Friday, October 24, 2014
WE MADE A MISTAKE ABOUT FALEOMAVAEGA
Some months ago, local Democratic Party Chairman Ali’imau J.R. Scanlan accused this blog of calling for Faleomavaega to resign, which we did not. What we did call for him to do was not to run for re-election and retire at the end of this term. If not, we expressed hope that one of the other eight candidates challenging him would defeat him in the November 4 election.
We made a mistake.
We should have called on him to resign so the Governor could have had the opportunity to call a special election at the same time as the general election to fill the vacancy. It would have been hoped that the same candidate would have won both elections, been seated immediately, participate in the lame duck session of Congress and begin to build seniority ahead of the freshman class to be seated on January 3. Because the turnover in the House will be small this year, a freshman would be unlikely to be in a position to chair a subcommittee but a member with a little advanced seniority might very well be in such a position at the start of a second term.
However, that is all wishful thinking because Faleomavaega neither resigned nor retired and finally has returned home just a few days short of a year after his medical evacuation last October. Samoa News was at the airport to capture his arrival on film and ran two of the photos Monday morning. Editorially, Samoa News has had very little to say about the delegate’s health but if a picture were worth a thousand words, Samoa News did him no favor by publishing those photographs, which were shocking.
In one photo walking beside the Governor, who was arriving on the same flight from Honolulu, he is hunched over, thin, frail and sickly looking. He also appears to have some sort of medical device hanging from his hip. In the other photo, he gamely tries to do the siva but if the intended effect were to show his health and vigor it was offset by showing a cast on his left foot that could have been the result of gout or the effects of his diabetes. Samoa News easily could have cropped the second photo as they did the one of him walking with the Governor, but they chose not to do so. We suspect that was a deliberate decision. At the same time, the extensive markings on his arms, which very much look like bruising from medical needle marks, could not have been cropped out.
Two weeks ago his office announced he would be returning to Pago Pago in time to participate in the college candidate forum that has been held before almost every election over the years. That forum was held yesterday and eight of the nine candidates participated. Faleomavaega did not. Either his office misinformed the press or his absence was health related. He has admitted he is on dialysis for kidney disease and there is talk that he must spend several hours at the hospital every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to be dialyzed.
Given his condition, we would not be surprised to see him avoid as many public appearances as possible. We have seen him and he looks awful. Expect instead that he will rely on newspaper ads, which feature a photo that is at least 10 years old, and radio ads, in which he will speak in a soft voice plaintively asking for public sympathy and one more term to complete his agenda. It is a familiar routine and there is no doubt he will generate a lot of sympathy votes from people who feel sorry for him. However, at the same time, there is a growing number of people who feel he is simply is not up to the job any more.
We have been surprised to find that there are longtime supporters who now resent being put into the position of having to decide his future for him when he should have bowed out on his own and graciously allowed himself to be lauded for his years of service. People are puzzled why he continues to press on when it is clear he not only is not up to the job physically, but that there is a real question whether he would be able to finish another term in office. Do the voters really want to take a chance in electing him again only to have him suffer a relapse and be out of commission for another extensive period when there is so much at stake for the territory in Washington?
When he first took ill last year, his office put out statements saying he was expected to make a full recovery but when he recently revealed his conditions he admitted that he had been expected to die. His office said he was here for the college forum but he did not attend. He has said he has now recovered from his illness but has he? Can we afford to have a representative in Washington who will need to spend a substantial part of every work week hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine?
He has always acknowledged that his principal interest and specialty is foreign affairs and in that case his work has involved a substantial amount of foreign travel. His health now precludes any foreign travel for the foreseeable future if ever. He has risen as far as he is going to go. His caucus has pretty much told him he will not become the Ranking Democrat on Foreign Affairs. Indeed, were he re-elected, he very well might be challenged for his position as Ranking Democrat on the Asia Pacific subcommittee. If travel were important for that role, he would be unable to fulfill it.
He has a full federal pension that will reflect almost a half century of public service, including his military years. If his illness were proven to be related to Agent Orange exposure, he would get 100% disability compensation on top of that. Plus, he will have an ASG pension from his six years service as deputy attorney general and lieutenant governor. He also will take his generous congressional health care coverage into retirement. No doubt there is low cost long term illness congressional insurance available to him along with his veterans's benefits.
Our culture may make voters be sympathetic but we are not fools. Our culture also equates weight with health. Someone who has been heavy who now is thin is thought to be ill. No matter what he says, clearly he is not a well man. Many people will turn to other candidates because they believe he is too ill to carry on. Still others will vote against him because they genuinely believe he should spend his final years with family.
Still, with nine candidates in the race and Faleomavaega being the best known, he must be considered the odds on favorite in a contest that is winner take all with no runoff. Even though there is no time to call a special election, we believe he would best serve the people by ending his candidacy now, formally withdrawing from the race, returning to Washington to represent us in the lame duck session and winding up his career.
It’s time to call it quits.