The Right Coast

August 17, 2005
Slade Gorton and Hank Brown on the Akaka Bill
By Gail Heriot

Former Senators Slade Gorton and Hank Brown weigh in against the Akaka Bill in today's Wall Street Journal:

"The Senate is poised to sanction the creation of a racially exclusive government by and for Native Hawaiians who satisfy a blood test. The new race-based sovereign that would be summoned into being by the so-called Akaka Bill would operate outside the U.S. Constitution and the nation's most cherished civil rights statutes. Indeed, the champions of the proposed legislation boast that the new Native Hawaiian entity could secede from the Union like the Confederacy, but without the necessity of shelling Fort Sumter.

The Akaka Bill classifies citizens by race, defying the express provisions of the 14th Amendment. It also rests on a betrayal of express commitments made by its sponsors a decade ago, and asserts as true many false statements about the history of Hawaii. It should be defeated.

The Akaka Bill's justification rests substantially on a 1993 Apology Resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton when we were members of the Senate representing the states of Washington and Colorado. (We voted against it.) The resolution is cited by the Akaka Bill in three places to establish the proposition that the U.S. perpetrated legal or moral wrongs against Native Hawaiians that justify the race-based government the legislation would erect. These citations are a betrayal of the word given to us--and to the Senate--in the debate over the Apology Resolution.

We specifically inquired of its proponents whether the apology would be employed to seek 'special status under which persons of Native Hawaiian descent will be given rights or privileges or reparations or land or money communally that are unavailable to other citizens of Hawaii.' We were promised on the floor of the Senate by Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a personage of impeccable integrity, that 'as to the matter of the status of Native Hawaiians . . . this resolution has nothing to do with that. . . . I can assure my colleague of that.'

The Akaka Bill repudiates that promise of Sen. Inouye. It invokes the Apology Resolution to justify granting persons of Native Hawaiian descent--even in minuscule proportion--political and economic rights and land denied to other citizens of Hawaii. We were unambiguously told that would not be done."

Read the whole thing.