2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Clinton support Hawaiian Recognition


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Lisa Asato
OHA Public Information Office


U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - frontrunners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination - said if elected president they would support passage of the Akaka Bill, which would grant federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Responding today to Obama's announcement of support for the bill's passage, the local Clinton campaign went a step further, saying Clinton would "be an absolute champion for its passage."

"I don't think there is any question that Sen. Clinton would sign the Akaka Bill if she is president," said state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, Hawai‘i co-chair of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Hanabusa said "the Akaka Bill grew out of the 1993 Hawaiian Apology Act," which was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton, Hillary's husband. The 1993 bill apologized for the U.S. overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani, Hawai‘i's last reigning monarch, in 1893.

"Given the fact that the Akaka Bill represents a continuation of a policy that is the product of the first Clinton administration, I believe that Hillary Clinton would not only sign the bill, but would be an absolute champion for its passage," Hanabusa added. Clinton is a U.S. Senator from New York.

Meanwhile, Obama has been "consistent with his support of the Akaka Bill," passionately supporting it on the Senate floor in 2006 and working closely with Hawai‘i Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka for its passage, said Bill Meheula, a self-described "strong supporter" with the Hawai‘i for Obama campaign.

Obama would also be a better presidential advocate for the bill because he better understands Hawai‘i history, having graduated from high school in Hawai‘i and spent many years here, Meheula said. "He's in a good position" to correct misperceptions about Hawai‘i history, which is common among the opposition, said Meheula, an attorney with a background in Native Hawaiian sovereignty issues, including the Akaka Bill.

In a statement released Monday by Hawai‘i for Obama, the Illinois Senator said if the bill is not signed into law this year, he would "commit to supporting it as president."

 "The process set forth in this important legislation empowers Native Hawaiians to explore and address the longstanding issues resulting from the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawai‘i," said Obama, a Punahou School graduate. "As Americans, we pride ourselves on safeguarding the practice and ideas of liberty, justice and freedom.

"By enacting this legislation, we can continue this great American tradition and fulfill this promise for Native Hawaiians and ensure that they are not left behind as Hawai‘i continues to progress."

The bill is pending in the U.S. Senate after passing the House in October. The Bush administration has promised to veto the bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.

So far in this election season, Obama has won Democratic nominating contests in Iowa, and Clinton has won in New Hampshire and Nevada. Clinton also won in Michigan, but The National Democratic Party had stripped the state of its delegates for scheduling its vote prior to Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, when more than 20 states will hold primaries or caucuses. Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had earlier removed their names from the Michigan ballot. Hawai‘i's Democratic caucus is Feb. 19.


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