Inouye's Mission of Justice

Mark Quezada

How bad are things in Washington, D.C., today? U.S. Daniel K. Inouye has seen worse.

When Inouye, 86, was first elected to Congress, the dining room in the U.S. Capitol was segregated.

"For those who have just lived in this period, it would seem horrendous," he said. "But keep in mind, I've been there for over 50 years now."

(For that matter, when Inouye returned to Honolulu after World War II, so were many places in Honolulu, including a restaurant that refused service to the war hero. He's never been back. "I've been invited to the restaurant many, many times," he said, adding, magnanimously and a little bit mischievously, "And I think one of these days I will. It's a good restaurant.")

In a wide-ranging interview with the Civil Beat editorial board Monday, Inouye reflected on the budget crisis currently afflicting Washington, support for the Akaka bill, the 2012 elections, America's prolonged foreign wars and the next generation of leaders in Hawaii.

Some of the things he said were surprising — for example, that Donald Trump's potential presidential run should be taken seriously (read the story here), or that the Tea Party has "good people."

Others were less of a shock: Mention Ed Case's name and it is clear that the senator is still uncomfortable with the man six years after Case challenged his Senate colleague, Daniel Akaka.

What comes across more strongly than anything is Dan Inouye's continuing commitment to justice, and how it has infused nearly everything he has done in his long career of public service.

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