Sunday, January 25, 2009

Eni's Lack of Clout Already Apparent

Last November, Faleomavaega crushed his two opponents to win reelection, no doubt about that. It was his best showing since 1994. But what prompted the reversal of his decade-long slide? It was a combination of his early support for Barack Obama who, like Eni, was raised in Hawaii, his huge cash advantage raised from Asians and labor unions, and his argument that with Obama in the White House and Democrats controlling Congress, he will be able to produce more for American Samoa than his opponents.

After his elections in 1988 and 1990, Eni explained to the voters he was limited in what he could do because he was so junior and, more important, because Republican President George H.W. Bush controlled the White House. Then, after the 1992 election, Eni told his election night crowd that since the Democrats had won it all, it was up to them to produce. Well, they didn't, and Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 and Eni was consigned to the wilderness of minority for the ensuing 12 years, especailly the six painful (for him) years in which both Congress and the executive branch were run by Republicans.

Well, now the Democrats have it all again. And, unlike 1992, Eni no longer can argue his ability to produce is limited because he lacks seniority. No, now he is so senior he is chairman of a House subcommittee. Regrettably, it is a subcommittee that has no direct impact on American Samoa but that is a story for another day. For now, he reminds me of the small dog who yaps at the tires of every car that drives by but would have no idea of what to do with one if he caught it.

Eni knows that he is out of excuses for not producing federal benefits for American Samoa. That is why, even though he made a big deal of his support for Obama and even appered with Obama's sister at the Hawaii Democratic Party's delegate caucuses last year, he now is trying feverishly to play down his connection.

Witness this sentence in the January 5 Samoa News: "Faleomavaega, a staunch supporter of the President-elect, acknowledged he does not know Obama “personally” (emphasis added) except for instances where the two came into contact in Congress." Very interesting. And, of course, with Obama in the Senate and Faleomavaega in the House--whenever he wasn't traveling--the chances they met were very slim, particularly in the past two years when Obama was on the presidental campaign trail most of the time.

Faleomavaega obviously wants to brace the electorate for his lack of clout and the evidence is already in with the stimulus package. Despite the fact that all five insular non-voting delegates are Democrats now, there is no assistance to the territories in the $850 billion stimulus package working its way through the House.

Of course, Eni put a great spin on the situation and, as usual, Samoa News bought it hook, line and sinker. If there ever were a more gullible and sycophantic paper in the Pacific, I have not seen it. It's like the old story in the early 1960s of an airline that had its last two propeller planes suffer a mid-air collision, with all passengers dying in the process and the company's p.r. department putting out a press release saying the airline had just become an all jet fleet (neglecting to mention why).

Check out this laughable headline in the January 24 Samoa News:
"Inclusion of separate funding for territories in the stimulus package picks up support in Congress." Terrific news, eh? The only problem is that the real story is that the territories were omitted from the bill in the first place, which is why they need to appeal.

The key sentences in the story were these in a letter by Rep. Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV) and the island delegates:

"(W)e are disappointed that there is no appropriation for the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) to provide for infrastructure projects in the territories . . . In working with the Obama transition team, we had hoped that specific infrastructure funding for the territories would be included, since the transition team requested a list of ‘shovel-ready’ projects which would be most beneficial in providing economic opportunities for those living in the territories . . ."

Samoa News went on to say "While these proposals were submitted, the group noted that none were included in the bill that was marked-up Wednesday by the House Appropriations committee."

That's the story, folks. No clout. So much for Obama's island ties. Don't hold your breath waiting for Samoa News to find the real news, though. They couldn't find their nose on the front of their face. And don't expect them to ask Eni if he is going to stick in Washington to ride herd on getting this problem fixed until the bill at least passes the House if not the Senate as well. The betting here is that he already is off on some excursion to Asia or at least soon will be once he he is reconfirmed in his subcommittee chairmanship.

And so it goes.

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