On the issue of military spending in the islands, Obama, like Clinton, says Hawaii's strategic importance would continue and that military spending would not be cut.
"Our first priority has to be to keep America safe, so I initially view it through a national security perspective. It is critical that we have Hawaiian bases that allow us to project through the Pacific."
Obama recalled that while he was living in Hawaii and attending Punahou, he thought the military bases enjoyed good relations with the local community. "I think overall it has been a plus for the Hawaiian economy," he said.