Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Clemency decision defended

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- The majority of Hawaii's congressional delegation have refused to join the growing chorus denouncing President Clinton's decision to grant clemency to members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group, instead dismissing the criticism as politically motivated.

When the House voted last week to condemn Clinton's decision, Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink were among a handful of lawmakers voting against the resolution, which carried by a resounding 311-41 margin.

Similarly, when the Senate approved its own condemnation resolution yesterday by an overwhelming 95-2 vote, Sen. Daniel Akaka was one of the senators who refused to support it.

That leaves Sen. Daniel Inouye as the only one of Hawaii's four lawmakers who supported condemning the clemency. And his support, he said afterward, was reluctant.

"I voted for the resolution with much reservation," said Inouye. While he considered the resolution "a political attack," Inouye said he voted for it because "I didn't want anyone to interpret my negative vote as being favorably inclined to terrorism."

Akaka spokesman Paul Cardus said Akaka could not support the resolution because it was an obvious attempt to embarrass Clinton.

Abercrombie had a similar explanation for his vote.

"This has been totally politicized," he said. "It has nothing to do anymore, if it ever had, with the merits or demerits of the clemency petition."

Abercrombie dismissed criticism of the president's actions as "rhetoric."

Mink said she voted against the condemnation because "I didn't think it was appropriate to express that point of view."

She compared the clemency to a pardon and said the president appeared to have a solid basis for his decision.

Clinton's action has been criticized as a misguided attempt to win political support for his wife's bid for a New York Senate seat.

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