Monday, September 29, 2014


In an almost five-minute long, nearly 500 word audio message delivered in English, with no transcript provided, Faleomavaega, clearly looking for the sympathy of  voters, asked them to elect him to Congress for a 14th time in November.  Cloaked in a host of irrelevancies, the nub of his statement was an admission to having chronic heart disease and kidney disease, the latter which now is being controlled by dialysis.  He made no mention of whether he is currently on or expecting to go onto a waiting list for either a heart transplant or kidney transplant or possibly both.

Under pressure from the media and growing restlessness among the voters, Faleomavaega finally came forward after nearly a year’s silence and an extended absence from his office to clear up the mystery of what ails him.  During the past 11 months, speculation has ranged from cancer to a stroke and there were even rumors that he was in a coma at one point.  Until now, neither he nor his office has done anything to dispel them.

A big mystery that remains is why he waited until a little over one month from Election Day to make his condition public instead of issuing bulletins about the state of his health and his recovery all along the way.  As we have suggested in the past, perhaps he wanted to draw into the race more candidates who thought he would retire or be vulnerable, so that he would have an easier time defeating a large, divided field in a race that requires only a plurality to win.  He has won multicandidate races before with less than 50% of the vote.

That he suffers from heart and kidney ailments should come as no surprise.  He very publicly stated just before the 2012 election that among other medical treatments over the years, he has had heart bypass surgery, suffers from diabetes and “very likely” was exposed to Agent Orange.  In other words, everyone knows already that he is not a well man.  Why wait to disclose new issues that are similar to those he already has made public?

Another big mystery is why he is not home.  His message was recorded presumably from his residence, office or elsewhere in the Washington area because he has not yet returned to the territory nor did he give any indication in his statement when he would return.  Because his message raises more questions than it answers, it bears close examination.  Since no transcript was released by his office, an annotated script follows, which will help guide readers in seeking answers from the delegate during these final five weeks of the campaign.:

