Back in September, Senator Daniel Inouye gave me a tour of his private office on Capitol Hill. He sat down with our crew - in what was likely his last, lengthy sit-down interview in Washington with a Hawaii news station.
Within a matter of weeks, Hawaii will plummet from the state with the MOST seniority in the Upper Chamber ... to the least. But Senator Inouye told us that's part of the ebb and flow of politics.
In the interview on September 12th, I said, "Once Senator Akaka leaves (he retires January 3rd, 2013) and once you decide to go - which we hope you never do - we're going to way low on the totem pole!" He replied, "Oh, no. There will be people coming around. That's the way life is."
Inouye remembers when Capitol Hill was more genteel, filibusters were the exception, and when bi-partisanship wasn't a dirty word. He reflected on the idea of democracy.
"I used to think there was a goal, a place where you call democracy. But now, I've concluded that it's a path towards this unattainable goal. So, sometimes, you go left, and the forces pull you to the right. The usual route is pretty straight forward, but we curve."
Curves and controversy come with the job. For instance, Inouye said the rail project reminded him of the fight, years ago, over H-3. "I got spat upon … and cursed and picketed and everything else, but one has to prepare himself for that type of activity."
The Senator seemed truly humbled by his success since those first days in Congress 53 years ago. "I had one office about the size of this room … cut in half. One side, staff … the other side, me. I had the office with no bathroom. Today, I have 4 offices! This, Appropriations, President Pro Tempore, and one so-called private office. And there are supposedly 6 fireplaces in this Senate section of the Capitol. I have 5 of them!" he laughs.
He told us he tried his best to "be aloha" at all times - always remembering he was a son of Hawaii.