Interview: U.S. Senator Brian Schatz about President Barack Obama's Legacy

Steve Uyehara and Grace Lee talked to U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) this morning on Hawaii News Now - Sunrise and was asked to give two or three things that are really going to cement President Barack Obama's place in history:

Sen. Schatz: Well I think it's the climate agreement which I will go down in history as the most important environmental agreement in the international stage ever.  I also think it's the Iran deal which is putting Iran on a path to no longer be in a position to create nuclear weapons and then of course we have to remember that the Affordable Care Act with all of it's flaws still does provide a health insurance for 22 million Americans who didn't have it before; there are a lot of other things including saving the American auto industry; but those are a couple of the policy pieces I guess the thing that I think he doesn't get enough credit for is his personal integrity; it is no small thing to go eight years without any a whiff of a major scandal and even his fiercest detractors I will concede that he's a decent man and that's not a non-important thing in terms of the presidency.

Grace Lee:  With the president having grown up here and having taken frequent vacations; there was a lot of focus on our state.  Do you see that ever happening again in the future?

Sen. Schatz: Well I don't know you know the good news in the coming administration is that we still have Harry Harris the head of the Pacific Command; I think General Mattis will serve a capably as the Secretary of Defense, and so I am hopeful that the Asia-Pacific rebalance I will continue a pace that is now not a matter of a partisan political contention everybody seems to agree that not only do we have to continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific region but that Hawaii remains key on other issues I think it's fair to say we will not have the same degree of sensitivity and understanding toward towards our unique needs under the incoming president elect or really any other president I mean present Obama is it is a person to whom you didn't have to explain Hawaii; he didn't get off the plane with a memo about where he was landing at; he understood I mean I sat with him and talk to him about our transportation needs about the East-West Center; about out how we do even our land-use planning him and he's a person who paid attention to Oahu as of someone who considers himself a one time resident and maybe even a future part time resident so you know you're not gonna get that level of understanding of Hawaii with anyone other than the President from Hawaii.

Steve Uyehara:   A couple years ago you were in here we were all here, you're phone rang before the interview, it turned out to be the President of the United States calling on your phone; so you obviously sat with him and talk to him in a more private setting than the rest of us.  Do you have a personal story or an anecdote that really sums up who he was and what is administration was?

Sen. Schatz:  Well he's just very even keeled you know... I have to say that you know sometimes especially in the Senate you see these folks with their public persona different from how they are when you interact with them in a private context.  But President Obama is that unique individual who is the same wherever he goes and I think her for some politicians or even people follow politics it could even be maddening to watch him be so even keeled in any and all circumstances but that's President Obama so the last time we had a long term interaction that we are riding together to the East-West Center...and we talked about everything we talked about that certainly a policy fisheries management, climate other things but we also talked about you know his first job at Baskin-Robbins him how are his two nieces so he's just a regular person not at all intimidating...what you see on TV is the way that he is I am private he just sort of even keeled and mellow and I can't imagine maintaining that kind of a posture and maintaining that kind of leader of the free world but he's been able to achieve it

Grace Lee:  NBC news is reporting that there are 50 House Democrats that plan to boycott the inauguration on Friday.  Will you be there?

Sen. Schatz:  I will be there I think it's important; first of all  everybody ought to make their own decision there's no law requiring members of Congress to attend or not attend this ceremony, but I will be there, not to recognize necessarily the President-Elect; but to understand that the peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that makes America unique in the world, that politics is tough but it is a substitute for violence and even though I dislike the results of the election, even though I'm very very concerned about the incoming president; that tradition, a peaceful transfer of power I think ought to be celebrated separate and apart of whether or not I like the results.

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