WaPo Offers Up Gauzy Review of the 'Tropical Reign' of Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye

King Kamehameha's got nothing on Sen. Daniel Inouye (D). The former may have united the island kingdom of Hawai'i in 1810, but the latter's been a reliable vehicle of federal taxpayer pork for the Aloha State for more than 50 years.

That, in a nutshell is the thrust of "Tropical reign," today's Style section front page profile of the 86-year-old president pro tempore of the Senate:

More than any other statesman in the history of these volcanic islands -- more than Kamehameha the Great, who united them into a kingdom in 1810, or Gov. John Burns, who led the political revolution that established Democratic Party rule here in 1954 -- Inouye, 86, has ruled over Hawaii.

As the federal funding he has provided has grown, his political opposition has waned. Hawaiians have voted for Inouye for 56 years, first for territorial representative in 1954, then for Congress in 1959. In 1963, he became the nation's first Japanese American senator. His uninterrupted stretch of service in the country's most exclusive chamber is the second-longest in history behind the recently deceased Robert Byrd, whom Inouye replaced as the Senate's senior member and president pro tempore in June. That position, ceremonial though it is, puts him third in line to succeed the president.

To be fair, Inouye, a Japanese-American World War II war hero, is an interesting subject for a profile piece. But while the September 2 commemoration of the 65th anniversary of Japan's formal surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri was where the Post's Jason Horowitz opened his 63-paragraph story, the vast bulk of the profile was devoted to Inouye as a sort-of de facto boss figure in Hawaiian Democratic politics in Hawaii and steady source of federal spending on the island.

On both counts there are bound to be critics, especially for a politician with over 50 years in office, yet Horowitz presented Inouye as a man with virtually few enemies or detractors:

In the 20 years after the loss [of Inouye's bid to be Democratic majority leader], Inouye has focused on bringing money back to Hawaii with an intensity that has exponentially expanded his local power. In his 1992 reelection campaign, allegations of sexual misconduct received remarkably little traction in the political establishment or local media.

"In Hawaii, there is what is called a reservoir of aloha, a buildup of goodwill," said Rick Reed, the 1992 Republican Senate candidate who tried to make the allegations an issue and now sells cars and writes nonfiction in Washington state. "And for a lot of people, Inouye had that."

("I'm happy that most of the people believed in me," Inouye said when asked about the lack of a commotion over the allegations.)

Photo of Inouye greeting Marines aboard the USS Missouri via Marco Garcia for the Washington Post.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.