wHonolulu Star-Bulletin Editorial

author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Visions of payback
dance in lawmakers’ heads

In politics, getting even is almost as much fun as getting ahead.

Few politicians travel without their own little list of those who have done them wrong and whose slights must be avenged.

While thinking about that well-developed appreciation for revenge, Gov. Linda Lingle might want to heed a recommendation I was given years ago about the Legislature.

"You will not be able to understand why things happen here, until you have seen 'Chushingura,'" I was told.

The movie is based on the 300-year-old Japanese tale of the 47 ronin, now buried in Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo.

Generations of Japanese have grown up learning the story of Oishi Kuranosuke, chief councilor of the Ako clan, who leads his men to avenge their lord who was unjustly forced to commit seppuku.

For two years the Ako clan members concealed their plans for revenge. Disguising themselves as merchants, drunks and street vendors, the now leaderless samurai waited for their chance. The group had dwindled to just 47 when on one winter day 300 years ago they attacked Lord Kira's mansion.

After killing Kira, the head of protocol who had caused their master to kill himself, the ronin were ordered by the shogun to commit seppuku, a more honorable exit than being executed. That code of loyalty and honor gives a politician the appreciation needed to exercise the cold vendetta so neatly practiced outside the committee rooms at the state Capitol.

While Hawaii's Legislature has lost some of its taste for blood, exacting revenge after an unguarded moment in committee is all part of the code of honor of Hawaii political shoguns.

All this history will be important to Lingle next year as she brings her legislative package down to the lawmakers.

While Democrats will deny acting out of vengeance, consider the state House chairmen who will have life-or- death control over the dozens of administration bills now being prepared.

Imagine the temptation for payback of legislators, who only months before found themselves fighting against not only GOP candidates recruited, trained and partially funded with Lingle's help, but also opposed by administration cabinet officials who headed up the opponent's campaign.

In the past, Lingle has argued that Democrats have been running against her for decades. She says that instead of resenting it, she expects U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye to try to get her out of office. And she claims she doesn't take it personally.

Legislators do take it as a personal attack, and their memories are as long as those of the celebrated 47 samurai.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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



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