Monday, November 3, 2014

FALEOMAVAEGA BEING SUED

With only five days to go before elections, a former member of Faleomavaega's staff is suing the delegate for a variety of human rights abuses, including racial and religious discrimination. The main target of the suit is Lisa Williams, Faleomavaega's Washington chief of staff. She has been with him may years and has a reputation of being a no-nonsense throat cutter who takes no prisoners. We understand there is no shortage of glee over any hot water in which she may find herself. Needless to say, the delegate's local office director, Fai'ivae Alex Godinet, the following day quickly dismissed the suit as baseless.

It is hard to say what effect, if any, this late publicity might have on the election but at least some voters are likely to wonder if the territory can afford to have its delegate preoccupied with yet another distraction along with his failing health and pet issues unrelated to American Samoa. Since he has been home, he largely has remained out of sight, missing a number of joint public appearances with his challengers. Other than his thrice weekly visits to the hospital's dialysis clinic, he hasn't been seen by the public except for his road side sign waving, a traditional ritual of Samoan campaigns.

The man is either extremely arrogant, supremely confident or has lost his mind in this campaign. Other than some well worn newspaper ads, a few heart tugging radio ads, which emphasize his health problems, and the ubiquitous sign-waving, sometimes in a wheel chair, complete with him sporting a cast on one foot and carrying what looks like some sort of an IV device, he has done very little campaigning at all.

If he is supremely confident of reelection, it is because he has played a brilliant game of delaying announcement of his reelection plans so as to draw into the race a large field of challengers so his opposition would be fragmented. In that way, he could retreat into his stronghold on the western side of the island, knowing that as long as he held his hardcore supporters he could withstand a fragmented challenge and win with only the plurality that is required thanks to a change in the law he rammed through Congress almost 10 years ago.

He is also arrogant, taking a huge gamble that more people will react in sympathy to his physical infirmities and reward with with “one last term” than will conclude after seeing him that he simply no longer has the capacity to do the job. We can think of nine reasons right off the bat why he should be rewarded with another term:
  1. double bypass heart surgery
  2. cataract surgery
  3. appendectomy
  4. type II diabetes
  5. high blood pressure
  6. chronic heart disease
  7. kidney failure
  8. gout
  9. knee surgery
Perhaps no single one of these conditions is disqualifying but taken together they do not bode well for the future health of a 71-year-old man. As a matter of fact, we question whether, if reelected, he could make it through another two-year term.

Even if he has no further setbacks, his schedule likely would be cut back. His heart and kidney disease, which he says is caused by his exposure to Agent Orange 40 years ago during his military service, are chronic conditions that will only worsen, not improve. Needing to be tethered to a dialysis machine three times a week, his travel to exotic places would be severely reduced if not eliminated and if travel were an important part of being the Ranking Minority Member of a foreign affairs subcommittee, then his position would likely be in jeopardy and he probably would face a challenge.

Last year he missed a committee trip to East Asia, which is in his geographical area of jurisdiction; he missed a Natural Resources Committee trip to the Pacific, including a stop in American Samoa; he missed an international small island states conference that takes place only once every 10 years and was of importance to both the territories and the independent Pacific; he missed months of committee hearings; and he missed a UN summit on climate change.

If he were reelected tomorrow—and it is a distinct possibility—it would represent the height of selfishness. He already is eligible for a full pension, topped off by VA disability benefits, full congressional health and insurance benefits and no real clout in a Congress that will be run again by Republicans for at least the next two years. Nor does he show any interest in American Samoa issues. He is more concerned with such issues as forcing the Washington Redskins to relinquish the team nickname, pushing for Cambodian debt relief and lobbying for nuclear clean up of Kazakhstan.

Faleomavaega has done his constituents a great disservice by insisting they decide his political future when it is clear he should have made the decision to retire on his own. He will be doing us an even greater disservice by continuing to serve as long as he is able to do so into another term, largely doing little more than occupying a seat while his staff props him up. All the while, he will be denying some other worthy public servant the opportunity to accrue seniority that will benefit the territory down the line. At his age even in the best of health his productive years would have been behind him.

Since he will not go gently into the night, we can only hope that the voters are fed up to the point they are ready to say enough is enough and end his career tomorrow.

If not, we will be right back in this space come Wednesday to continue to keep a watchful eye on him and perform the public responsibility our local media has abrogated.

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