Politics

December 17, 2012

Sen. Daniel Inouye, war hero and Watergate investigator, dies at 88

The influential Democrat from Hawaii broke racial barriers and was the second longest serving Senator in U.S. history.

The Associated Press

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In this Friday, July 9, 2010 file photo, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is seen at the ceremony welcoming F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham in Honolulu. Inouye has died of respiratory complications, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, according to Inouye's office. He was 88. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)

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In this May 19, 1973 file photo, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, a member of the Watergate investigating committee, questions witness James McCord during the hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, as John M. Montoya, Democrat of New Mexico, is at right. Inouye, the influential Democrat who broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill and played key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals, died of respiratory complications, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, according to his office. He was 88. (AP Photo/File)

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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.

Inouye reluctantly joined the Watergate proceedings at the strong urging of Senate Democratic leader Mike Mansfield. The panel's investigation of the role of the Nixon White House in covering up a burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate in June 1972 ultimately prompted the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Nixon, who resigned before the issue reached a vote in the House.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 file photo, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, president pro temper of the Senate, and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, attends a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, where he is presented a commemorative coin marking the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Medal of Honor by Congress. Inouye has died of respiratory complications, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. He was 88. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

  


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