By all accounts, Daniel Akaka is an affectionate and earnest
man. Even a conservative fire-breather like Oklahoma's James Inhofe
says his ultraliberal colleague "is a lovable person, and most of us
are not that lovable." As a legislator, though, Akaka is living
proof that experience does not necessarily yield expertise. After 16
years on the job, the junior Senator from Hawaii is a master of the
minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee.
In the 2003-04
Congress, for example, he sponsored a handful of innocuous
resolutions commending civil servants and establishing Financial
Literacy for Youth Month. He sponsored 29 unambitious bills, almost
none of which ever emerged from committee. The three that did become
law named a post office, changed the boundary of a national park in
Hawaii and nurtured "the development and planning of certain
policies, schedules and programs" for postmasters.
has placed him in positions of potential influence. At 81 he is the
ranking Democrat on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and sits on four
other committees that control such valuable political real estate as
the armed services and homeland security as well as energy and
natural resources. He did make a mark 13 years ago by passing a
resolution by which the U.S. apologized for invading Hawaii in 1893.
But he has struggled recently to get a bill approved that would
provide increased autonomy to the islands. Says Jennifer Duffy of
the Cook Political Report: "He lives in [senior Hawaiian Senator Daniel] Inouye's very long shadow on the back bench of the Senate, and his interests seem more parochial."