View Point

Friday, September 4, 1998

Fasi should retire from
politics as elder statesman

Why does he keep on
running and running and running?

By Robert Kelsey


THE grand old man of Hawaii politics, Frank Fasi, refuses to roll over and play the political dead role. At an age when most people are happy to tend their gardens, Fasi is once again sowing the seeds of discord.

It has been written that Hawaii's voters always get what they deserve. Do we deserve Fasi?

Even though he has lost his last few tries at elected office, he is like that pink bunny -- he keeps going and going, beating his own drum. The inescapable conclusion is that he loves himself more than voters do.

Listening to Fasi is akin to chewing aspirin; it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. He has a way of twisting the facts to suit his own goals with little regard to the truth.

His latest attacks on Linda Lingle are classic Fasi at his best -- or worst. It's all right for him to point out the faults of others, but if you dare bring up touchy issues like Kukui Plaza, Fasi feigns uproarious indignation.

He can dish it out but hates to take it. He can play the wounded soldier role better than Dan Inouye.

If, by some mistake by the voters of Hawaii, Fasi beats Lingle, will he turn on the governor? You can bet your Fasi yard signs he will.

Fasi now looks like Cayetano's attack dog. But if he loses to Lingle, there is a chance he'll become the governor's lap dog. He has said that he would not campaign for the governor, but don't count on it. Fasi knows few political loyalties.

If he loses to Lingle, the object of his attacks will likely become the object of praise. Such is politics.

Fasi is our favorite opportunist. He seems to join any political party that suits his needs at the time. And when he runs out of parties, he forms his own.

The voters didn't think the Best Party was the best and flatly rejected it and Fasi.

Now he's a Republican. So far, we haven't heard many Republicans yelling, "Frank's our man!"

In Hawaii politics, the citadel of the bizarre, Fasi stands alone in the number of party affiliations. He will be remembered for the comic seriousness of party loyalty.

Fasi has become a parody of himself, much as Mae West and Liberace became parodies of themselves. Fasi is Fasi and it's all show business.

We smile at his antics and say, "Good old Frank, he's at it again." We still cheer him and urge him on, knowing that he is providing much needed humor in an otherwise humorless campaign.

We can't help ourselves. We love to see Frank run.

Yet we have never been able to figure him out. Is he a leftist, rightist, populist or middle of the roader? He seems to jump on any cause that will help him.

In this election, he has rallied against same-sex marriage. It's a popular issue and it may pick him up a few votes.

He is sort of Hawaii's Ross Perot, the mouse that roars, the little man with the big ego. When they whine, they even sound a bit alike. But Fasi doesn't have a billion dollars.

Fasi could retire and became an elder statesman like Barry Goldwater did. Yet Fasi is like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of past defeats, to run again and again.

It's painful to see him slip into the abyss for once-greats and has-beens.

He could retreat to his ivory tower and pontificate on how unfairly he has been treated.

He could write a book and remind us of his past glories. Our bus company is a good example. When the old HRT went on strike, Fasi flew to Dallas and bought a fleet of buses and put Harry Weinberg out of business. It was Fasi's finest hour.

"Fighting Frank" had never lost an election, until an unknown woman came out of nowhere and soundly defeated him. Eileen Anderson got the support of the Democrats in 1980 and retired Fasi as mayor temporarily. He reclaimed the mayor's office twice more after that loss.

If Fasi ever wrote a book, he could ask the question, "Where is Eileen Anderson today?" She's nowhere to be seen, but Fasi is still around.

Fasi's book could be his means to justify his history. If Thurston Twigg-Smith can do it, so can Fasi.

He could tell how he was a young Italian boy who rose up through the ranks of the Democratic Party. And the Republican Party. And the Best Party.

He could tell us how he tore down Queen's Surf restaurant and dug up the parking lot at Honolulu Hale. Both were great events in Honolulu's history. Were those demolitions done with non-bid contracts?

As he approaches his 80th year, will Frank Fasi be content to be our elder statesman? Or is there another campaign in his future? Will we see him in the middle of Kalakaua Avenue waving a Fasi sign and yelling, "I'm Frank Fasi, remember me?" Frank who?

Robert Kelsey is the former publisher of the
Lahaina News and the Lahaina Sun on Maui.

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