Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, June 18, 1997

McCartney deplores
politics of blame

HERE'S some news about a politician on the cusp of rethinking what he's doing. Sen. Mike McCartney has been in the Legislature since 1988. He's thinking about not running next year.

With two young kids and a successful business producing television shows, McCartney is realizing that there is more to life than keeping the keys to a Beretania Street office for another four years.

He can, however, see himself back in politics in a decade, perhaps as governor.

At 38 he is not yet turned off from politics, and his relentless optimism condemns him to think of everything as a challenge instead of a problem.

He is always the first at a meeting to say he sees a "win-win" situation, when everyone else wants to just get out with a minimum of bloodletting.

Why then, does he want to leave?

After watching from the inside how the game is played, the style of politics here and across the country worries him. McCartney sees it as the politics of blame.

"Everyone is spending all their time and energy figuring out who to blame and how to hold news conferences to blame someone," he said.

While the state needs more leaders and more risk-takers, persons who do venture out on a limb are liable only to be judged harshly, not praised.

Candidates for office are immediately hit by at least 20 special-interest group questionnaires, he says. If the candidates don't pledge to join with those groups, they are cast as enemies.

"The whole thing is polarizing democracy," he says.

This is of particular worry in Hawaii, where one of the biggest problems is the centralized nature of both government and business.

McCartney's suggestion for improving how we do business and democracy is to break up institutions into a neighborhood level.

With a centralized government there is a tendency to expect everything from government, the Legislature and business. Destroyed in the process is personal responsibility and self-reliance, he says.

McCartney came to the Legislature with a union background. He started as a negotiation specialist with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. And he says as a Democrat he has always assumed the Democratic Party to be a natural ally, but now he thinks both Democrats and Republicans have to rethink their role.

"As they are now they have outlived their usefulness," he says. They are not working towards solutions but instead are working to further polarize the community.

"There isn't a political party that can solve Hawaii's problems. We have to do it on a local level," he said.

MCCARTNEY is now looking at the process at the Legislature from the viewpoint of a small-businessman, as he manages a business producing the "Hawaii Stars" television karaoke show and also produces prepaid telephone cards for promotions and businesses.

Suddenly the onetime union official is understanding the complaints of businesses trying to survive in Hawaii's overregulated economy.

As for the future, McCartney sees himself helping Gov. Ben Cayetano in his re-election campaign and also sees himself involved in the Windward community he has represented for the last decade.

But McCartney won't decide if he will campaign for his own office until December.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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