Richar Borreca

On Politics

By Richard Borreca

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Cayetano’s tears
pour out in earnest

When he dialed up the soulful gaze and pensive lip-biting, Bill Clinton could feel your pain.

Somewhere in the presidential psyche, there was an empathy switch that clicked on when Clinton was presented with the sad or unfortunate victims of disaster, oppression or economic injustice.

After eight years in office, you just knew that this was how politicians were supposed to act.

If there were political tears to be shed, Bill Clinton could summon up the waterworks. It turned on with such regularity that some were reminded of the old joke that the most important thing to remember in politics is sincerity, and once you learn how to fake that, you have it made.

So there are tears and there are political tears, but when Gov. Ben Cayetano choked up during his State of the State speech last week, the sad eyes were predictable not because Cayetano was faking it, but because he is just like that.

Ben Cayetano is not Bill Clinton, he is not the "I feel your pain" sort of leader, but he can cry with the best of them.

After eight years as lieutenant governor and another eight as governor, Cayetano has drawn his share of amateur psychoanalysts, who try to explain his behavior. They speculate that the governor acts the way he does because he was born in Kalihi, was raised by his father, married early and is Filipino.

A few minutes with those pondering Cayetano's behavior is like finding a missing verse from "Gee Officer Krupke" in "West Side Story." But, complex as Cayetano may be, he isn't disturbed or deprived, he's our own version of Harry Truman, plain speaking with a Democratic bent.

When he was running for governor, he cried. Recounting his childhood to a union gathering, Cayetano teared up, and the union members knew they had their candidate.

When Cayetano's State of the State speech came out Tuesday morning, it was obvious there were lines that would provoke emotion.

Kalihi, former Gov. Jack Burns and Farrington High School all in the same sentence in his last address to the Legislature was an almost guaranteed tear line.

According to some political thinking, men in politics can cry, but the woman who weeps is soon disregarded as weak. Suzanne Chun Oakland cried in committee when she was in the state House, she cried on the floor in the Senate, and others said she would regularly cry in caucus.

At first people didn't take her seriously, but now lawmakers have come to know that a red-eyed Sen. Chun Oakland isn't going to change her vote.

That's where it stands with Cayetano. If he cries he means it, but it won't change the message.

The one irony in Cayetano's State of the State speech was the accidental symbolism when he did get teary.

As he tried to compose himself while at the podium before the assembled House and Senate and assorted dignitaries, the governor reached for a glass of water.

If Cayetano looked for allies when he faced Hawaii's first veto override for a Democratic governor, the closet was bare; if Cayetano looked for some money to fund his projects in the state budget for eight years, the treasury was bare.

So is it surprising that when he went for a glass of water during his last speech, he would find the glass was empty?

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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