Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Evan Dobelle pulled
fast one on the regents

When then-University of Hawaii President Evan Dobelle came out and publicly supported Mazie Hirono over Linda Lingle for governor in the last election, my first thought was that this guy is a real thrill-seeker.

See, university presidents don't HAVE to endorse anyone for governor. In fact, it's generally perceived as a pretty dumb thing to do. You've already got a contract with more armor than the USS Ronald Reagan, so whoever becomes governor is going to have to work with you no matter what. All you get if the person you endorse actually wins is a couple of free drinks at the club because, since you're already one of the highest-paid public officials in the state, there's nothing the governor can do to make your life any sweeter. On the other hand, if the person you endorse loses, then the incoming governor can do all kinds of things to make your life unpleasant.

So why take a meaningless political risk unless you are just looking for a few thrills?

But considering what's transpired in the last few months, with the UH Board of Regents firing Dobelle and then reaching an out-of-court settlement that pays him millions of dollars, I'm beginning to view Dobelle's support of Democrat Hirono not as a bonehead move, but as a brilliant, devilishly clever gambit, tricking the regents into sending him into an exceedingly well-capitalized retirement. (And making a few hundred thousand dollars for his lawyer buddies on the side.)

Critics of this theory will claim that 1) nobody in the world is that smart, and 2) Republican Gov. Lingle is not petty enough to order the president of a university fired simply because he pimped for her opponent. Besides, they say, the Board of Regents is made up of both Democrats and Republicans who would not allow themselves to be bullied by the new governor.

Luckily, we here at the Honolulu Lite Division of Political Analysis, Free Hostesses and Lovely Pupus are not bound by the restraints of good taste and common sense and are perfectly capable of presenting wild, unsubstantiated speculation as plausible factlike phenomena. To wit: Not only was Evan Dobelle fired because he supported Maize Hirono, but he supported her because, frankly, being president of a smallish out-of-the-way university wasn't fun anymore, and he wanted out.

Considering the settlement calls for him to get, among other things, a million in cash, life insurance payments and a cushy research position paying $250,000, his proclamation, "I support Mazie Hirono," works out to about $387,000 per word. That's the highest-paid political speech in Hawaii history if not the most highly paid utterance in the history of all oral communication.

Well done, Evan. I guess you are that smart.

As for the new UH president, whoever it may be, pity the creature. I doubt the regents will fall for such a ruse a second time.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail



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