Inouye reads the primary race card
Hawaii's Sen. Dan Inouye knows a few things about race. Inouye knows a racial slight or insult is never forgotten. He still remembers coming home to Hawaii, wearing the uniform of a captain in the U.S. Army and a steel hook in place of his right hand and arm.
Going into an unnamed downtown restaurant, as he says: "I had on the bars of a captain and four rows of ribbons on, and I was told, 'Sorry, sir.'" And Inouye was not seated.
So when you ask Inouye if racism is a factor in the Democratic presidential primary between a white woman, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and a man with a black father and a white mother, Sen. Barack Obama, Inouye says "get real."
"I would hope that commentators were realists. Racism is still alive all over the world.
"It has improved, yes, but it wasn't too long ago that the school where I got my law degree GW (George Washington University) was segregated," Inouye said in an interview last week.
"So I'm sorry, but it takes time," Inouye said.
Last Friday some commentators, such as Peggy Noonan, former President Ronald Reagan's speech writer and now a Wall Street Journal columnist, were "getting real" with the denials of a race-based pitch in the campaign by Clinton.
First her husband, former president Bill Clinton compared Obama's South Carolina victory to that of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as a means to say it was a black-only vote.
And then last week, Hillary Clinton told USA Today that she appealed to white voters, claiming that "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again."
Noonan said that was the race card plain and simple. "To make your argument a brutal and cynical 'the black guy can't win but the white girl can' is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by," Noonan said.
Indeed, Inouye, who has supported Clinton's candidacy for an entire year, tells you we need to know a bit about racial politics in America.
He noted that he has had white voters complain to him that 90 percent of the blacks in a state are voting for Obama and just 45 percent of the whites.
"How come they voted like that, we have been open and fair," Inouye quotes voters as saying.
"You have to explain to them, they have been waiting their lifetime, you have to realize they are bitter for good reasons, they hate to be treated like slaves," Inouye said.
Hawaii's senior senator, an icon of tolerance here and across the country, has always been the exception to the rule of ethnic voting -- whites, blacks, Japanese-American, Filipino-Americans -- everybody votes for Dan Inouye.
Just don't tell him this race for president is color blind.