Faleomavaega’s Message to American Samoa 

Thank you American Samoa.  Last October because of complications due to Agent Orange exposure during my service in Vietnam,
What exactly were the complications that forced you to be hospitalized at LBJ? What specific symptoms did you experience on the airplane that led to your immediate transport to LBJ upon landing?
 I was airlifted to Hawaii where I was not expected to live. 
If you were not expected to live, then why very early in the process did your office issue statements that said you were expected to make a full recovery?
Thanks to your prayers you offered to God on my behalf, I am back. 
You are back where?  Certainly not back in American Samoa. When do you expect to return?  If you have recovered, as your campaign advertisement last week stated, why have you not returned to American Samoa, from which you have been absent now for nearly a year?  Since Congress is not in session, what other reason would you still be in Washington?
While words can never express the love and gratitude I feel for you, I hope in some small way my life will become my message.  My message is my prayer.  I pray that I may wear out my service to you, to God and to our great nation. 
Your invocation of God here and throughout this message is admirable but is it not meant to obscure the real seriousness of your illness and invoke the sympathy of a very religious community? Is it possible you already have worn out your service to us if not to God and the country?
To our Vietnam veterans, please visit our VA clinic.  I was not aware of the many side effects caused by Agent Orange exposure. 
How could you not be aware of the side effects since they have been experienced by so many other veterans and you, yourself, in 2012 stated that you “very likely” were exposed to Agent Orange?  Members of Congress have access to the finest health care in the country if not the world.  How is it possible that physicians and surgeons, knowing your medical and military history, would not have detected any signs of the effects of Agent Orange when they performed your double bypass surgery?  With diabetes, gout and kidney disease, as well as heart disease, all involving the cardio-vascular system, how is it possible when you previously were treated for gout and diabetes, that Agent Orange would not have been detected after 40 years?
But now that I know, I urge you to seek treatment so that you may live a long and healthy life.  Agent Orange is a silent killer of Vietnam veterans.  From 1961 to 1971 the U.S. military sprayed over 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam, exposing millions of civilians and soldiers to dioxin, a toxic contaminant known to be one of the deadliest chemicals made by man.  I was exposed during my service in Nha Trang.  Like hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans,
This is a very fine history and chemistry lesson, and public service appeal to veterans that has little to do with your condition.
I now suffer from the side effects of Agent Orange, including heart and kidney disease which almost cost me my life.  But with proper diagnosis and dialysis treatment, my life has been spared. [emphasis added]
This is the meat of your message.  The question is why was it not delivered at least by the time you returned to limited office hours and began accepting visitors in March if not at the time of your video Christmas message in December?
If you served on active duty in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975, you may qualify for presumptive service-connected Agent Orange disability compensation.  To all Vietnam veterans living in American Samoa and elsewhere, I encourage you to get checked out now.  Please call my office if you need assistance.  To any who suffer due to pain, disability or trials, worry not.  Your service continues to make a difference beyond measure. 
Again, a very fine public service announcement that seems designed to bury the meat of your statement: that you are a very sick man.
The late Senator Daniel Inouye was a decorated World War II veteran.  He was like a father to me and I have always looked up to his example. Although he lost his arm in battle, he served our nation with distinction and honor.  My dear friend Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran. I proudly supported her when she first ran for Congress and I continue to support her to this day.  She is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in Illinois.  She is also the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, having lost both of her legs during the war.  She is a remarkable representative and incredible woman and soon to be a mother.  I salute her.  Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island was shot at age 16 and will never walk again but with remarkable courage he now serves the good people of Rhode Island though bound to a wheel chair. 
It is unclear what the physical disabilities of these three Members of Congress have to do with your conditions. None of them is ill.  All have lost the use of limbs but have suffered no impairment in office.  Moreover, former Senator Max Cleland was missing three limbs but that did not limit him, either.  You, on the other hand, were totally missing in action for six months and have been working only part time since then.  None of them has or had a disability that was not publicly known at the time of their candidacies for office. No one defines missing or paralyzed limbs as illness.
Several other members of Congress and congressional staff undergo dialysis due to their own struggles. 
What kind of “struggles” are you talking about?  Dialysis is used to treat kidney disease, just as other machines or procedures are used to treat other kinds of diseases.  No one needs be concerned with how kidney disease was acquired.
I respect their right to privacy.  Although public servants, they, too, are protected by HIPAA laws, and it is up to them to decide how much of their life to make public. 
Congressional staff have a right to privacy but elected officials have the same right only if the voters choose to give them that right.  Have these other Members of Congress who you have not named not made public that they are being treated by dialysis? That the public here has been increasingly displeased with tha absence of information from you has forced you to make this disclosure.  Do not be surprised if you are compelled to be even more forthcoming by answering these questions and others that the media, your opponent and the public might pose.  You ignore them at your own peril.
I have chosen to come before you and say what I have said because in 2004 I lost a brother who also served in Vietnam. 
You are not coming forward because you believe the public has a right to know your physical and mental ability to perform the duties of your office before deciding whether to have you continue in office?  What does your brother’s death have to do with your condition?  Did he die of Agent Orange complications?  If so, might that not be a reason for you to retire from office?
While I do not know why God has given me a second chance, I want to do my part to ensure that other veterans also get a second chance.
How will your re-election give veterans a second chance?  Might not God’s plan for you to be freed of the burdens of office so your life can become your message through concentrating on working more directly with the veterans community to educate them on tending to their health needs?
With your continued support and prayers, I hope to continue my service for you and to our great nation.
When are you coming home so we can see you in the flesh and judge for ourselves your mental and physical state before voting?
Soifua, manuia. Faleomavaega

Since she had raised the issue of Faleomavaega’s health before, it was surprising that Samoa News Editor Rhonda Annesley in her editorial last Friday opened with “Not a lot happened this week — with two exceptions — [Medicaid and ASTCA],” but she allowed as she had been battling the “Chik virus” for two weeks, so she may not have been aware that the Faleomavaega message story was run as the lead artcile in her paper just two days earlier.  Perhaps she will be lowering the boom this Friday.  Until then, Faleomavaega’s media staff will have to hold their collective breath to see if they get away with it once again.  The champagne is on ice but no corks are popping yet.

It is doubtful that Samoa News or any other local news outlet will call for Faleomavaega to retire but if he cannot satisfy the public with answers to basic questions such as those posed above, then the voters should retire him. Due credit goes to all of them, however, for picking through the fluff and leading with the real news, not merely publishing or playing his message verbatim.  A Faleomavaega decision to contest this election in absentia would be an insult to the electorate, which then should massively vote him out of office.  Is he afraid to let the voters see and hear him in person?  What is he afraid of?  He has announced he is recovered.  Let us see.  Or is he sicker than he is admitting?

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