December 18, 2012

Sen. Daniel Inouye: Nation says 'Aloha' to a 'true American hero'

A Medal of Honor recipient for service during World War II, the Hawaii lawmaker was elected to Congress in 1959.

By ANDREW TAYLOR/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, died of respiratory complications in a Washington-area hospital on Monday. He was 88.

2010 Associated Press File Photo

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Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, then a member of the Watergate investigating committee, questions witness James McCord during a hearing on May 19, 1973, in Washington.

1973 Associated Press File Photo


Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans, joined their Senate colleagues in praising Inouye for his decades of service.

Snowe called Inouye “a legislative stalwart and tireless advocate for his beloved home state,” but also acknowledged his bipartisanship and leadership of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“Elected as Hawaii’s first congressman after statehood and serving in the Senate since 1963, Dan epitomized a lifelong passion for and devotion to public service,” Snowe said in a statement. “And in a time of increasing partisanship, Sen. Inouye was the rare exception.”

Collins called Inouye “a treasured colleague and a dear friend, who devoted his life to serving his country.”

“I had the pleasure of serving with him on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he worked across the aisle to better his beloved state and our country,” Collins said in a statement. “He was a Medal of Honor recipient who served in World War II with amazing courage.  He will be missed dearly by his loved ones and by all of us honored to have served with him.”

– Kevin Miller, Press Herald Washington Bureau Chief

Inouye became president pro tem of the Senate in 2010, a largely ceremonial post that also placed him in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president and the speaker of the House.

Earlier, he had taken the helm of the powerful Appropriations Committee, where he spent most of his Senate career attending to Hawaii. At the height of his power, Inouye routinely secured tens of millions of dollars annually for the state's roads, schools, national lands and military bases.

Although tremendously popular in his home state, Inouye actively avoided the national spotlight until he was thrust into it. He was the keynote speaker at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and later reluctantly joined the Senate's select committee on the Watergate scandal. The panel's investigation led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Inouye also served as chairman of the committee that investigated the Iran-Contra arms and money affair, which rocked Ronald Reagan's presidency.

A quiet but powerful lawmaker, Inouye ran for Senate majority leader several times without success. He gained power as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee before Republicans took control of the Senate in 1994.

When the Democrats regained control in the 2006 elections, Inouye became chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. He left that post two years later to become chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Inouye also chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for many years. He was made an honorary member of the Navajo nation and given the name "The Leader Who Has Returned With a Plan."

In 2000, Inouye was one of 22 Asian-American World War II veterans who belatedly received the nation's top honor for bravery on the battlefield, the Medal of Honor. The junior senator from Hawaii at the time, Daniel Akaka, had worked for years to get officials to review records to determine if some soldiers had been denied the honor because of racial bias.

Inouye's first political campaign in 1954 helped break the Republican Party's political domination of Hawaii. He was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives, where he served as majority leader. He became a territorial senator in 1958.

Inouye was serving as Hawaii's first congressman in 1962, when he ran for the Senate and won 70 percent of the vote against Republican Benjamin Dillingham II, a member of a prominent Hawaii family.

He is the last remaining member of the Senate to have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"He served as a defender of the people of this country, championing historic changes for civil rights, including the equal rights of women, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Native Hawaiians," said a visibly emotional Sen. Daniel Akaka, his longtime Hawaii colleague. "It is an incredible understatement to call him an institution, but this chamber will never be the same without him."

In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson urged Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had won the Democratic nomination for president, to select Inouye as his running mate. Johnson told Humphrey that Inouye's World War II injuries would silence Humphrey's critics on the Vietnam War.

"He answers Vietnam with that empty sleeve. He answers your problems with (Republican presidential candidate Richard) Nixon with that empty sleeve," Johnson said.

But Inouye was not interested.

"He was content in his position as a U.S. senator representing Hawaii," Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's Hawaii chief of staff, said in 2008.


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