As the Hawaii Legislature enters into its second month of activity, at least one round of the tussle between the Executive and the Legislative has occurred. But instead of it being over a debate on ideas, it became personal.
And when it becomes personal, there is, in the end, a true winner and loser. As to how the scorecard looks, let us lay out what happened.
Contestant one is Governor Josh Green, via his appointed people Nani Medeiros and Ikaika Anderson.
Contestant two is Kurt Fevella, Senator for District 20, representing ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages.
The Arena: The Department of Hawaiian Homelands monthly beneficiaries meeting was held on Friday, January 27th at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands offices in Kapolei, Oahu.
Now that we set up who and where what happened?
Reports on the incident, including a recording of who said what in the session, Fevella said of Medeiros: “She has nothing or no knowledge about Hawaiian people. I don’t care if she says she’s Hawaiian. Just remember now, the devil also was an angel. Remember that. So just because you’re Hawaiian doesn’t mean you have the passion for the people.”
And then he said of Anderson, who is the Chair Designate for DHHL, by Green: “He lied five times to us. That’s in the hearings. I’m not gonna say mislead, he lied.”
At this point, figuratively, Fevella went into the ring, and upon the dinging of the bell, marched right up to Green and threw the first punch. Despite the fight pundits thinking that while he seems to have a lot of power in his punches, he was a teddy bear at heart, he landed a substantial punch on Green and his people.\
Let’s face it, it is not every day in this state that a politician calls a member of the executive the Devil. Maybe in Texas or in Kari Lake Arizona, but Hawaii…. not in the open and not recorded. As a political insider told this humble blogger, this type of exchange would be kept behind closed doors. Furthermore, if it was a particularly nasty issue, political mediators would come and talk to everyone, and come up with a solution where everyone walked outside after the cameras and say “everything is okay.”
That is not how Green, obviously plays, and decided to, in public, announce that he was filing a harassment claim against the Senator to the President’s office. And then, just to be sure that he was serious, he said to Hawaii News Now, “I will not tolerate anyone from my team being treated this way. I won’t tolerate anyone in the state being treated this way.”
Taking this back to the arena analogy, after Fevella did a one-two punch, Green recoiled (over the weekend as the complaint came out on that following Monday), shook his head to get his bearing straight, and while walking back to Fevella, got mad and uppercut the larger contestant, putting him into a recoil.
So far both sides showed that they could both rise to the contest, and instead of trying to do the “local way” of keeping it in-house, they fought in the public, doing that to the chagrin of just about anyone who has been involved in Hawaii politics for longer than a decade, where the rule was “don’t air your dirty laundry outside”.
With round 2 though, others got involved. Now the Senate President came into the ring and was told “your member did wrong, do something”. And 48 hours later, Fevella issued an “apology” in which he said, “If I hurt her and her family … If I hurt any of them, I apologize,” and “If the governor felt that I was bullying his people, I apologize for that.”
A couple of days from that, Fevella went on the floor of the Senate to say the same thing – if I hurt people, I apologize.
Round 2 is done, and the fight ends. Now let us find out how the judges (otherwise the political pundits) scored this round.
THE JUDGES CALL
According to the scoresheets of just about every pundit this blogger speaks to, and also this blogger’s scorecard, there is a definite winner and loser. Here is how the decision went and why.
Winner: Governor Green. Being a freshman Governor coming in mere weeks before this, there was a lot of question of whether he would be able to go toe to toe with other government leaders and hold their own. With some saying that he took too many things personally, it was feared that he would delve more into the “woe is me” playbook when complaining about what others were attacking him (directly or indirectly) on.
Instead, he went a route where he didn’t try to prosecute this issue in the press and public, but just go to the Senate President and tell him “hey!” In between rounds 1 and 2, this blogger predicted that Green would have to spend some of his political coins to get the Senate to do anything about Fevella. And we might find out later if he did. But for the speed that this got resolved in round 2, it seems like he may not have had to spend anything at all, and was able to let the merits of Fevella’s actions speak for themselves.
Loser: Senator Fevella. Fevella made two big mistakes in his approach to this that will come back to haunt him. The first mistake was simply assuming that he’d get away with saying whatever at the DHHL meeting because he felt he was in the right. Whatever political strategy he used that made sense to act and say this, it was garbage. Hawaii is nothing like Washington DC, where the “Make America Great Again” crowd speaks like this to the press all the time. It’s garbage there, and even more stinky garbage, here.
The second mistake was in his apology. Upon its first issuance, the comments made on it said, generally, that he didn’t apologize. It is one thing to say “If I offended, I am sorry”, but that is conditional on how the other person took it. Medeiros came out and said that she was offended, so that should have never been a question for Fevella. What he should have said was “I am sorry for my comments, they were out of line”, because, to everyone listening, that is exactly what it was, offending and over the line.
How this will haunt him in two ways. First, he needs to know he does not have a lot of coins to pay out to cover these incidents. Secondly, the apology could be used by an opponent in the next election (either primary or general), which could bring to voters’ attention Fevella sense of judgment on these matters.
One last takeaway from this is that Hawaii’s new governor has no problem calling out what he feels is bad behavior, naming names on who has behaved badly and using the mechanisms of both the press and the system to extract action. On the Senate side, it should be clear by now that whatever rulebook was used to “hide the dirty laundry” aint going to work too well with this administration.
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