Friday, September 26, 2008

Has Faleomavaega Lost His Mind?

Or am I missing something here?

The huge international financial crisis has preoccupied virtually everyone in Washington for the past 10 days. Last weekend the Bush administration crafted a plan to bail out Wall Street and handed it over to Congress for consideration. Virtually everyone in Congress has been on hand to protect their interests while trying to reach consensus on a solution. By Wednesday, even Sen. McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington to work on the issue. Barack Obama also joined him in Washington.

I was astounded to see that while Congress was beginning to burn the midnight oils in Washington last weekend, Faleomavaega was coming down the stairs from the Sunday night Hawaiian Airlines flight. Clearly, I thought, he was home for Fuimaono's funeral. Fui gave him start in politics and as a paramount chief presided over a huge clan with lots of votes. Faleomavaega no doubt would be delivering a major eulogy.

So, I was surprised to learn he actually left Wednesday to "return to Washington" (according to KHJ News), a day before the funeral. Then I saw a statement by Senator Salanoa on criticizing Eni for not remaining in Washington to protect our interests and concluded he must have bowed to pressure for him to return to his duty station.

Then I read this morning's paper. My astonishment is now complete. According to Samoa News, Faleomavaega is NOT in Washington (where the crisis continues) but in Missouri for the retirement ceremony of Command Sgt. Maj. Falaniko.

Has he lost his political mind? His place is in Washington but a political case could be made, I suppose, for attending the Fuimaono funeral. He tried to attend the funeral of High Chief Fai'ivae last year while Congress was in session until the Speaker demanded he stay in Washington. I have trouble understanding his rationale for being neither in Washington nor at Fuimaono's funeral any more than I could understand his decision to miss the coronation of the King of Tonga and Secretary Rice's summit with Pacific foreign ministers in Apia in order to hand deliver a birthday card to a Chinese billionaire in Hong Kong. Something doesn't compute.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faleomavaega has another fake hearing

Well, our boy is at it again. Last week while world financial markets were crashing all around everyone, Faleomavaega orchestrated another toy hearing--this time on Capitol Hill. Perhaps he was stung too much by his laughable "field hearing" on minimum wage earlier this year, so he retreated to the safety of Capitol Hill to hold a hearing on the establishment of a federal court in American Samoa. If you weren't in the hearing room, you could watch it on the internet. Once again he was in shirt sleeves with not even the hint of his trademark bolo tie anymore--thus completely flouting the business dress code of Washington and embarrassing the territory in the process.

But I digress. No one really understood the purpose of this hearing. There is no legislation being considered and even if there were there is only about a week before Congress adjourns. There is hardly time to consider any new initiatives, even if he were to try to move it through the process as a secret amendment, as he did with his tunaboat bill. Moreover, like minimum wage, this issue is not the province of the insular subcommittee. It would need to go to the judiciary committee for consideration. Perhaps Eni saw this as something he needed politically back home and asked subcommittee chairman Donna Christiansen to do it as a favor but there has been no subsequent publicity other than a press release from Eni that says he now favors the AS Chief Justice's approach: a federal prosecutor rather than a federal court.

The whole hearing took less than 90 minutes and Eni announced at the outset they would have to hurry it up because the witnesses from American Samoa had a plane to catch. Huh? This hearing was scheduled for months. Surely the Senate President and House Speaker could have scheduled a Friday plane out, since there would still have been plenty of time to catch the Sunday plane home from Honolulu. If they really did have to leave, it could only have meant they had other things to do on the west coast or elsewhere on the Mainland (raise campaign funds?) since you have to take a morning flight out of Washington in order to get all the way to Honolulu in one day. Maybe they were all going to Vegas. Who knows?

All I know is a lot of taxpayer dollars were wasted on three faipules going all the way to Washington for 90 minutes of everyone reading prepared statements and a few questions. Thank goodness the governor and chief justice weren't fooled. They sent in written statements and didn't waste their time with a trip to D.C. at the height of the political campaign.

Nonetheless, if Eni's release means he is backing down on the court and will give it a rest until the people want it and ask for it through their local leaders, it is all to the good. Hopefully, Eni will be defeated in November and this whole nightmare will come to an end once and for all.