I’ve been trying to come up with my own recollections of Dan Inouye. In fact, I don’t believe I ever met the man except perhaps in passing, and certainly never had a conversation with him. But I’ve lived with the reflection of his position and power through my adult life. His wife taught at University High School when I was there, although I wasn’t in her classes, as I recall. He backed Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war in Vietnam, much to the dismay of a big chunk of my generation.
William “Bud” Lampard, a UH professor and the father of a good friend of mine, ran as a peace candidate against Inouye in the 1968 Democratic Primary. That’s Lampard, and his son, Tony, in this photo, sitting in front of a “Repeal the Draft” banner at a 1970 peace rally at UH Manoa.
Although Inouye stepped up to oppose certain uses of U.S. military force, he remained a reliable pro-military vote in the Senate. He played both sides on the issue of Kahoolawe during the 1970s, and consistently deferred to the military and its backers in Washington, as described in this 1978 article in a newsletter of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana.
Inouye’s career had its high points, including his role in the Watergate hearings and the Senate investigation of Iran-Contra. There were also low points, including the Lenore Kwock affair (that drove Inouye’s percentage of the vote to 57%, the lowest point in his Washington career8, before soaring back to 93% in 1998) and his spirited defense of the “Keating 5.”
Inouye was a master of patronage and pork. I dug up a couple of critical stories I’ve done over the years, one from my Hawaii Monitor Newsletter in July 1992, and another written for the Star-Bulletin (“TheBus funds
hijacked for hospital“).
Perhaps Inouye’s most lasting legacy is the strong base of Native Hawaiian serving agencies built with decades of federal funding. When Democrats realized that the strength of their Japanese American voting block was threatened by demographic trends, Inouye began the long process of patronage politics aimed, at least in part, at building Hawaiians into the Democratic coalition. The result is a strong network of established Native Hawaiian organizations, including nonprofits and for-profit businesses.